Evergreen Mountain

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Today was the last day of our trip and we had to drive home to Portland. But before we headed south we squeezed in one last short hike: Evergreen Mountain. We packed up camp at Beckler River Campground and headed up to the trailhead. We had an unfortunate encounter with a local about a mile from the trailhead. A HUGE pickup was coming down as we were driving up. It was a narrow brushy stretch and it was clear he felt he had the right-of-way, so I backed the car up a bit and partially off the road into the brush. It was enough room for him to pass if he was willing to go in the brush a bit too. He approached and stopped and seemed reluctant to proceed. He was making hand gestures that didn’t make any sense. Finally he gunned it and as he passed he shouted “learn how to drive, you idiot!” Since he was being the road hog with his huge rig this really made me mad.

Anyway, the drive up there is along a winding cliff-hugging road with views of the mountains. Looking through old hiking books, this road seems to have an interesting history. This is from 100 Hikes in Western Washington (1971):

Until the forest fire of 1967, this was a long day’s hike from the valley, but now a road built to salvage the burned timber has pushed far up the mountain and made the trip an easy afternoon.

This is from 55 Hikes Around Stevens Pass (2003):

Built in the 1960s to access marginal high-elevation timber, the Evergreen Mountain road far exceeded the value of the wood that was cut. Subsequent repairs consumed even more money until the road blew out massively in 1990. Displaying a remarkable willingness to keep repeating the same mistakes, in 1998 the Forest Service took money intended for watershed rehabilitation and instead used it on yet another attempt to keep this road open. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent, but gravity can be defied for only so long… The Forest Service will not be able to keep spending the kind of money it would take to keep road 6554 open over the long term. Sooner or later reason will prevail, the road will be decommissioned, and the original trail from Rapid River to the lookout will be reopened, a longer but more rewarding and far less costly hike.

The road was in good shape for our visit and we had no trouble reaching the trailhead in our Outback. A sign at the trailhead noted that the 1967 fire was “inadvertently set by loggers” and that it burned up the south face of the ridge within several hundred feet of the lookout. We set off up the trail, which is a lot steeper than it looks in this photo:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

Although we were met with mountain views right away, unfortunately smoke had rolled in overnight and the skies were incredibly hazy:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

Climbing up:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

Looking back down the trail. That’s the Beckler River valley beyond:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

Entering the Wild Sky Wilderness:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

Almost there!

Evergreen Mountain Hike

Evergreen Mountain Hike

Mountain harebell:

Mountain harebell

The views got better as we climbed. Damn smoke!

Evergreen Mountain Hike

There is a fire lookout up here. It was built in 1935 and was staffed until the road washed out. Now it is part of the rental program, but hauling your gear (and heavy water) up that steep trail would not be fun:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

Evergreen Mountain Hike

Evergreen Mountain Hike

There was a hunter up there but otherwise we had the place to ourselves. Oh, except for the mosquitoes, which were absolutely horrible. We could tell the views would be nice on a clear day:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

We could barely see Glacier Peak through the smoke:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

Looking north:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

The same view in 1934:

Looking east:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

Same view in 1934:

Looking south:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

Looking back along our route and down the Beckler River:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

That same view in 1934:

Looking northwest, which had the least amount of smoke:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

The trail keeps going along the ridge for a little ways, but we didn’t explore. In the 100 hikes book it says “If a longer hike is desired and transportation can be arranged for a one-way trip, an old and sketchy trail continues along Evergreen Ridge, then drops to some small meadow ponds, beyond which maintained trail descends to Rapid River Road.” I see this trail shows up on old topo maps, so it must have been abandoned after the road was built.

Between the smoke and the bugs we were not inclined to linger so we headed back down:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

Back at the trailhead looking up at the mountain:

Evergreen Mountain Hike

Someone had been car camping at the trailhead when we arrived but they were gone when we got back. Their trash wasn’t, though:

Amazing how they went to the trouble to bag most of it up, then stashed the bag in the bushes!

Despite the trashy end to our hike and the smoke and mosquitoes, I’m still glad we hiked up there. It’s always cool to visit lookouts!

Johnson Ridge and Scorpion Mountain

Saturday, August 4, 2018

With better weather in today’s forecast we decided to hike the Johnson Ridge Trail out to Scorpion Mountain. The trailhead is at the end of a gravel road:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

The hike starts out on old road in a recovering clearcut that – based on historical Google Earth imagery – dates back to the late 1980s. It is surprisingly steep and this stretch is a slog:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

Scorpion Mountain Hike

At 1.3 miles we crossed the wilderness boundary. Frankly, I had never heard of the Wild Sky Wilderness before this trip:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

As we climbed up towards Sunrise Mountain, we got a glimpse through the trees over to nearby Evergreen Mountain. The white speck is the lookout:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

We also got a nice view of the some of the surrounding mountains:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

The trail passes right over the top of Sunrise Mountain, which is nothing more than a patch of bare ground surrounded by trees:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

If you move around Sunrise Mountain a bit you can get some views. Here is Glacier Peak to the north:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

I believe this peak to the south is Mt. Fernow.

Scorpion Mountain Hike

After a VERY steep descent from Sunrise Mountain (apparently the trail-builders didn’t believe in switchbacks) we continued along the ridge, passing through meadows and forest:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

Scorpion Mountain Hike

Some heather was blooming:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

Scorpion Mountain, our destination:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

The last stretch of trail traverses a meadow. Wow!

Scorpion Mountain Hike

Scorpion Mountain Hike

Scorpion Mountain view

The trail reaches an unsigned junction. One way descends to Joan Lake but we turned left and headed up to Scorpion:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

After four miles and 2,000′ elevation gain we made it!

Scorpion Mountain Hike

The mosquitoes were amazingly abundant here. We put on long sleeves, bug spray, and headnets to protect ourselves. There are not 360-degree views from the summit due to the trees, but if you move around you can get views in most (not all) directions. We sat down at a spot with a view to the west and north, surrounded by lupine, heather, and valerian wildflowers:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

Scorpion Mountain Hike

Glacier Peak again:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

Scorpion Mountain Hike

I wandered around getting pictures of other views. Looking southwest:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

Looking south:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

Looking northeast:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

Joan Lake, far below. We did not make the side trip to visit that lake because we didn’t want to regain the elevation we’d lose hiking down there, plus we knew the mosquitoes would be even worse down there:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

Scorpion Mountain Hike

After an hour on the summit soaking up the awesome views, we’d had enough of the bugs and we started heading back. Trekking back across the meadow:

Scorpion Mountain Hike

The last bit descending steeply back to the trailhead on the old road through the clearcut was a punishing descent and we were glad to get back to the car. We enjoyed a relaxing evening at our Beckler River campsite:

Beckler River Campground

Beautiful hike! Even with some clouds, we still had very nice views. The Washington Cascades are way more rugged and spectacular than the Oregon Cascades. What a treat!

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.

Iron Goat Loop

August 2, 2018

The first half of the week we backpacked to Ice Lake. Originally our plan for the second half of the week was to head to the Blue Mountains west of Baker City. But the forecast called for a lot of smoke there so we decided to head north into Washington instead. (Later we would learn that the forecast was wrong and the smoke cleared out of that area.)

Baker City Forecast

After a very long day of driving across Washington we crossed Stevens Pass on Highway 2 and pulled into the Beckler River Campground where we grabbed a campsite (boy, it’s so much easier to find a place to camp on a weekday than on a Friday night!)

The forecast today called for partly sunny, which in the mountains usually means “mostly cloudy, so forget about any views.” So we decided to hike the Iron Goat Trail, a nice interpretive trail that was brought about thanks to the efforts of the now defunct Volunteers for Outdoor Washington, and others. (A wonderful guidebook can be found online.) A sign at the trailhead informed us:

In 1990 Volunteers for Outdoor Washington established a partnership with the USDA Forest Service to construct, maintain, and interpret the Iron Goat Trail. Many other organizations worked with them in this endeavor. Hundreds of volunteers working thousands of hours built the Iron Goat Trail.

This big red caboose greets hikers at the trailhead:

Iron Goat Trail

Interpretive signs at the trailhead explained how John F. Stevens looked for a railroad route over the Cascades by following creek after creek to its headwaters and encountering a lot of impenetrable terrain. He finally identified a promising route over the pass that would later bear his name. The Great Northern Railway opened the new rail line in 1893; it was considered a great engineering feat. They employed the use of switchbacks, tunnels, and snowsheds to get their trains safely through Stevens Pass.

It wasn’t an easy job, though. When coal-fired steam engines got stuck in a tunnel the exhaust could overpower the passengers and crew.

In one disastrous incident, nearly all of the passengers and crew were overcome by exhaust. With the engineer and most of the passengers unconscious, a crew member was able to unlock the brakes and roll the train back out of the tunnel, narrowly averting a tragedy.

After that the tunnel section was electrified. But that wasn’t the only problem. After 96 passengers and crew were killed when an avalanche swept two snow-bound trains off the tracks in February 1910, the Great Northern built seven miles of snowsheds and tunnels to protect their trains. But the cost of maintaining them and keeping the line open in winter led to the construction of the 7.8-mile-long Cascade Tunnel at a lower elevation, which was completed in 1929. The completion of the Cascade Scenic Highway in 1925 allowed cars to also travel this route.

We started off in a green forest:

Iron Goat Trail

We soon came to one of the walls of an old snowshed, which was a third of a mile long. The Great Northern built 6.4 miles of snowsheds along 9 miles of track to protect their trains from avalanches. This one was built in 1913, and although the wooden roof and second wall are long gone, this concrete wall remains:

Iron Goat Trail

Iron Goat Trail

Iron Goat Trail

The first of several tunnels we would encounter:

Iron Goat Loop

Iron Goat Loop

This little “tunnel” is called and adit and was used to gain access to the center of the train tunnel:

Iron Goat Loop

We passed the Twin Tunnels.

Iron Goat Loop

Obviously most of these are not safe to enter anymore:

Iron Goat Loop

Iron Goat Loop

I loved this footbridge:

Iron Goat Loop

We took the Corea Crossover Trail which went uphill and connected to the upper part of the old rail line, then headed back east. We followed a spur trail to this timber spillway that was built in 1910 as part of the Great Northern’s fire protection system. It was accidentally discovered by a work party in 1910:

Iron Goat Loop

The vegetation opened up and we got some views of nearby mountains:

Iron Goat Loop

This tunnel was filled with debris from a rockslide above:

Iron Goat Loop

Passing another snowshed wall with views beyond:

Iron Goat Loop

This rock arch was strange. There was no sign here telling us what it was.

Iron Goat Loop

Between 1892 and 1913 trains had to slow to a crawl as they rounded Windy Point. But when the Windy Point Tunnel was finished in 1913 the trains could travel faster. The quarter-mile-long tunnel reduced the curvature, shortened the distance, and protected trains from avalanches.

Iron Goat Loop

Iron Goat Loop

Before we took the connector trail back down to the lower trail we took a side trip and went out to Windy Point where we could look down on Highway 2 and the current railroad tracks as they entered the 7.8-mile-long Cascade Tunnel. According to the sign, “it was completed in 1929 by thousands of laborers working around the clock for three years.”

Iron Goat Loop

Iron Goat Loop

An iPhone Pano of the scene below:

Iron Goat Loop

For some reason there was a composting toilet at the viewpoint:

Iron Goat Loop

Iron Goat Loop

Then we took the long steep Windy Point Crossover Trail back down to the lower trail and to our car. Nice little hike! Seven miles total. Once again the forecast was wrong and it ended up being a whole lot sunnier than they said it would be. We would have had views if we had done a hike up to a peak. But this historical hike was still interesting.

Chain Lakes Loop

2015 Trip, Day 6: Thursday, August 20

When we woke up this morning, all traces of yesterday’s clear weather had vanished and the skies were completely overcast (so much for the “partly sunny” forecast). We drove up to Artist Point anyway, where we planned to hike the Chain Lakes Trail. We hoped things would be different there. Maybe we’d be above the clouds. Nope. This was the “view” of Mt. Shuksan from Artist Point:

How disappointing. This trip was plagued with bad luck. We’d only had three clear days so far, and one of them (yesterday) was spent mostly in the car. We decided to do the hike anyway and see what would happen.

The trail descends from Artist Point and heads towards the Austin Pass trailhead and Bagley Lakes, all of which we could see below us:

At Austin Pass we stopped in at the Heather Meadows Visitor Center. This neat old building was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1940. Those guys really knew how to build structures that last, and attractive structures at that. This building was originally built as a warming hut for skiers, but now serves as a Forest Service information center.

After the Visitor Center we descended the trail down to Bagley Lakes. This is looking back:

In addition to Bagley Lakes there are a few smaller lakes, more like ponds.

This photo by Eric Rolls shows how the scene just above should have looked:

We crossed a beautiful stone bridge:

Then the trail climbs up, up, up toward Herman Saddle:

After which we went down, down down to Hayes Lake:

Just beyond is Iceberg Lake, where we stopped to have a snack, and caught a brief glimpse of a patch of blue sky. The mountain on the right is Table Mountain, which we had hiked up the evening before:

Iceberg Lake is really low. All this gravel area should be underwater:

After resuming our hike we passed by Mazama Lake:

See those people down by the lake? They had an off-leash dog that was running around everywhere, trampling the sensitive alpine vegetation. Dogs are not allowed off-leash here, but I guess these people don’t care.

After Mazama Lake the trail climbs yet again. This hike has a lot of ups and downs! There are supposed to be views of Mt. Baker here:

The last stretch back to the car. By the this point we were incredibly discouraged by the clouds and lack of views:

After our viewless hike we checked out the weather forecast and saw that there was a 40% chance of rain the next day. Translation: “it WILL rain, and it will be overcast and you will have no views.” The forecast for the day after that was partly sunny. Translation: “overcast.”

Now that Plan C had failed, we gave up. We packed up and started heading home, three days earlier than planned.

We got to see some beautiful scenery on this trip, but the constant uncertainty about smoke and weather was stressful. Since August hasn’t been good to us for two years now, we may take out trip in July next year.

< Day 5

Table Mountain and Artist Point

2015 Trip, Day 5: Wednesday, August 19

The smoke from yesterday had not cleared from the Snoqualmie Pass area today, much to our sadness.

I was feeling incredibly discouraged. So far our vacation had involved a whole lot of worrying over what the conditions would bring each day. Every day we were making lots of phone calls to ranger stations and checking online for weather forecasts, fire conditions, and smoke reports. Now after 24 hours of smoke there was still an air quality advisory through the next day for the Snoqualmie Pass area. After making a phone call to the Glacier Public Information Center, Greg suggested we head to the Mt. Baker area, which was currently experiencing clear skies. So we headed north.

We had expected to spend the last three days of our trip backpacking, but we weren’t doing that now. So we needed more groceries for car camping and stopped at the Woolley Market in Sedro-Woolley. Also got some sandwiches for lunch.

Since we hadn’t planned on going to Mt. Baker, we hadn’t brought any of our books and maps with us. I downloaded hike descriptions to my phone and then we stopped at the ranger station in town to buy a few maps.

The Mt. Baker area was indeed clear and we enjoyed a sunny drive along Highway 542. We arrived at the Silver Fir Campground (the only campground in the area, not including the Douglas Fir Campground that’s 20 minutes back in the other direction) only to find no empty campsites. Well, there were empty campsites, but we couldn’t use them. Some people had reserved sites but then failed to show up and use them. The Weebers here were one such group.

Just before leaving the campground, we happened to see the Hoodoo camp host who is stationed at Douglas Fir Campground and also looks after Silver Fir. We told him we were looking for a campsite and he said the campground had been full for weeks, then turned away to finish cleaning the bathroom. Good grief. Hoodoo employees, in my experience, are some of the most unhelpful people! (We found out the next day that people are allowed to camp in the campground’s day use area when all the sites are full. No one had yet claimed the day use area and we could have taken it, but Mr. Unhelpful failed to mention that to us.)

On the map we saw a campsite symbol at Hannegan Pass so we headed up there. The road is a pothole-plagued mess, but when we got to the end we did indeed find a few campsites and we snagged one:

It was only 4:30 so Greg suggested we drive up to Artist Point and do the short hike up Table Mountain. So we drove back down the potholed road, then drove the curvy winding road up to Artist Point. When we got there I felt like doing a jig. We finally made it to Artist Point! When we visited this area in July 2010 the snow melted really late that year and Artist Point was inaccessible. When we visited last year it was raining and we didn’t even bother driving up there. Third time’s the charm! The evening light on Mt. Shuksan was divine.

Rugged mountains north of Mt. Shuksan:

Heading up to Table Mountain:

Some sections of the trail cling to the side of the mountain. See Greg on the left?

We reached a viewpoint that we thought was the summit, but it wasn’t. It actually proved to have the best views, we would later discover. It also had tons of annoying “rock art” stacks.

We kept going across the plateau towards the true summit, which we needn’t have done, it turns out. We lost the trail at one point and just headed cross country.

The point we designated as our turnaround point was not really the summit, but the views weren’t going to get better than we already had, so we called it good. Nice view of Mt. Baker:

Looking down the length of the plateau that is Table Mountain:

The jagged peaks of North Cascades National Park:

Glacier Peak to the south:

And of course a fabulous view of Mt. Shuksan:

Some panorama shots from my iPhone:

All the peaks to the south of us were somewhat shrouded in smoky haze:

A shot from the way down, with Mt. Baker in the background:

When we got back down to the car sunset was already well underway. We had wanted to photograph sunset at Picture Lake, back down the road a bit from Artist Point, so got in the car and headed down there. We needn’t have bothered though. Winds often calm down in the evening, but they didn’t today and the lake was not doing any reflecting:

Screw the lake. I’ll focus on the mountain:

Earlier at Artist Point we talked to a nice woman named Suzanne who told us about seeing amazing stars the night before, and even a bit of the northern lights. We wanted to stay and see the stars, but our pots, pans, and stove for making a car camping dinner were back at the campsite. Fortunately all our backpacking gear and food was in the car, so after driving back to Artist Point from the lake we made dinner backpacking style. I don’t think we’ve ever used our JetBoil in a parking lot before:

We sat in the car and ate our dinners as dusk fell:

We were glad we stayed because the stars were a sight to see!

We got to bed pretty late that night (11:30), but it was worth it!

< Day 4 | Day 5 >

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 >

Wallowa backpacking canceled

2015 Trip, Day 1: Saturday, August 15

A day late, we finally left on our annual week-long trip to the mountains. We were supposed to have left for the Wallowas yesterday morning, but they have some major fires over in that area and this was the smoky view from a webcam in Joseph Thursday evening:

Time for Plan B! We decided to head to the Snoqualmie Pass area. There were fires to the north and south but no smoke, and no fires in that area, so we hoped for the best. It was gray and bleak and overcast when we stopped at the visitor center at Snoqualmie Pass and picked up a few maps we didn’t already have.

The Denny Creek Campground was full when we arrived. The camp host told us there was one site available (apparently a reservation no-show), but it was only after we paid for two nights that they told us the site was reserved for the following night. They had failed to put the reservation card on the post stating that fact. Too bad there is no place else to camp in this area as the freeway is right above us and it’s VERY loud here.

Day 2 >

Anderson Butte and Watson Lakes

After our slog through the snow to Park Butte, we hiked to Anderson Butte and Watson Lakes on day 2. It was a hot day for hiking.

This time we drove up into the hills on the east side of Baker Lake instead of the west side. Up and up and up we drove, with more and more views of Mt. Baker through the trees. When we finally arrived at the trailhead, there were more than 30 cars there! I think a fair number of them belonged to people who had been backpacking. It was a Sunday and we saw a number of backpackers hiking out as we hiked in.

We saw a sign at the trailhead that a WTA crew was working on the trail. Sure enough, we passed them about a mile in. They were cheerful and friendly and seemed to be enjoying themselves. Thanks gang, for your hard work!

Before heading to the lakes, we took the side trail up to Anderson Butte. That was one rough trail. It was steep and rocky and rooty and after the snowy exertions the day before, this little trail to Anderson Butte was kicking my butt. Fortunately, though, it was less than a mile up to the top, and man were the views fantastic!

We could see Mt. Baker to the west and Mt. Shuksan to the north….

And we could see the snowy peaks of North Cascades National Park, right next door to where we were in the Noisy-Diobsud Wilderness:

Here’s a video showing almost the whole 360-degree view.

After soaking up the stupendous views, we hiked back down to the main trail and continued on to Watson Lakes. We had to cross one large snowy meadow, but that was it for snow.

After gaining elevation all this time, we lost a lot of elevation after the meadow. The trail descended to another smaller meadow, which the trail crossed via a very nice boardwalk.

At the end of the meadow the trail splits. You can go right to Anderson Lake or left to Watson Lakes. We would not have time or energy for Anderson Lake on this trip, but headed for Watson Lakes. Now we gained elevation again, crested a ridge, and descended again to the lakes. Here’s our first view of this beautiful place!

You reach the western of the two lakes first, but we headed straight for the eastern lake. There are lots of user trails and campsites around. It reminded me of a smaller version of Jefferson Park. And man, what a beautiful place to camp! Greg and I want to come back and do this as a backpack. Absolutely lovely.

While Greg was bushwhacking around for the geocache, I took off my boots and stood in two feet of lake water. Oh wow did that ever feel good. It was a hot day, plus my leg sunburn from the day before was soothed by the cold water. I could have stayed there all day. There were plenty of people about, but they were spread out and all the backpackers from the night before were gone, so it was relatively quiet.

Watson Lakes has two big lakes and one very small lake. The trail doesn’t go down there, though you could definitely just head there cross-country. Probably a good spot to escape the crowds at the big eastern lake.

A note about the mosquitoes. We had heard that they can be AWFUL here. They were out, for sure, but they weren’t that bad, really. I don’t know if they were just getting started or if their peak time was dwindling, but we lucked out.

On our way out we stopped by the western lake for some pictures while the lake enjoyed a brief moment of calm and reflected Bacon Peak nicely.

And then we hiked the up-down-up-down trail back out to the car. Despite the roller-coaster nature of the trail, this hike is definitely worth it. I’m a sucker for pretty lakes with mountain views and this is one of the nicer ones I’ve been to. It’s 6 miles round-trip and 1,400 feet elevation gain to Watson Lakes, more if you go to Anderson Butte and/or Anderson Lake. Can’t wait to go back and spend the night!