WA – Mount Rainier National Park, Chinook Pass (Oct 2021)

I knew I was pushing my luck finding peak autumn colors. But the hikes at Chinook Pass were on my POI list and since there was a nearby fire when I was in the area in early August, I took the detour on my southward journey.

When I got started in the morning I was feeling disappointed in myself. Why? Well first when I arrived at the trailhead the previous afternoon the light was optimal and I should have hiked the very popular Naches Peak Loop Trail but the hundreds of cars removed all motivation for that option. Second I missed a spectacular sunrise by arriving about 15 minutes late the next morning. Would it be a 3-strike trip? I certainly felt more optimistic when I turned around and found this view of Mount Rainier and Yakima Peak shortly after starting my hike.

I knew the only way I’d be able to enjoy this hike was to get an early morning start.

There was no doubt I was a couple weeks past peak colors and with the overcast skies I wasn’t going to get great reflections either. But look, no people! I had the pond to myself.

The northern section of the Naches Peak Loop Trail is shared with the PCT until it continues south dropping to Dewey Lake.

As I turned west, I found an obvious well used viewpoint and was happy to have the clouds part just enough for a little peek of these mountains.

As I stood there, I thought I saw more in the background. Is that snow? If so that must be Mount Rainer.

I watched the clouds drift in and out for a good 30 minutes, playing peek-a-boo with Mount Rainier.

Taking time to watch nature’s magic was exactly what I needed on this day.

As I continued the loop I was gifted this view of Naches Peak.

By the time I reached Tipsoo Lakes, the crowds were arriving and it started feeling like Disneyland.

I took a little break at my car before continuing my hike north on the PCT. My first stop was very popular Sheep Lake. I met a ton of people coming down from an overnight at the lake. Can you imagine sharing with 20-50 people? That’s what you get without permits and quotas and a lake 2 miles from a paved trailhead. My destination was Sourdough Gap at the top of the ridge.

This section of trail was much less busy.

Looking down at Sheep Lake as I climbed toward Sourdough Gap.

Sourdough Gap provided views of Three Way Peak. I thought I’d be able to see Mount Rainer as I’d gotten a glimpse as I climbed up to the pass.

The PCT continues north through Sourdough Gap, but after a short traverse it drops to the right below Three Peaks. The trail that stays high is Crystal Lakes Trail and the visible pass invited further exploration.

Success! That was the view I was hoping to find. Upper Crystal Lake is another popular overnight and day hike destination. It’s important to note these lakes are in the National Park. I don’t know permitting requirements but signs clearly indicated dogs prohibited. Sad to say I witnessed many who don’t believe rules apply to them.

Overall I’d call this day a win although I wouldn’t say it was in my top 10 and it’s unlikely I’d repeat except for hiking this full section of the PCT, which I’m still missing on my quest to complete Washington.

Do you know this tree? There were several along this section of the trail and they didn’t seem to belong but they sure were pretty.

I’m so pleased with my continued knee rehab progress.

ADVENTURE DATE(S): October 3-4, 2021

RESOURCES:

LINKS:

WA – North Cascades, Maple Pass Trail (Sept 2021)

I’d always wanted to see the tapestry of autumn colors found in the Northern Cascades.

I was a little early for the larch show but the overcast skies made the other colors pop. That’s Lake Ann hiding below the still green larch trees. “Larch is any of the coniferous trees belonging to the genus Larix categorized under the family Pinaceae. Although these are classified as conifers, larches turn yellow and lose their needles in the autumn or fall just like deciduous trees. These are medium-sized trees with the typical pyramidal canopy of conifers. They are found in places with cold climates and plenty of moisture.” Source: Coniferous Forest

As I gained elevation I found a few larch showing off their golden hue.

I hiked the trail counterclockwise, stopping at Lake Ann first, then taking a break at Heather Pass before climbing up to the first Maple Pass then traversing the ridge to reach the second Maple Pass. This little tarn and snowfield were visible when I began my descent. Rainy Lake is further down the drainage.

THIS is the tapestry I came to see.

I shared the trail with a grouse family.

I loved this hike so much I couldn’t resist returning a week later. As much as I hoped for brilliant blue skies showcasing the golden larch, Mother Nature had other plans. It was a damp brisk 33F when I started my hike around 8am. There was fresh snow on the nearby peaks.

As I gained elevation I found snow level. The tapestry of color was dulled by a thin veil of white.

I believe this is Wing Lake (or Lewis Lake) which I’d planned to visit after reaching my highpoint turnaround. On this date I didn’t plan to hike the loop, instead just going to Maple Pass before returning to Heather Pass where could spend a few hours exploring this side trail and these lakes.

Another bucket list item was seeing larch IN the snow, maybe not while it was snowing.

The cloud ceiling dropped and not long after I reached the first Maple Pass, I found myself in a whiteout.

To say I was giddy is an understatement. So much WOW in that little storm. It completely changed the landscape providing lots of photographic opportunities, although I was wishing for my winter gloves.

I was still a bit early for peak larch season but I was beyond thrilled with this experience. I’m guessing once the slope above Lake Ann is covered in yellow larch, the reds and oranges of the other foliage will be gone thus making my timing spot on.

I think this pika was smiling at me.

All too soon it was time to say goodbye to nature’s quilt.

ADVENTURE DATE(S): September 22 and 29, 2021

TIPS:

  • This can be a super busy trail. There is room for about 50 cars in the main parking area and signs indicating overflow parking on the highway. When I arrived in the late afternoon the day before my first hike there were at least 100 cars on the highway. It was on a heavy overcast day. I started early and only saw about a dozen people. There wasn’t anyone in overflow when I finished my hike. On my return trip, it was damp, cold and mostly overcast again. It was a much busier day even though both trips were on Wednesdays under cloudy skies and had early starts. When I finished on that second day, there was a mile or two of cars parked along the highway.
  • This hike is outside North Cascades National Park, but just on the boundary.
  • The Heather Pass/Maple Pass trail is a loop and can be hiked in either direction. After reading reviews I decided on counter clockwise. The benefit is a more gradual climb and more controlled descent. If you go clockwise, you’ll face a steeper ascent and a less controlled descent on the sections between the first and second Maple Passes. If you don’t want to deal with the steep sections, I highly recommend going counterclockwise to the first Maple Pass and then turning around. You can see the differences on this profile pictured below.

RESOURCES:

LINKS:

WA – North Cascades, Blue Lake and Cutthroat Pass (Sept 2021)

Larch Madness! I’d caught the fever and couldn’t get enough as I continued my search for peak conditions.

My larch march began and ended at Ingalls Pass in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness (blog link). In between I spent time along Highway 20 in the North Cascades, with two trips to Maple Pass (blog link) bookending trips to Blue Lake and on the PCT from Rainy Pass to Cutthroat Pass.

Blue Lake

I needed a recovery day so had planned this easier hike. As I was completing preparations for my hike, a large van arrived with a group of at least a dozen teenagers disembarking. Oh no, so much for my peaceful day. I was motivated to stay ahead of them. I decided to explore the junction leading to the Early Winter Spires. The sign at the trailhead indicated this was a climbers route but I figured there would be a reasonably graded hiking trail I could explore while gaining a little elevation. That was not be the case and instead I turned around when the trail became cairn route and rock scramble.

The kids were taking a break at the junction when I returned to the main trail and thus was once again motivated to reach Blue Lake before the masses. I learned later this group was part of a partnership between local schools and the Outward Bound program. I heard several hikers complaining about kids hiking instead of being in school. My thought was how wonderful to expose kids to something besides sports and activities more typically found in PE departments. They were well behaved, respectful and even separated later in the day for individual projects.

I had stopped at Washington Pass earlier in the morning and captured this photo of the other side of Liberty Bell Mountain.

The Tarn Loop Trail offers this view of possibly Cutthroat Peak and/or Whistler Mountain.

I wandered around the far side of the lake for lunch. The kids were gathered on a large rock near the trail junction. This lake offers very little privacy. I wanted to swim so bad. I waited and waited for them to leave but even when they separated for their projects there was just too much exposure. I always think of that saying, “what the eyes can’t unsee.” I wasn’t ready to strip to my underwear in front of these youngsters so instead I watched the fish and the larch reflections.

Rainy Pass to Cutthroat Pass on the PCT

I was reminded that the autumn season is short here in the far north and although it’s still September, days are short. At 9am the shadows were still more prevalent than the sun.

At 11am I was still climbing and in search of sun.

I finally found sun around 11:45am as I neared the pass.

When I reached the top I found distant snowy peaks.

Looking over the pass I was tempted to continue onward to Granite Pass, but since I was already pushing my limits at a 10+ mile day, I knew it was in my best interest to say no. Besides I have bad memories from my PCT attempt at that pass (WA – PCT Section L . . . as in Lame ) so it was definitely better to save it for another year.

In the photo above where the person and horses are standing is a junction. The PCT continues straight where the trail to the right drops to Cutthroat Lake as shown in below photo. You can access the lake from another trailhead off of Highway 20. Unlike the PCT, the Cutthroat Lake trail is bike friendly and I saw several on this day.

This is looking up at Cutthroat Peak. From the Pass you can see a trail used to climb the peak or ridge. If I hadn’t used up my miles, I might have explored the ridge.

This is a view of Cutthroat Peak from my hike to Blue Lake.

On this day I enjoyed the company of a 70+ year old group of guys. One of the guys, about to celebrate his 75th birthday, was in phenomenal condition. I aspire to being more like him now and into the future!

The larch might not have been at peak but I sure enjoyed all the reds.

As I neared the trailhead I ran into some facebook friends I hadn’t met in person. They were headed to Hart’s Pass on the PCT where they found peak larch colors.

PCT grade is perfect for my knee surgery rehab.

When I began this trip it was to escape wildfires and smoke. Back in early August Joan and I had hoped to land at Rainy Pass where she could complete her remaining PCT miles. But these two fires made that impossible and in fact as I drove Highway 20 in September, the Cedar Creek Fire was still smoldering. The Gaia maps now include several layers related to fires and air quality.

I also use the weather layers on Gaia for hike and travel planning. As we rolled from summer into fall, I found myself running from precipitation rather than smoke.

Monument Creek Trail, Pasayten Wilderness

While I was waiting out storms to return to Maple Pass, I found this trail near Mazama and planned to hike to Eureka Creek from the trailhead.

The bridge across Eureka Creek is long gone, making for a treacherous crossing most of the year. As such signage at the trailhead indicated no trail maintenance beyond this creek for over 25 years. I saw a couple heading out with backpacks. I wondered if they found decent options. It’s hunting season so they may have had other plans.

Spokane Gulch Trail, Methow Valley Trails

I met up with this legendary trail angel and first woman to solo hike the PCT, Carolyn aka Ravensong (Link to article in The Trek).

This is looking down at the community of Mazama and shows just how close the Cedar Creek Fire came to wiping out the town.

Susie Stephens Trail, Methow Valley Trails

I spent time wandering trails in the communities of Winthrop and Twisp. On this day I was waiting out the storms AGAIN.

This storm dropped a little snow which added to my Larch Madness!

ADVENTURE DATE(S): September 23-28, 2021

RESOURCES:

LINKS:

WA – Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Ingalls Pass (Sept/Oct 2021)

The forecasters got this one wrong. I like to camp near trailheads so I can get an early morning start. Well on this day instead of hiking I read. Living in your car has some drawbacks and on long rainy days there aren’t a lot of options. Yes I could have been like those I saw hiking anyways, some carrying backpacks. That’s the difference between those from the Pacific Northwest and this sunny Californian. I also could have driven back to town but I don’t like wasting gas and since hanging out inside was something I avoided during COVID times, that wasn’t a great option either.

As I drove to the trailhead the next morning, I was mostly excited to see this view of I believe Fortune Peak, although a little concerned about snow since I didn’t have my microspikes or weatherproof shoes with me. Afterall I packed for this trip when it was over 100 degrees. I met a few of the backpackers coming down after a wet cold night. They were regretting not waiting a day for better weather and views.

It was a great hike to the pass. I had views of Mount Rainier and cloudy views of either Mount Adams or Mount Saint Helens. The Esmeralda Peaks are in the foreground.

Finding larch turning yellow at the pass and seeing Mount Stuart with it’s first dusting made Ingalls Pass a worthy hike.

This is looking down into Ingalls Creek drainage which I’d hiked from the other end a couple weeks previous, though not quite making it this far (blog link).

At the top I found a marmot enjoying the warm sun.

The colors remind me of California’s Klamath Mountains. Ingalls Pass is to the right in front of the colorful mountains which I believe includes Fortune Peak on the left.

In one of the rock fields, I took time to watch the pika scurry about. This one blended well with the rocks.

With the yellowing larch signaling a change in season I headed further north hoping to find them in peak color. I returned to Ingalls Pass a couple of weeks later to see how autumn was progressing. I’d say I found gold!

I was still full of energy and feeling strong when I arrived at the pass so decided to continue on toward Ingalls Lake. Headlight Basin is beautiful. You can see why it’s a popular backpacking and hiking destination. This is looking back up at Ingalls Pass.

This is the route to Ingalls Lake. There isn’t a trail; it’s more of a multiple-option cairn route, sort of what I call pick your poison. I started up two different routes and realized they were too risky for where I was in my knee rehab. If you zoom you can see people scrambling among the rocks. If I were to see this photo, I’d think it would be easy to stick to the boulders making it a somewhat easy climb but in reality there is lots of class 2 scrambling.

Instead I enjoyed lunch with views like these into the Ingalls Creek Drainage. As a bonus I had time to people watch. Some were suffering greatly carrying overnight packs, even though the lake is off limits for camping. I met a ranger on my way down who was on her way up to check permits and relocate those camped in closed areas.

I made the mistake of taking the alternate trail on my way down. The main trail is a much nicer grade and provides even better views. The shorter alternate trail drops down steeply and then regains some elevation to meet up with the main trail. In retrospect I wish I would have done an out and back on the main trail.

Dr Seuss trees.

Very few trees were as mature as this one. I wonder if a fire wiped out old growth at some time in the fairly recent past.

I was still a tad early for peak color but it was still a WOW experience and not one I regretted.

ADVENTURE DATE(S): September 19-20 and October 1, 2021

RESOURCES:

LINKS:

WA – Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Rachel Lake (Sept 2021)

A friend recently shared photos of her hike on this trail so I added it to my list as I headed north in my ongoing attempt to escape wildfire. By the time I arrived smoke had shifted so I continued north and spent a couple weeks in the Leavenworth/Lake Wenatchee area (blog link). Soon enough the winds shifted again and it was time to head south where AQI was looking much better. I first spent some time at Cle Elum Lake where I walked from the waterline to the mapped shoreline, an amazing 2.5 miles.

I enjoyed following the river channel while being entertained by the clouds. The shoreline mountains were colorful and had me looking at my maps to discover more nearby trails.

As I reached the far end of the lake’s boundary I wondered how long ago it was last full. The nearby campground would provide a convenient opportunity to watch wildlife at dawn and dusk.

The green line represents the 2.5 miles I walked on what was once the lake.

It was a brisk 34F when I arrived at the trailhead to begin my hike to Rachel Lake. It’s a 4-mile hike to the lake. On the ridge is Rampart Lakes which was my intended destination or beyond to Lila Lake.

I was a little early for best fall colors but there were teases like here on the shoulders of Hibox Mountain.

And some nice color along the trail with views into the canyon and I believe Box Ridge in the distance.

As much as I was motivated to get to the Rampart Lakes and beyond, this trail zapped my joy. The first 3 miles were nicely graded but the last mile to Rachel Lake was steep roots and rocks with hardly any dirt or flat areas in between. This section needs to be rebuilt as this is a very high use trail. If they are going to keep the same path it needs steps or stairs but it seems much better to build on a contour with switchbacks. I should have turned around when I reached this hell because it wasn’t even close to being knee rehab friendly.

Good thing there were a few water features for distractions.

I even found some late season penstemon.

The profile gives you can idea of the steep rooty rocky section. This was well outside my league and turned my smile upside down. I should have done my own research instead of just being giddy from my friend’s photos. There are a couple of other entry trails that might provide better options to access the higher trails.

Back at Cle Elum Lake I found more fall colors to help me return to my happy spot.

After that very challenging day at Rachel Lake I needed a recovery option and found this rail trail to be perfect.

It seems rainy season caught up with me. No complaints since we need rain to clean the air and drown the wildfires. I waited out this storm at a dispersed campsite near Cle Elum Lake.

ADVENTURE DATE(S): September 14-18, 2021

RESOURCES:

LINKS:

WA – Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Ingalls Creek Trail (Sept 2021)

I’d landed in Washington in my continued attempt to escape wildfire smoke. After three days of refuge at Newberry Volcanic National Park (blog link), smoke found me and it was time to run again. I continued north finding options like Bend and John Day with very unhealthy air quality. I had moderate success in finding places to spend the night or hike waiting for the wind to shift again. One winner was in the Leavenworth area where I hiked up Icicle (1,800 feet 5.5 miles) and Nason (1,600 feet 4.5 miles) Ridges. Neither were wow worthy but helped me build my post-knee surgery fitness and kept me moving.

Between those strenuous hikes, I took a stroll on the Ingalls Creek Trail. Once again not wow worthy, but just what I needed in terms of miles, elevation gain and solitude.

Early fall colors were one reward.

Another reward was plentiful water.

After this preview of the Ingalls Creek Trail and with an inviting weather and smoke forecast, I decided to try a 3-day, mini backpacking trip. This would be my first solo since Joan helped me by carrying part of my weight in July.

I was limiting my mileage so my first campsite didn’t offer much in the way of views. This is my new weight-saving Zpacks Plexamid tent, and my first trekking pole and stake dependent shelter. After watching a couple videos I had good success at getting a decent pitch. First impressions leave me concerned about being able to avoid touching the sides in condensation situations. It’s height makes for great in-tent stretching. The DCF material won’t absorb water, another weight-saving benefit when overnighting in rain, which hasn’t yet presented for a test.

I spent a lot of time looking up at these cliffs, remembering my trip into the Enchantments (blog link) many years ago. If I was ready for more strenuous hiking I might have attempted a walk-up permit. One of the things I’m learning is patience and compromise. Baby steps will get me back faster than set backs.

Views from my second night campsite were much improved albeit the temptation to explore were almost more than I could manage. I had to say NO more than once.

Up there is Little Annapurna which I hiked when I was in the Enchantments. Here I am looking down on Ingalls Creek.

I even found a few late blooms.

Most of the fireweed had gone to seed and with each puff of wind the cotton was everywhere. I was sneezing plenty.

The magic of morning light.

One of the few friends I found on the trail.

When you are limiting your mileage, having places like this to break up the day is much better than hanging out in camp.

I can’t wait until my body is up to hiking long days again but until then I’m grateful for trails like this that don’t require advance planning.

I’m happy to have my base weight below 14 pounds.

ADVENTURE DATE(S): September 7-13, 2021

RESOURCES:

LINKS:

Sunset at Lake Wenatchee with a wildfire smoldering off in the distance

WA – PCT Section H . . . as in Hike your own Hike, J&J Style (Stevenson to White Pass) (Days 9-12)

In case you missed the previous posts, I’m supporting Joan as she complete this section of the PCT (link to previous post). I’m chronicling what I found to do while Joan was hiking.

Days 9-12 – Williams Mine Trailhead on FR-23 (Mile 2229.9) to White Pass on Highway 12 (2295.9)

Mt Adams Wilderness – We both hiked north on the PCT. My destination was Horseshoe Meadow, Joan’s was White Pass 66 miles away. My reward was a meadow filled with pink paintbrush.

My timing was perfect to find many blooms, and I was ecstatic with my longest hike to date since my knee surgery including 2,000′ elevation gain.

The next day was filled with waterfalls and lakes as I traveled north on FR-23. First up was Big Spring Creek Falls.

Council Lake“Council Lake is a drive up mountain lake on the north west flank of Mt. Adams.  It has a U.S. Forest Service campground.  It is stocked annually with catchable rainbow trout, but also contains eastern brook, brown trout, and cutthroat trout.”

Takhlakh Lake “A very popular campground close to the shore of Takhlakh Lake. The Campground includes ten walk-in sites. The views across the lake of Mt. Adams are outstanding. The northern trails of the Mt. Adams Wilderness are nearby. Takhlakh Loop Trail # 134 originates in the campground and encircles the lake. It’s a 1.1 mile flat hike around the lake. You can also connect to the Takh Takh Meadows trail #136 that leads you to an old lava flow.” Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Pika

Olallie Lake“This campground, on the shores of Ollalie Lake, offers 5 small sites and one larger area with room for RVs. The sites offer scenic views of Mt. Adams from the lake. It’s located in a high elevation stand of lodgepole and subalpine pine.” The trail around the lake wasn’t in as good of shape as that around Takhlakh Lake, the lake was shallower, more buggy and views of Mt Adams not as wow.

Chain of Lakes – This was the least desirable of the lakes I visited. There is free dispersed camping with picnic tables and fire rings but no restrooms. It was very buggy but maybe a fishermen’s paradise although no one was around the morning of my visit. You can access High Lakes Trail from there.

Horseshoe Lake – This was by far my favorite lake as it offered great swimming. It’s a first come first serve no reservation campground and was packed with a large father/kid group. Bugs weren’t too bad and there were views of Mt Adams. “The campground is a rustic site situated on a 24 acre lake, and offers most campers a view of the water. The campground is small with only 11 campsites. Fishing, boating (electric motors only), and hiking are available.”

At White Pass, I hiked north on the PCT to Deer Lake. This was a very somber day as I thought about Kris “Sherpa” Fowler (link) who went missing in 2016. I’ve been very involved behind-the-scenes with the search.

Old signs bring smiles, with another to add to my collection.

Good morning from a new-to-me wilderness.

I was excited to find blooming elephant head orchids.

Deer Lake

Leech Lake – at the PCT Trailhead in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

Joan’s last stretch was in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. This is a favorite area of mine and I’ve hiked the Knife’s Edge portion three times.

Once off trail we had a J&J day where we explored Skate Creek, a Washington State Park.

Joan’s last section of the PCT to complete is from Rainy Pass north. We attempted this in 2016 (link) but I got shin tendonitis and we had to reverse direction. This time there were fires, and although the trail was open, access was a problem. The good news is that now we had time for more J&J adventures.

Dates: July 18-22, 2021

WA – PCT Section L . . . as in Lots to Love (Harts Pass to Rock Pass)

Piece by piece maybe someday I’ll complete Section L. In 2016, I only made it 8 miles north of Rainy Pass before I had to turnaround due to tendonitis in my shin (link). I landed in Mazama after completing a hike in Glacier Peak Wilderness, including a small piece of Section K (link), in need of a weekend adventure that wasn’t overcrowded.

Wildflower happiness.

Ptarmigan or grouse.

Long traverses.

Hello mountains, what beautiful texture you wear.

I couldn’t help but reminisce about a previous trip into the Pasayten Wilderness (link).

The trail was in good shape following fires the previous year. Thankfully it was a fairly short stretch.

Rock Pass campsite.

First light.

As I hiked through the area, I couldn’t help but visualize the terrain covered in snow as the southbounders experience it during their 30-mile hike to the border and back from Harts Pass. These photos illustrate the dangers and severe consequences. Definitely adds an element of eh gads to the beginning of their journey.

Slate Peak Lookout.

Just a short drive from Harts Pass is Slate Peak Lookout. Upon my return to the trailhead, I drove to the lookout parking area and then hiked up to the Lookout. This is the view of the lookout from the PCT.

There were a couple of nearby ridges worthy of a hike. I would have loved to explore this one but alas I had places to go.

The interpretive signage was helpful, especially showing peak names. I was surprised to learn the peak on the right was Jack Mountain. I hiked around that mountain a couple years previous (link). That’s snow-covered Mt Baker between the Jack and Crater Mountains.

Adventure Date(s):

  • August 3-5, 2019

Hike Details:

Tips:

  • Register just past the trailhead for wilderness overnight stays.
  • There are three places to park for Hart’s Pass Trailhead access. I recommend passing the ranger station, and the restroom only parking area to the trailehad only area.
  • Mice seem to be a problem everywhere in Washington, and they seem to like to break into my car.
  • There were lots of bees out enjoying the flowers also. I tend to have quite the reactions. I think this was Day 2 and it stung through my shirt. It kept growing for a couple more days.
  • 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.
  • Mazama, Twisp and Winthrop are good resupply locations
  • Dispersed camping is available on nearby USFS lands.

Resources:

Links:

WA – Glacier Peak Wilderness, Spider Gap / Buck Pass Loop (Part 1 of 2)

Following the map north after my jaunt through Goat Rocks (link), I stopped at Mt Rainier hoping for a walk-up permit to spend some more time near or around the Wonderland Trail, which I hiked in 2014 (link). Well luck was not with me on this day. The ranger talked me into a Plan B but when I saw the sign warning against car vandalism, I thought better. Next in line was Glacier Peak Wilderness. I hiked through this area on the PCT in 2016 (link) but sadly Mother Nature kept me from seeing much of the mountain. So maybe just maybe this would be my opportunity.

A friend recommended I park at the Trinity Trailhead and hike the 3-3.5 miles to the Phelps Creek Trailhead. Thankfully I was offered a ride for the last couple miles.

Flowers kept me entertained as I began my climb.

Soon enough I was in Spider Meadow surrounded by granite walls and wildflower-filled meadows.

Oh the sound of waterfalls racing off the granite walls.

My destination for my first night was just below Spider Gap.

Can you imagine the glacier that raced through here carving these great walls?

Fireweed left as evidence of a past fire.

Penstemon

Thistle and Indian Paintbrush.

Looking back at Spider Meadow and first larch trees. I’m sure this would be just as beautiful in the fall.

First view of Spider Glacier, my challenge for the next day. Look at the bottom and you’ll see the tiny person.

Can you find my tent?

I found these tiny flowers near my campsite.

The view of Spider Glacier from my tent. Would I have sweet dreams or nightmares about the next day’s climb?

I found a comfy slab of granite to snuggle in my sleeping bag and watch sunrise. According to Wikipedia, “Spider Glacier is .50 mi (0.80 km) long but very narrow at only 50 ft (15 m) in width.”

Before ascending, I stopped to check out the crack from which water was flowing.

I watched many hikers ascend the glacier the previous day, most without any traction devices. I knew I’d conserve more energy by wearing the microspikes I’d brought along. I can say, I had no regrets about lugging that extra weight as I climbed in the early morning hours on frozen sun cups.

Waterfalls decorated the walls.

And then I was nearly at the false summit. I’d been alerted the previous night by a group who’d climbed to gap and glissaded back down to camp.

The final push after the false summit.

I was proud of myself of making it up the climb.

Now to get down the other side, to Lyman Lakes. You can see the path on the right bank. I was told, just say NO! It’s really an animal track and ends on an abrupt cliff. Once again I was happy to have my microspikes. I just descended through the snowfield. What a beautiful basin.

The next important navigation tip was to stay to the right as you exit the snowfields, otherwise you’ll find yourself cliffed out.

Looking back up at the snowfield I’d descended.

I found some new flowers in the basin. These may be the dying phase of elephant heads?

Elephant Head Orchid.

Three mop heads standing in a row, E I E I E I O.

Upper Lyman Lake

Lower Lyman Lake. In retrospect I should have ended my day early and camped near the outlet of Lower Lyman.

These are shallow lakes with significant glacial flour.

Beautiful new bridge at Lower Lyman. I for one was grateful I didn’t have to ford the raging creek.

I stopped at the outlet for a dip, but since it was only 12:30pm, I wasn’t ready to call it a day.

So instead of relaxing and enjoying sunset on these beautiful lakes, I continued onward to Cloudy Pass.

Looking back at Lyman Lakes and Spider Gap.

Lupine love.

First view of Glacier Peak.

Working my way through the boulder field. This was part of the PCT fire closure in 2018.

WooHoo, I found the PCT! Since this post is getting long, I’ll continue the loop in anther post (link to Part 2).

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: