One Does Not Simply Walk into Chinook Pass
Located on the easter edge of Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington, where State Highway 410 crosses the Cascades before dropping down toward the town of Yakima, Chinook Pass is one of the major road crossings for the Pacific Crest Trail in Washington. I passed through the area in the summer of 2015 while section hiking portions of the trail through the state, amid the smoke from fires throughout the Cascade mountains that summer. As massive wildfires engulfed areas around Mt. Adams and elsewhere, thick smoke blanketed the sky throughout Washington, lending itself to amazingly apocalyptic light displays like the one above.
As I hiked along the PCT just south of Chinook Pass, with the summit of Rainier barely peaking through between the mountains that bordered the pass, I looked up to see the sun hidden behind thick black clouds and a heavy haze that seemed to soak up most of the light in the sky. It immediately called to mind apocalyptic and fantastical imagery, reminiscent of the stories and movies that I am admittedly obsessed with. This image captures the feeling so well, and though it looks impossible and unreal, the truth of the scene was somehow even more epic than any photo could capture.
This has become one of my favorite photos from my time on the PCT last summer, the way it captures mood and place so well, emphasizing the trail but also the epic setting through which I walked. Because of the fires that caused this smoke, many other hikers, including good friends, had to abort their treks through Washington last summer. As difficult as the hiking was with the poor air quality, I consider myself fairly fortunate to have witnessed this remarkable spectacle.