Deception Creek

Friday, August 3, 2018

Friday was forecast to be cloudy with maybe even a bit of rain, so we decided to hike Deception Creek. The trail goes for nearly 12 miles all the way to Deception Pass. Some people use it to access Deception Lakes (which is actually over by the PCT), but that is about 10 miles one-way. Obviously we’d be doing neither of those. We planned to hike however far we felt like it then turn around.

Heading off through the trees:

Deception Creek Trail

Deception Creek was beautiful and clear:

Deception Creek Trail

Deception Creek Trail

I loved this little nurse stump:

Deception Creek Trail

Soon we entered the Alpine Lakes Wilderness:

Deception Creek Trail

The trail crosses Deception Creek on this very unique footbridge:

Deception Creek Trail

Deception Creek Trail

What a beautiful creek:

Deception Creek Trail

And then things got rough. The trail was in pretty bad shape with many exposed roots and rocks. Sometimes the trail looked like this:

Deception Creek Trail

But more often than not it looked like this:

Deception Creek Trail

Not only that but the trailside vegetation was wet from rain the night before and it deposited all that water onto our pant legs as we hiked by. Before long we were both soaked from the waist down, including our boots. We decided to turn back after just two miles. It just wasn’t worth it. There wasn’t much to see anyway because the trail had climbed away from the creek. We did see this cool – and very determined – tree:

Deception Creek Trail

One quick note: the huckleberries were ripe and there were LOTS of them. That was an awesome silver lining!

The day was young so we decided to head to the dry side of the Cascades and drove 45 minutes east to Leavenworth where the sun was indeed shining. This is a cute and strange little town. In the 1960s the town was struggling and decided to adopt a Bavarian theme as a way to revitalize the community. It worked and now it’s a booming tourist town.


It wasn’t even the weekend and there were SO MANY PEOPLE everywhere. So we went to a place off the main drag, Blewett Brewing, and had lunch. We walked around a bit and visited the bookstore before returning to the car before our parking meter ran out. We drove down Icicle Road a little ways then turned around and headed back towards the cloudy side of the mountains. On the way back we stopped at the Bygone Byways interpretive site:

Bygone Byways Interpretive Site

This is a cool little interpretive trail that explores parts of old routes that were once used to traverse this area: an old 1892 wagon route known as the Tote Road, the Great Northern railway line, and the 1925 Cascade Scenic Highway.

This is the collapsed remains of a stone oven, probably built by immigrant railroad workers from southern Europe to bake bread:

Bygone Byways Interpretive Site

Looking down on Nason Creek:

Bygone Byways Interpretive Site

This is the old Cascade Scenic Highway, the first road to cross Stevens Pass. Back when this road was opened in 1925 the drive from Wenatchee to Everett took more than six hours (today it takes 2.5). This segment was abandoned in 1930 and eventually the entire route was replaced by the highway that exists today:

Bygone Byways Interpretive Site

The campground was hopping that night with lots of people arriving in the evening looking for a site. We were glad to have the river right behind us to drown out the noise of our numerous neighbors.

Granite Mountain

2015 Trip, Day 3: Monday, August 17

We’d heard a lot about Granite Mountain. Despite the steepness and difficulty of the hike, it is EXTREMELY popular, which is why we hiked it on a weekday instead of a weekend. We were not disappointed.

We hit the trail at 9:30. The first mile of trail was the same as we hiked yesterday on our way to Pratt Lake, then we branched off to begin some majorly steep hiking up the mountain. This trail is not fun. It is very steep in places and incredibly rocky, requiring patience and concentration to navigate.

The trail spends a lot of time going across and up several different avalanche chutes on the south face of the mountain, from which we started to get views.

The trail crosses a huge open and mostly treeless area on the summit as it continues to wind its way up. There were thousands of dead beargrass stalks from the fabulous 2014 bloom up here.

Our first glimpse of the lookout!

The trail reaches a flattish area below a towering wall studded with granite rocks. Cool!

Marmot chilling out.

While we were resting, a chipmunk started licking the salty sweat off my trekking pole!

The trail passes beneath the lookout before coming up the backside to the summit. You can see how this mountain got its name.

Finally at 1:30 we reached the top. Views, views everywhere! Mt. Rainier to the south:

Looking northwest:

Looking northeast and east. WOW. We had mostly clear skies, but could see smoke off to the east. Mt. Stuart was barely visible through the haze. (Click photo for bigger size.)

The lookout was built in 1955, replacing an earlier 1924 lookout. It’s no longer staffed, but it’s maintained by volunteers, who sometimes open it up on weekends. Today it was locked.

There were SO MANY chipmunks at the summit. They were brave and tenacious little buggers, and clearly expected handouts. This hike is very popular and I have no doubt that these guys are fed by hundreds of hikers every week.

At 2:50 we reluctantly started heading back down.

A peek through the trees at more mountains to the north:

Kaleetan Peak and Chair Peak towering above Crystal Lake and Denny Lake:

Down, down, down, the steep trail.

We finally got back to the car at 5:45, extremely sore and tired. Tough hike, but beautiful! 3,800′ elevation gain, 8 miles. We rewarded ourselves with post-hike beers at Dru Bru. We even got pizza, delivered from Pie For the People across the street. Delicious!

< Day 2 | Day 4 >

Pratt Lake

2015 Trip, Day 2: Sunday, August 16

The campsite at Denny Creek Campground was only ours for one night, so we packed up camp this morning (royal pain in the ass) before heading over to the trailhead to start hiking. Our destination was Pratt Lake but the Granite Mountain hike also starts here and it’s VERY popular. There were at least 100 cars at the trailhead.

We started hiking at 10am. I’ve never seen ranger reports at trailheads before, but I like it. I wish more forests did this.

At some point along the trail is this long boardwalk:

About 10 seconds after I took that picture I was about a third of the way across when some trail runner came blasting up behind me. He asked if he could pass and I said I would let him pass once we were off the too-narrow-for-passing boardwalk. He told me he was trying to win a $500 race and I repeated what I’d said before. Learn some trail manners, jerk. I’m not falling off this boardwalk so you can win $500.

For the first four miles of trail we were stuck in the forest with nothing to see. It’s an extremely uninteresting stretch of trail and I was starting to get antsy. We got a tiny view of Olallie Lake and Mt. Rainier through the trees, but that was it.

Near that spot was a patch of fall color on a rock slide. No! I’m not ready!!

We encountered some bizarre discrepancies in our hiking books that we could not reconcile with reality. In the third edition of 100 Hikes in Washington’s Alpine Lakes the authors mention a spot at three miles called Lookout Point. In Day Hiking: Snoqualmie Region the author says “At around 3 miles you’ll find a fine viewpoint at 3400 feet. Pause to take pictures of the Snoqualmie Valley and the peaks above the Olallie, Talapus, and Pratt Lake basin.” Sounds like a mighty fine view, not one that would be easily missed. And yet we saw no sign of this viewpoint. Weird.

After two hours and four miles we reached a junction with the Mount Defiance Trail where we expected some views. The authors of 100 Hikes mention a “view south to Mt. Rainier at a junction with the Mt. Defiance trail.” They also have a picture looking down on Pratt Lake from the “4150-foot saddle” which in the text is described as being right before the trail junction.

We saw no views in any direction and it seems like it would be physically impossible to see Pratt Lake and those mountains from this spot. The angle is all wrong. In any case, all we saw was a wall of trees:

From the saddle the trail goes down, down, down into the lake basin. This section of trail is rough and rocky and it makes for slow going. I took this picture of Greg ahead of me on the climb back out of the lake basin later:

FINALLY we had some views, looking down into the lake basin (trees block the view of the lake from here) and pointy Kaleetan Peak (kaleetan is Chinook jargon for “arrow”):

Just before the lake the trail passes through a lush green forest with a lot of moss.

The trail traverses the slope above the eastern shore of the lake.

The day use area and campsites are at the far end, where had a nice view down the lake. This lake was named after Mountaineers member John W. Pratt of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

We sat and rested for awhile and then I decided I wanted to go half a mile further down the trail to see Lower Tuscohatchie Lake. Greg decided to stay at Pratt Lake and chill out. Almost immediately I was pleased with my decision to explore further as I encountered a nice mountain view from the trail:

Looking down the valley of the Pratt River:

The trail crosses a logjam at the outflow of Lower Tuscohatchie Lake via a bridge.

I went out on the logs for a good view and was not disappointed. Pratt Lake is pretty, but this one is more beautiful. The name may come from the Muskogian Indian name for “stream of the warrior” (“tushka” is warrior and “hachi” is a stream”.)

I reunited with Greg back at Pratt Lake and at 3pm we began the long long slog back the car, getting back at 6:30. It was a 13-mile day for Greg and a 14-mile day for me. I was so sore and tired and just wanted to eat dinner and go to bed. But the Denny Creek Campground was full and it looked like we might be homeless for the night. Fortunately the camp host let us stay in the large “multi use” site. It was a huge non-reservable group site and had the longest picnic table I have ever seen.

< Day 1 | Day 3 >