Ice Caves on the Mountain Highway Loop

5 07 2013

In an attempt to test out the all-wheel capabilities of our new Subaru XV we decided to get out of the city and take it to the mountains.  And we found ourselves driving along the paved and gravel roads of the Mountain Highway Loop, just past Granite Falls, WA.

We found ourselves winding through dense green forests as we played peek-a-boo with gushing river water and snow peaked mountains socked in with clouds.



We have an all-wheel drive vehicle, I’m decked out in what some may call ‘light-hiking gear’, other’s may just call it yoga pants and a tank top with a hoodie (so essentially the Vancouver (Canada) daily uniform.  So at this point I’m thinking I’m pretty outdoorsy.  Maybe even rugged.  So I’m ready with the map – which hike should we start out with?  Heather Lake?  Lake Twenty-Two?  We decided on Big Four Ice Caves.


So we’re heading out to the trail, taking in the wilderness.  The trees, ferns, wildlife, still water and towering mountains making us feel like miniature versions of ourselves.  And just when I’ve taken a photo of a serene water/mountain view, out of the corner of my eye I see something black with yellowy green flecks on it.  It’s kind of a round shape – circular.  I take my eyes off of it and back to the trail, but my mind is still working, trying to make the connection of what I’m seeing.  And then – ahhhh.  Snake.  It’s a snake.  A Snaakkkkeee.  Egh. Ugh. Ugh. Uh. Eh.  I jump up and kind of run down the path, trying to shake off the fact that I just saw a snake.  Yuck.  Nathan laughs at me from behind and tells me to stop freaking out, ‘it’s just a garter snake’.  I hate snakes and I yell back to him, ‘I can’t be outside!!’.

So it took 19 miles down the Mountain Highway Loop and 5 minutes into the hike, and I have realized that I am not outdoorsy, and definitely not rugged.  Ugh.  I can’t handle the snakes, and I don’t care to.

But, we continued on the path.  Over the boardwalk across the wetlands.  Up the dirt switchbacks through the forest.


And then we come across the hazard signs.  Avalanche Zone.  Falling Rocks.  Collapsing Snow Fields.  It looks like we found the right place.




The Big Four Mountain towered in front of us with waterfalls snaking down the rock face in multiple places.  And at the bottom of the mountain was avalanche collected snow.  Throughout the season of snow melt the water has been melting the snow from the ground up, creating ice caves.



No walking inside the ice caves and no climbing on top of them.  But, we had to test the boundaries just a little bit.  Although not for very long.  If you stood anywhere near the wind flow of the ice caves you could feel the sub-zero temperatures.  An icy cold wind was being pushed out of the ice caves and stepping out to either side, the temperature difference was so drastic it felt like you had walked inside a heated room, and really you just walked one foot to the right.