While warm weather and clear skies have been few and far between in the Pacific Northwest, those who wish to spend time outside must become more creative in organizing weekend excursions, which should come as no surprise to the inhabitants of a region notorious for high precipitation rates and weather patterns that can change on a dime.
Thankfully, the geography of Washington is just about as diverse as the weather it receives, allowing for all kinds of recreation possibilities. As I made plans for last weekend’s adventures, I could have been more careful to take all of this into account.
One of those adventures included locating an abandoned mine, known as the Hole in the Wall, which has been forgotten for more than 100 years. Located high in North Cascades, Hole in the Wall is said to be visible only from the air or the top of a few of the surrounding peaks. I learned of a group that claimed to have visited it awhile back, but refused to release its location.
After two years of pouring over old mining journals and geology books, I was ready to begin a search. So my brother and I joined a friend who is applying for his pilot’s license, drove to Seattle, hopped in a Cessna and headed for the mountains.
The sky was a patchwork of foreboding clouds hovering around 4,000 feet. My friend had to stay below the cloud deck and didn’t know if we could get high enough above the peaks, but we’d try it anyway.
As the plane took off and began to rise, I realized just how vulnerable small planes are to the effects of weather. It dipped and ducked against changes in air pressure and shuddered against the wind, but the views were worth it.
Snow-covered rock crags and peaks that towered above the valleys below and surrounded by clouds offered vistas that remain unseen by the masses. Hawks circled rivers and streams not far below us, and every now and then, one of us would spot a heard of elk in the hills.
While gazing out the window, we approached an eagle soaring no further than 40 feet from the plane; it turned sharply and glided away before we got any closer. Traveling at about 120 mph, we were able to cover more terrain than we could on foot or by car.
Much to my dismay, however, the cloud deck wasn’t high enough for us to fly above the supposed location of the mine. We were able to look up the valley containing it and mark a few waypoints for a future flight or hike in, but the weather just wasn’t willing to cooperate.
I guess the hunt for the Hole in the Wall will have to be postponed for a later date, but it wasn’t all for naught. The opportunity to fly over the mountains in a small aircraft is one I’d recommend to anyone who hasn’t already done so.
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