Wanderings: Bagley Lakes... and the Clouds

Hello dear readers! Or reader. Or perhaps I'm talking to myself here. I've been away from the blog for awhile, but am back to share a recent adventure. Last weekend, I had the opportunity to hike the Bagley Lakes trail with my book club friends. For this month's outing, we read Maria Mudd Ruth's A Sideways Look at Clouds, and the author herself joined us on the trails!

I've been absent a lot lately - from the blog, the book club, and many other things that used to be so important in my life. However, it is long past time to reconnect, so that's how I found myself standing at the trailhead on Sunday morning in forty-two degree weather with rain coming down sideways. My nose was numb and cheeks red and stinging within minutes as the cold wind buffeted my Gore-Tex clad body. I was gloriously excited.

Despite the weather, our all-women group was enthusiastic as we set off on the Bagley Lakes trail. Autumn hues were beginning to warm the landscape with reds and yellows that nicely offset the gray mist and rain all around. Gray clouds bellied over the basin, obscuring the peaks from view and unleashing torrents of rain. There was water everywhere. It soaked through my "waterproof" rain jacket, it washed clean the perfectly ripe blueberries that were present in profusion along the trail (and which we snacked on in profusion...), it filled the streams that chortled through the heather-covered slopes, it hissed across the black lake in wind-driven sheets, it crashed in a breathtaking waterfall over a ledge of columnar basalt, slopping across the trail before tumbling into the lake below.

We picked our way across the waterfall and continued toward the lake, contemplating the clouds overhead. Or were they overhead? Were they surrounding us? Were we in the clouds? Author Maria posed the question, and as I squinted into the curling gray masses, I could only conclude that these nimbostratus clouds had decided to share this hike with us and give us the full cloud experience, precipitation and all.

Once we reached a charming stone bridge spanning the channel between the two lakes, the group decided to seek shelter from our enthusiastic cloud hosts rather than press on into the elements. We turned and climbed a steep slope of smooth rock - once lava flows from Mount Baker - and there upon the hillside, like a beacon, stood the Heather Meadows Visitor Center. We congregated on the covered patio overlooking the Bagley Lakes below, shedding dripping gear and pouring tea as we began our book discussion and watched the clouds lift and lower, undulating as they sailed past. A short while later, we caught a whiff of wood smoke and promptly relocated to benches pulled in close to the cozy fireplace inside the Visitor Center, where two volunteers graciously welcomed our soggy group.

As we warmed up and dried out in front of the crackling fire, trying to find that sweet spot of maximum warmth and minimal rain pants melting, Maria treated us to a reading from A Sideways Look at Clouds, fittingly selecting a passage describing how rain is formed. After reading the book myself, I was amazed that any rain drops made it to earth at all. I learned how teeny-tiny cloud droplets grab on to particles (called condensation nuclei) in the atmosphere, around which more cloud droplets condense as they bounce around in the cloud, growing, breaking apart and growing again in these collisions until at last the droplet is large enough to drop out of the cloud and fall to earth.

Rain lashed against the windows and wind whistled around the historic building. I couldn't help but feel that I understood those rain drops a bit. Bouncing around between the responsibilities, to-do lists, anxieties, and relationships in the cloud of my own life, I felt lately that those collisions broke me apart more than built me up. But at least today, I could grab onto the opportunity to have an adventure with like-minded women; that opportunity being the condensation nucleus which allowed me to drop out of the chaos of my cloud and land in this sweeping alpine basin, where life became simple and elemental.

Satiated with warmth, cookies, tea, storytelling and conversation, we thanked the visitor center volunteers for their hospitality and headed back out into the elements to walk back to the parking area at the trailhead. After going on a wild goose chase, we at last located the Wild Goose Trail, which was a shorter and more direct route than the way we'd come. As we walked and chatted and snacked on plentiful blueberries, the clouds lifted, the rain stopped, and the sun made a brief appearance.

This hike will always be a special memory, and I'm so grateful for the wonderful women with whom I shared it, for the cozy cabin and warm fire that came at just the right time, for Maria and her wonderful book that brought us all together - literally - in the clouds, and for the rain. Knowing the journey each raindrop took in order to splatter on my head, soak through my jacket, and water a landscape thirsty after a long, dry summer makes me grateful for every single one.

On the drive home, I felt exhausted although we hadn't hiked far that day. It wasn't the kind of exhaustion borne from stress that leaves you feeling drained, but rather the pleasant exhaustion of a satisfying day, which fills you up. I need more days like this, and hope to return to the blog to share them.


  1. So lovely to have you back! Your writing is beautiful as always, and made me feel as though I was back in the clouds (minus the wet toes!)

  2. Thought I commented on this already, but I second what Laura says!


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