Hop on The Virtual OmniBUS Tour! Day 1: A glimpse at Washington Wilderness

Cathedral Lakes Basin in Pasayten Wilderness, Washington. Photo by Andrea Imler.

All aboard! Our Virtual OmniBUS Tour ’09 has pulled in to its first stop — the Pasayten Wilderness in Washington. Watch your step as you exit the bus, and keep your eyes trained on the forest for something big and brown. Andrea Imler will lead today’s leg post a comment when we get back and let her know what thoughts this stop brings to your mind.

A tall, spindly sight in the Pasayten Wilderness

By Andrea Imler

Early one morning, three friends and I struggled out of our sleeping bags and stepped into the brisk morning air. We awoke to a peaceful morning, the vibrant red-orange sunrise just peeking over the horizon. A shallow blue lake nearby was mirror still; rolling hills and dewy tundra grass were hushed. Nothing stirred but us; a peaceful moment in the backcountry. We cooked up and consumed our instant oatmeal and coffee energy for the morning. Throwing gear into packs, we hurried off down the trail, eager to continue our adventure.

The place for adventure was the Pasayten Wilderness, a pristine wild lands located in the North Cascades of Washington state spanning 125 miles of roadless wilderness. The Pasayten’s Boundary Trail is part of the proposed Pacific Northwest Trail, which would gain designation as a National Scenic Trail if a sweeping piece of wilderness and public land legislation known as the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 passes in Congress this February and is signed into law.

Official designation will help maintain and promote the trail, while increasing opportunities for tourism, recreation and conservation.

The Pasayten Wilderness Area is home to almost 150 peaks over 7,500 feet in elevation, more than 160 bodies of water and abundant wildlife, including deer, moose, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, gray wolf and grizzly bear. It holds the largest population of lynx in the Lower 48.

My friends and I were heading west on the Boundary Trail toward the enchanting Cathedral Lakes. We were lost in our own thoughts as we silently walked down the trail. Turning a corner, movement caught my eye. Tucked back into a stand of trees I could see a swampy tarn…and a moose! A MOOSE! The Pasayten is home to moose, but they are a rare sight. This was our first view of the tall spindly creature.

I quietly called to my friends, who had passed the moose without notice. We stood still, a slight breeze in the air (fortunately heading away from the moose). The moose quietly moved among the water grasses, munching here and there, drinking on occasion. We were in awe of this magnificent creature. All too soon, the moose moved out of view and we were left alone to congratulate ourselves on the sighting. Spotting wildlife in the backcountry never ceases to amaze and delight me.

Passage of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act would designate the Pacific Northwest Trail into our nation’s National Scenic Trail system, joining the celebrated Pacific Crest and Appalachian National Scenic Trails. National Scenic Trails pass through many of the crown jewels our country has to offer: full of wildlife, recreational opportunities and natural wonders. The Pacific Northwest Trail would be a great addition to the National Scenic Trail system for those very reasons and I hope to see it designated with passage of the public lands omnibus.

photo: Cathedral Lakes Basin in Pasayten Wilderness, Washington. Photo by Andrea Imler.

Andrea Imler is the communications coordinator for The Wilderness Society’s Pacific Northwest Region. She is passionate about our wild places and has hiked and backpacked in many of the special places that the Pacific Northwest Trail will travel through.

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