North Cascades, Washington, USA by Chip Carroon

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The dense coniferous forests of the North Cascades do not always allow a view of autumn colors. You have to look for deciduous trees and brush on the mountain sides. That pursuit is tricky since you may need to know where and when to go in advance.

My idea was to hike many trails in the region during the summer and then come back in the fall with the hope for some good weather and good timing. During the summer, I found two or three possibilities. I knew exactly where I wanted to go in September. The big problem was when. Of course, vegetation color on the mountain will vary by elevation. I did not really know when to be there.

The determining factor at this northern latitude may just be when the weather will allow your visit. It could be relatively nice, or there could be a large storm. I checked the weather and took off on a two-day drive north. Even with some estimate of the weather, you never really know in the Cascades. Luckily, I timed it so I immediately followed a rainstorm and just before the next weather front. My conditions were reasonably good, but I noticed that the first huge snowstorm of fall descended upon the area about a week after my visit. I was really happy that I went late enough to find nicely colored vegetation yet early enough to have avoided the heavy snowstorm. I’m not sure if I would have been able to drive out of there a week later.

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