WA – Glacier Peak Wilderness, Spider Gap / Buck Pass Loop (Part 2 of 2)

I ended Part 1 (link) at the Cloudy Pass PCT junction.

I was tired and still had some miles to hike before I’d reach my evening destination. I must have still had a bit of energy though as I took a few photos.

A friend recommended I spend the night at Image Lake so I could experience the Glacier Peak sunset.

What a traversing trail. There were lots of flowers mixed in with what looks like grasses.

Image Lake

The camping is far from what I’d choose. No view of the lake and instead campsites hidden in the trees to protect this fragile area that has been over loved. It took everything I had to hike from camp to the far end of the lake to watch sunset. I joined a couple of other motivated photographers. The skeeters were horrendous making it hard to capture a mosquito-free photo. I knew I should wait longer to catch best color but when the others grew tired, I joined them on hike back to camp.

At least I had a view of Glacier Peak from my campsite. The designated areas where overflowing and I grabbed this space on the perimeter. As expected I was drowning in condensation by morning.

The next morning I hiked to Miner’s Ridge Lookout.

This is year #5 for Russ volunteering as caretaker of the Lookout. He’s been spending much of his time restoring the lookout. What he’s accomplished is impressive. He lives here about two months each summer, joined occasionally by his wife, Kelly, and other family members. I heard his grandkids were helping out a couple weeks ago. If you hike in from the Suiattle Trailhead, you’ll find a bucket asking if you would help shuttle supplies such as nails or screws. Also consider bringing him a gift of fresh vegetables or fruit.

Views were very hazy and I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a new fire start or if this was the smoke blowing in from the fires in Alaska and Canada. Russ was on the radio when I arrived. There was a fire in the Devore Creek drainage between Stehekein and Holden; it was 100 acres as of that morning.

I decided to hike the loop. Not the brightest decision as it included bonus descending and ascending miles, in less than beautiful conditions. I would have enjoyed repeating the green traverse instead. I should have hiked the higher trail around Image Lake.

This waterfall was especially refreshing. I met Russ and Kelly again here where we both took a break and enjoyed more chatting. Russ also manages Image Lake, including the backcountry toilets. On this day, after their duties they were out for a hike to an area new to Kelly.

Finally I was back on the PCT. Loved meeting thru hikers who were happy to celebrate “PCT grade.” The loop I was hiking was definitely NOT PCT grade.

As they say all good things must end. Sadly within an hour, it was time to exit the PCT for the steeper terrain of the Buck Creek Pass Trail.

I was glad I’d taken this photo the previous night as on this day the image was filled with smoke haze. I believe the chute to the left leads up to Spider Gap and Lyman Lakes. My Peakfinder App wasn’t working so I’m guessing here based on my topo map. I think the mountain to the left is Dumbell Mountain and the one to the right is Fortress Mountain, which the trail skirts around the front.

I always say things happen for a reason. This trail is very populated, with many more hikers than I like, especially at camps. I happened upon this solo campsite at just the right moment. I had a fantastic view of Fortress Mountain, a nearby creek, and the best sleep of the trip.

The skies cleared and from my campsite I had this nice view of the Miners Ridge Trail I’d hiked on my way to Image Lake. I think it would be fun to hike the actual ridge.

The next morning I was entertained by these clouds. Did they foretell a change of weather?

As I hiked toward Buck Creek Pass, I was reminded of how lucky I was to have gotten a clear view of Glacier Peak the previous day.

Monkey Flower

A little different perspective of lupine.

My goal was to claim one of the three campsites at Buck Pass before spending a few hours hiking up Liberty Cap Mountain. If you look closely you’ll see the switchback trail going up the open green area. The areas appearing brown are really lupine and other wildflowers.

The lupine meadows were overwhelming. That’s Helmet Butte in the background.

I was in my element! Plentiful flowers mixed with mountains galore. I enjoyed seeing another side of Glacier Peak.

Ptarmigan

I forget what these are called. They are one of my favorites with their intense color.

Learning there was water not far from the pass, in fact on the way to the Liberty Cap trail, made it possible for me to spend the day exploring the area. This spring is probably the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. The overflow creek was edged with this greener than green turf.

It was so soft.

There were a few of these tiny flowers interspersed.

Pretty sweet view.

Watching sunrise is my favorite time of day. I sure felt lucky getting to experience the mountain minus clouds.

This was my least favorite part of the loop. I’m still not sure whether I would have preferred to have gotten this section out of the way in the beginning and ended with my favorite parts. I wouldn’t have wanted to climb through the hot overgrowth area so I guess in that way I’m glad I completed as a counterclockwise loop. As they say, pick your poison.

Although few of the berries were ripe, it was surprising to see fall color in a few places.

There was a sign at the trailhead indicating the bridge was out. It was very functional and thankfully not flagged closed. The stream crossing would have been easy; getting up the bank might have been challenging.

Much of the trail below the burn area was extremely overgrown with berry bushes.

The umbrella made getting through the burn and berry areas much more tolerable. It was humid and hot.

I was also glad my car was parked at the trailhead. I wouldn’t have wanted to tackle the 3-mile road walk after already being overheated. However, there is a creek near the Buck Creek Trailhead where you can clean up and/or cool off. Highly recommend!

Adventure Date(s):

  • July 27-31, 2019

Hike Details:

Tips:

  • Register at the trailhead so the trails continue to get funds allocated for maintenance, etc.
  • Be prepared for biting flies and mosquitoes. I’d sprayed my outerwear, pack and screen on tent in advance with Sawyer’s Permethrin (Amazon link), and applied Picardin (Amazon link) to my skin when needed.
  • Leavenworth is a decent resupply and WiFi location. Can you tell I was craving vegetables?
  • There is dispersed camping opportunities available near Leavenworth in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.
  • I found a $3 shower at a local fitness center.
  • When there isn’t a nearby laundromat or you don’t have enough to justify a load, shower laundry is great and the dashboard works as a drying rack.
  • Set mouse traps in your car at the trailhead!  Mouse 1, Jan 1.
  • Squirrel Tree Restaurants at Coles Corner was a worthy stop that filled my belly and made me happy.

Resources:

Links:

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? Broken Links? I'd love to hear from you!

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