Friday, October 18, 2013

Big Four Mountain & Ice Caves

 Big Four Mountain

Last week’s mini hike was to Big Four Mountain and the Ice Caves near Granite Falls.  This is a short 2 mile round trip hike on a super improved, wheel chair accessible trail—wide boardwalks, and even gravel or paved surfaces.  There was only a 200-foot elevation gain, the fall colors on the trees were so pretty, not many people, traces of a number of waterfalls and the ice caves.

We had a picnic lunch near the caves but did not go inside.  Only last year someone was killed who had gone inside the caves.  There are signs warning of the dangers but we did meet two other hikers who had gone inside. These two men had passed us earlier as we were walking up toward the caves and we did not know that they had gone inside but thought they had continued up to the second set of caves.  The caves do not exist earlier in the season but appear at the end of the summer or in the fall when the snow and ice is melting enough to form them. 

Looking up from the trail toward the mountain we saw the remains of some of the trees that had been knocked down in an avalanche that took out hundreds of trees.  This same avalanche also took out the old bridge that has now been replaced.  Part of the new bridge is visible in the photo below.

The trail had several wooden walkways and bridges

This metal bridge is also a replacement for an older bridge that was lost during a river flood.  The river water was so clear that we could see the bottom easily.

More than one of these signs warned of the dangers near the ice caves

Approaching the ice caves

The photo above of the two hikers who entered the caves through the hole on the right side of the ice shelf gives some idea of the size of the openings in the ice.  When we met up with them later on the return trip to the parking area they said all the openings joined to make one large cave,  showed us some of the pictures they had taken of the interior and said there were two waterfalls inside.  

There is melting ice and running water under the shelf so the top and sides forming the caves are very unstable at this time of year.  It was extremely unwise for these two hikers to have entered and if the sides or part of the top had fallen in no one would have known they were trapped or crushed inside.  We were very content to sit on the rocks and admire the caves from a safe distance.

There was a lot of Autumn color including these red Mountain Ash berries
A bonus stop at Granite Falls completed the day.

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