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Category: hikes

Goat Lake

www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/goat-lake

This hike has great bang for the buck. In summary, it is a moderate 10 mile hike (roundtrip). There are two paths, the lower along a roaring creek, the upper along an old logging road with waterfalls here and there. There is a big series of cataracts known as the Mackintosh falls about 10 minutes before the lake. The lake itself is big, clear, calm and surrounded by mountains, a typical alpine lake. This hike is well worth doing.

The trailhead is about two, two and a half hours away from the Eastside. It involves a dreary drive through I-5 till Everett but the scenery picks up a half-hour or so after crossing Everett and starting off on the Mountain Loop Highway. The Mountain Loop Highway is a very nice drive from Granite Falls along the Stillguamish river. Right now, there are flowers in bloom so the road is flanked by blue flowers and is delightful.

Mountain Loop Highway

 

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At the trailhead

 

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From the trailhead, there are two paths to the lake. I would recommend taking the lower, harder, more scenic route on the way up to the lake and the upper, longer, straighter route on the way back. The sounds of the Elliot creek never leave you as you walk up the lower trail. The forest is a beautiful green!

Water

 

Water

 

Everywhere

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The trail is in great shape and every now and then there are markers of where people have helped make this lake accessible.

 

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At about 3.5 miles the upper and the lower trails meet and form one path that heads to the lake. The trail enters an Alder forest (TIL) and this segment of the hike is strikingly different and incredibly pleasant.

 

Ambling through Alder

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On a lonely road …

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There are plenty of nice flowers on this trek:

  • Yellow flowers with five petals
  • White flowers with five petals and a line dividing each petal into two. My hypothesis is that these are baby flowers and they grow up to become violet flowers with a line dividing each petal into two
  • White flowers with three big petals
  • Juicy Shrimps: a tall stalk and then a shrimp like flower

The only competent picture of Wildflowers

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Assorted Fungi


 

There are also several places where creeks have invaded the trail and involve some walking through mud, delicate footwork and an occasional soak of the socks.

 

Elegant footwork!


 

Four miles into the hike is the first serious elevation gain alongside a stream. This is an ideal place to stop, take a breath and then look at the Cascades. There are quite a few peaks peeking out periodically through the foliage.

 

There is no better picture of this peak K

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Peeking Peak 2

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Peeking Peak 3


 

A little way after this is Macintosh falls which is worth the side detour.

 

 

Macintosh falls


 

The lake is just a short way away from the falls. There are tall peaks on all sides and the lake sits nestled amongst them, carved out of old Glaciers. It’s a big lake, very quiet, filled with clear, delicious cold water.

 

Goat Lake 1


 


Goat Lake 2


 

On the way back, I recommend the Upper Elliot trail which is along an old logging road. It is a simpler walk, punctuated by many creeks and waterfalls. It does get a little monotonous towards the end though.

 

Just another pretty cataract.

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Overall, Goat Lake is a moderate hike with a nice creek, some pretty waterfalls, greenery and a most excellent lake at the end.

Bridal Veil Falls

You look radiant on a gradient! –CeG <obelIX>

www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/bridal-veil-falls

This is my third visit to these waterfalls. They are an hour’s drive away and provide a decent hike with a nice spot to have lunch at. We left at 9:30 in the morning and were at the trailhead at 10:30-10:45. The hike took about four hours, we went up to the bridge on the Lake Serene trail, then up to the waterfalls where we had lunch and headed back down. I messed up while using the app so I don’t have detailed metrics today K.

The hike begins on an old road for the first three tenths of a mile. There’s a little forest cover but it’s not young and green and watery, it’s somber and a little less full of life. Mount Index (aka Mount Aprameya Rao) shows its peaks through gaps in the trees.

 

The start of the trail

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It’s not a slightly less-life-filled green at the beginning

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This trail is punctuated with many streams and creeks and waterfalls. There are bridges over the big ones, logs over the medium ones and opportunities to test the goretex on your shoes as you splash through the small ones.

 

I’ll just go around the rock then …

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A small stream, three quarters of a mile into the trail

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About one and a half mile into the trail the road forks (it forks a couple of times before but they are all well marked) and there is a short climb up to the Bridal Veil falls view point while the main trail continues on for another two miles on to Lake Serene. I recommend following the main trail for another quarter of a mile, crossing the bridge over the Bridal Veil creek and looking at another unnamed water falls on a sheet rock. Turn back from there and then visit the Bridal Veil falls view point and then head back for an approximately 5 mile hike. The trail at this point is greener and livelier.

 

Mossytrunk

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Assorted Fungi

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There are many zenlike waterfalls on the trail. From my sources on the hike, the water is delicious, cold and sweet.

 


Zenlike Waterfalls

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The bridge across Bridal Veil creek

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Walkaway


 

 


Sheet water falls

 

The last half mile to the falls is where all the elevation is. There is a set of staircases and then a walk along the side of a mountain. This is a good time to take breaks and look around, on a clear day there are lots of peaks visible.

 

Unnamed Peak 1

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Unnamed Peak 2


 


Mount Index

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The staircases/boardwalks on this trail are amazing


 

We reached the falls at sometime around 1 when the sun was high in the sky and made good photographs impossible. Last year, it had been overcast but I can’t find that post so no pictures of the falls themselves. We ate a very nice lunch (Subway) at the Middle Falls and headed back.

 

Lunchtime

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Wallace Falls

http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/wallace-falls

Waterfalls are formed when rivers get lazy. –CeG<oBelIX>

 

The first hike of the season upto the Middle Falls in Wallace Falls State Park (WFSP). WFSP is close by, a little under an hour away if you keep at the speed limit and there isn’t much more you can do given the traffic on 522 and US 2. I’d have thought by now the construction would be done but they are still at it.

Before I ramble on or start talking about the hike, allow me to introduce, the wife who blogs at http://wondrousdaze.blogspot.com. The two of us went up to Wallace Falls last Sunday (which was the first Sunday in April 2014).

The start of the hike, a quarter mile under some humming power lines is not an indication of the rest of the hike. The hike starts at a viewpoint where on a clear day, Mt. Index (once renamed as Mt Aprameya Rao) should be visible. We could only see a hint of the cascades.

 

The viewpoint

The trail starts off under the canopy of nice forests with the sound of a river in the distance. The river, named Wallace, after the state park I am sure, was nice and cool and blue-white. It has a pleasant, soothing sound which is a good companion to have on a hike.

 

 

There are interesting signs, I like this idea a lot

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The start of the trail


The white Wallace river

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The trail goes past a sign for the Small Falls which is a short detour off the main trail. I highly recommend this, it gives a good taste of what is to come and if you have the impatient types in your group (this means little kids who ask lots of questions [based on my limited knowledge of little kids]).

 

The small falls

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The trail then turns away from the river and climbs at a gentle pace. It’s not grueling except for a couple of places or so (there is an elevation chart at the bottom of this post). It eventually comes back to the river and eventually you hit a viewpoint where the North Fork of the Wallace river joins the main river. The North Fork comes from Wallace Lake which when can be added to this trail and forms a nice loop. We headed back from the middle falls itself. It’s at this point you get an idea of how much you have climbed.

 

The confluence

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Getting High.

On a clear day the Olympics are visible on the horizon

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The trail crosses the North Fork on a wooden bridge that is very pleasing to the eye. The water has a nice gurgle and its rate of flow adds a little oomph the environment.

 

The bridge across the North Fork of the Wallace River

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Climbing further, a booming sound adds to the gentle notes of the river. It took me a moment to realize that it was the sound of the waterfall. The first view point is very mediocre but has a small trail to let you see the pool below the falls. It’s the next viewpoint, perhaps half a mile further up the trail that provides the magnificent view. The waterfall is tall and had a lot of water and well, I’ll let the picture do the rest of the talking.

 

Wallace Falls from the Middle Falls viewpoint

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The hike back down was fun with lunch on a bench (a great feature of this trail, there are many benches allowing for moments of quiet contemplation). We photographed some fungi and were back in 2 hours 27 minutes (I used an app called RunTheMap which was pretty cool to record stats about the hike).

Total Distance: 4.12 miles

Total Time: 2:27:10

Elevation Gain: 892 feet

The route

Elevation Profile

Navaho Pass

http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/navaho-pass

This post is late. Quite a bit late I would say. Something of the order of a month. It’s about the average delay in me getting birthday presents to people.

Getting to this hike is a challenge in itself. Drive on I90 until you get close to Cle-Elum (be careful here, the cops love giving tickets) and then for what seems like hours on back country roads. The directions on the WTA site are scant but accurate. However, after a point, the macadam just disappears and the gravel that you drive doesn’t really care about what happens to your car.

The gate to the actual trail was closed and crowded and after asking a nice old lady about which way the trail is we got started. The first four odd miles are along side Stafford Creek which is big and large and noisy at the start but becomes smaller and smaller as you climb gently up the mountain. It’s still pleasant to walk by the stream because there is the option to occasionally just walk to it and put your hand in the water.

The junction with the Stafford Creek trail arrives with no ceremony whatsoever after four miles of walking and gentle climbing (yes, this climbing is gentle, it gets worse). The sad part is that the stream is no longer with you on the trek up the mountain. And this is quite a trek (or I was unfit) because I was stopping for rest breaks every fifteen minutes. Anyway, another mile or so of climbing gets you into a meadow where the wildflowers when we went in June were blooming in bits and pieces. There’s a nice variety of colour here, purple and white and blue. There’s also a stream. And people camping – this is a great place to camp!

There’s also the occasional wildlife that ambles across the trail. This is very uneducated wildlife, the kind of wildlife that never listened to their mom when she said, “look left, look right, once and then twice.” I was quick enough to capture this squirrel (another reminder that I have miles to go before I become a wildlife-photographer for National Geographic).

There’s more climbing involved though. Keep at it and the vegetation starts to thin, the wildflowers start to change. Higher up, the purples were replaced with whites.

This is the toughest part of the hike though the views to the left are of some significance. That is I think Harry’s Ridge (I think, this is from very foggy memory as people who’s birthdays I have forgot will attest). The sign at Navaho pass is rather obvious. It is right in front of you as you climb up on the ridge that connects Navaho Peak with The Stuart Range. This is the end of the trek, Navaho pass at about five and a half miles. The picture below shows the ridge (or is this a saddle?) from Navaho Peak towards Harry’s Ridge.

Do not stop here though. The trail continues onto Navaho peak on the right and in the distance. Making it to the peak seemed very tough and very hard. However, climbing a little farther is worth it, perhaps something like another two hundred feet. The thing is, that Navaho Pass is not tall enough to let you peek over its surroundings. The surroundings are worth peeking over for the reasons mentioned below:

Reason One: Mount Stuart

I’d only ever heard of Mount Stuart before this, another mountain in the cascades. Ho hum. There are plenty of those. However, this trek gets you up close and personal with this big fellow. And it is a big fellow. The Stuart range is, well, imposing. It gives new meaning to the term, a wall of granite (if that’s not a term I am coining it now).

Reason Two: More volcanoes to the south west

I’ve been told that is Mount Adams in the far far distance.

Reason Three: Rainier

This is just about visible from everywhere. It’s much better than what’s in the picture – I’m not good enough with a DSLR (yet) to capture these.

Tenerife Falls

http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/kamikaze-falls

A long time ago, in a land very close by, a group of merry men (and a lady) decided to walk up a mountain side.

Uthe sabke kadam...


This mountain side was wooded, covered with trees tall and green. Their trunks were all bare and rough and they sent out a vibe foreboding and tough.

Beauty of the Pacific northwest rainforest


The road swung left, then veered to the right and sometimes it went straight as an arrow in flight.

Raaste pe mod... Seedhe raste pe ye... tedhi si chaal hai... 62

Amongst them was Panda very very bold. He cantered without a thought in the middle of the road and did very little of what he was told.

The Panda in swagger :-D


 

In this troop of vagrant vagabonds, the mountain goat stood out. agile, spry and hiding his face, he bent over often to tie his shoe lace.

And... the "subject" tying his shoelaces... happens multiple times thru the hike :-)


 

The going was simple and the road wasn’t tough, except for a tree trunk in a section very rough.

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The band then clambered over rocks oval and square. Scattered about here and there.

The leaders...


The panda who is a very good buddy sometimes would end up being the kebab mein haddi.

"Mere do anmol ratan"... Vasu's comment :-) IV clearly did not wish to be the third anmol ratan!


They came upon a waterfall, crystal and clear which filled MaddyD with a measure of cheer.

Pose!


A little bit hence they halted, tired in stance

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. “Lets do this bitches”, the Panda said in dance.

Pandey ji ke fundey :-D


 

They reached in a bit, the base of the falls. which they unanimously agreed were very tall.

Tenerife falls in glory!


It must be said at this time that I’m glad I’m not doing this in pantomime.

Chaaarrr spoiling my naice pic :-P

 


At the end, when all’s said and done

with the water falling onto their face

they all found something special

in that exhilarating place

Otter and Big Creek Falls

http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/taylor-river

All right, tl;dr, we did this on a day when there was a lot of snow and very little water in the Otter Falls. It was disappointing; a 10 mile walk in snow and slush. Or perhaps we just complain a lot … who knows …

Let’s get cracking. We left on a Sunday that turned out to be a good day despite a gloomy start. As usual, food was gulped down at Panera and Subways (yes, I intentionally misuse that word, and no, I do not remember the reason why) were purchased.

The drive on I-90 was routine. That is one of those fancy-artisty-photos-of-something-awesome-in-the-rear-view-mirror which did not come out very well.

After getting of I-90 and onto a dirt road (this was one of the times I was not driving because apparently the road has potholes which a sedan cannot handle – pure BS that was) we were driving next to the Taylor river and we got some great views. There is just so much water here, and very nice, pale green water. There was a lady with a big-ass camera on a tripod taking pictures. We pulled up behind her, I took down the window, took a picture with my Nokia Lumia 900 ™ and we carried on.

this phone does a decent job

and there were kayakers in the cold

and a tributary joining the Taylor river

Oh and since we are in the cascades, as a friendly reminder, there were quite a few mountains nearby. See below.

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So, we drove, on this road which had potholes which a sedan could not handle and we drove and we drove some more in a behemoth SUV. Eventually, we reached the start of the trail and everyone had to take a leak.

The hike started off well enough, like any hike. It’s a total of 650 feet of elevation gain which is nothing.

We crossed a stream (above) and were soon greeted with what was to be our constant companion through the hike.

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Snow.

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More SNOW.

Yet MORE SNOW

and YET MORE SNOW

to say that there was Snow On Trail would be an understatement

The snow did have it’s advantages. The sophisticated, well-mannered gentlemen that we are we soon came up with ways to amuse ourselves. The most fun way was to throw snowballs at whoever needed to take a pee break which did reduce the number of pee breaks that were taken. Also, snow is very comfortable to life on.

that was epically comfortable,
just look at the dude in red,
asleep on a feather bed

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a snow angel was made. the depression is someone’s butt

So, after much walking, we reached Otter Falls. We clambered over rocks and did what in hindsight seems dumb. Otter falls was this sliver of water that drained into a frozen lake. It was picturesque.

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I liked Otter Falls

A little further on we reached our target. Big Creek Falls.

Yes, that. That. After all that walking in the snow.

We sat down. Ate.

hell yeah, nothing beats a subway, the sauce oozing out, soaked into the bread.

Then we walked back. To pass the time there was a little snowball fight.

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Did I survive the snowball? It was headed right at me.

We walked back in the evening. I am not much of a photographer but even I know that the light was amazing. The best picture of this hike is the one below, I just love the way the sunlight is shining through the trees.

I did get a little creative. So did Tipo but he hasn’t shared his pictures so …

After that it was just a long walk back to the car.

The boots were a light tan when I started the hike.

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we were tired, really tired

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10 miles will do that to you

Artist’s Point

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Now that I have your attention, let us begin.

http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/artist-point-snowshoe

On a cloudless sunny day, the warmest day of the year we popped over to Artists point. I have no pictures of the drive over there but suffice to say that once you get off I-5 and US-20 and onto the two lane road in the mountain you are in for a treat. Do stop at the first sign that says, “Heya, Howdy, Welcome to Mount Baker National Park” – there is a gorgeous view there. There’s also a delicious stream flowing by the road which was full of green-blue water. We did not stop though, anxious that we were to get started.

The hike itself is brilliant – Artists Point is a ridge between Mount Baker and Mount Shuskan. You see both these in their towering magnificence. The cascades form a stunning backdrop behind you. Baker lake and the Mount Baker wilderness stretches out in front.

I’ll leave the rest of the talking to the pictures:

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the view from the road – the road itself is visible if you zoom in – a narrow strip of black tarmac

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It’s snowy out there right now

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and that is what snowshoes look like – very brilliant thingies – they distribute the weight – so you don’t sink

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it is of course perfect conditions for skiing

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its a long way

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and while it looks beautiful

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every single step makes you wonder how much farther you have to go

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 its only when you look back you realize how far you’ve come

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and the last bit is always the hardest …

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until the moment when you reach the top and are rewarded by a close-up of Mount Baker. Baker is the volcano visible to the North-East from Seattle

Mount-Baker-from-the-San-Juan-Islands

that is what it looks like from the San Juan islands – Artists point, lets you get up, close and personal

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there’s another peak visible, far far away in the distance

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the backdrop here makes even us, with our not-so-in-shape look great (that is Table Mountain)

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there’s one last stretch to climb

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and then you are walking along the ridge … at the edge

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Ladies and gentlemen, introducing, Mount Shuksan

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with the cascades for the backdrop – the parking lot from where we came is visible in the center

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and Baker Lake and the Mount Baker wilderness

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as good a place as any to have Lunch, a subway (yes, I am aware it is a sandwich and I am not dining on the underground)

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we had some company, sitting on the tree in the middle, shy at first

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a close up – this is genuine bird-watching

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and eventually he/she did show up. we provided olives, thinking natural food would be good for it. little did we realize that the olives were drenched in Chipotle sauce

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and I will end with this. a view from as close as you can get to the top of the world in half a day

Meadow Mountain

http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/meadow-mountain

We did this hike to get a look at Glacier Peak. We left Seattle at around 9 in the morning and stopped at Darrington on the way to pick up sandwiches.

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Darrington. Sandwiches. Mountain. I do not know what that sculpture signifies.

 

The road to the trailhead, 530-E is a beautiful road and at Barlow Pass we turned onto a newly laid NF 23 or 27 or 25 (one of those, I forget which). This was a one lane road, with twists and turns and a little bit of loose gravel on top which caused the 2-ton Ford SUV/truck/big-ass-car that we were in to skid a little when the brakes were applied in force. We crossed a beautiful creek with white surf and what looked like deliciously cold water. There were people camping by the creek.

The trailhead is easy to miss. The sign is very small and set into the side.

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There was a register that had a few signatures but by and large this trail doesn’t seem to attract many people. We pondered on that for a moment and put it down to the fact that the road to this trail had been washed away and was newly re-laid.

 

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The trail starts off with an uphill climb and is well wooded and the trees provide nice cover and safety from the sun.

 

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We saw poop (bear-poop?) in the first few hundred feet and were cautious then onwards. The trail keeps going steadily upwards except for a slight downward portion (which becomes uphill on the way back and is a bitch :P). At about 1.5 miles into the trail it splits into two, the right fork goes towards Meadow Mountain and the left fork towards Crystal Lake.

 

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there was varying levels of enthusiasm on seeing the sign.

 

The next 4-4.5 miles are what used to be a road but is being reclaimed by the forest. There are white mushrooms and brown mushrooms.

 

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a natural love seat 🙂

 

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savour the clearings – they provide spectacular views of mountains

 

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white flowers

 

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yellow flowers – this picture came out much better – perhaps because I bent down to click

What I said about the clearings and stopping is fairly important. The road follows a ridge along a set of hills and every so often you get a glimpse at Glacier Peak

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Glacier Peak

Five or 5.5 miles into the trail is a clearing where we found a campsite. This is where the switchbacks begin and the old trail actually starts. So far, the going is easy, the climb is consistent and not very steep and it took us about two-two-and-a-half hours to get here. These switchbacks are long and painful and make you think about infinity. We soldiered on and twice gave up the temptation to turn back. Eventually they yielded (there are 6 of them) and we stepped out of forest cover./ The trees thinned and we saw meadows.

 

There were maroons and purples and reds and yellows mixed in with the greens. There was a hillside full of these. It wasn’t a hillside on the scale of the ones found in Lord of the Rings. It was small. Gentle. Ambling. We thought at this time that the mountain had given up and we were through. We kept at it, trodding through the path, in the hope of finding a lake or a clearing from where we could sit and enjoy our sandwiches.

 

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the first glimpse of meadows

 

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The path through

 

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fall colours

 

Eventually we came upon a split. The left took us to Meadow Lake and straight on towards Fire Creek.

We turned left and started going downhill towards the lake. we’d now done about 6-7 miles and weren’t certain of how much further to the lake and whether it was a complete loop or we’d need to turn back the way we came. (PROTIP: Next time, come better prepared). At seven and a half mile we gave up and turned back. The mountain had defeated us and we weren’t able to finish the trail.

After coming back, I read that someone in 2003 had posted a trip report where he had continued onto Meadow Lake and then found a way back via the Crystal Lake trail. So, it is do-able.

Finally, this was the longest hike we’d done. Fifteen miles round trip – we started at 11:30 and reached back at 6. It was grueling and left incomplete. There are smaller, shorter hikes with far greater rewards … though the drive up here, the breaking out into the meadows after the switchbacks and the tiredness afterwards does make this one unique.

Turquoise Therapy

turquoise (defn): The colour of the water in Colchuck lake

A very very beautiful lake. I won’t say a word.

photo (17)

With that introduction, let us begin. This is the most rewarding hike. It is a little strenous. There is no stream to provide the soundtrack ala Surprise Lake. The elevation gain is steep and comes over boulders. There are bugs. However, at the end you get the most pristine turquoise waters in the world. Also, pack a swimsuit, it’s deliciously cold water, incredible for swimming.

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After a 3.8 mile drive on a road with no Macadam the “Welcome to the trailhead” is a very rewarding sight.

 

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There is a Horse Ford. We did not go here.

 

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We did walk to the stream. In theory, a stream like that should be teeming with aquatic life. In practice, fishies were hard to spot.

 

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We crossed a bridge

 

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Over a stream that gurgles and mumbles as it flows under

 

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With lilac flowers, their petals spread wide scattered along the way

 

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As hikes go, this isn’t the most enjoyable – see those boulders, they are, not to put too fine a point on it, impolite to your knees. Snacking on cherries, we were led on.

 

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Almost there …

 

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It is trickier than it looks

 

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There are parts of the hike with shade and trees and a level walking trail

 

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And you sometimes get glimpses of natural beauty, peaks rising high

 

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You are in the Pacific Northwest after all – there are majestic views everywhere

 

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Not much farther to go. 5,000 feet is pretty high up. It’s gruelling to get here.

 

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When you see those waters, turquoise, through the trees for the first time, that ache in the knees, that slight niggle that you’ve developed in your right calf muscle just goes away.

I would recommend clicking on these links. Link1. Link2. I am not linkbaiting but the lake itself is indescribable.

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Spend time here, eat, drink, swim and relax.

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While some of us ambled down, the rest of us rushed ahead

 

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to build a bridge across a stream with granite

 

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under the purview of the stone guardians of Colchuck

Surprise lake

A very very beautiful hike

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At the town of Skykomish, the deli where we got food, Turkey with dijon, a vegetarian wrap and a toasted, all veggies-no-meat-no-fish-sauce sandwich

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To get to the trail we crossed an unmanned railroad crossing, a gentleman and his lady were sitting in an SUV behind us, the engine ticking over.

 

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It was overcast. Chilly. The world was wrapped in a blanket of mist and fog.

 

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Come Hither!

 

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We crossed this creek on a bridge made of two logs flattened and hewn together. The water was tumbling, gushing, falling over itself in an effort to get past.

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The mist shrouded the tree tops, the hills from our view

 

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The only mile marker on the trail

 

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There is plenty of water on the trail. Creeks, gullies, waterfalls.

 

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The last quarter mile is covered in snow.

 

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Snow that is melting in places, feeding little ponds and creeks

 

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The first view of Surprise Lake after countless number of foot-sinking-two-feet-in-soft-snow moments

 

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The lake itself is breathtaking! It’s partly covered with ice, blue green and if you peer into the water you can see the rocks that line the lakebed. The northern end is shrouded in clouds and seems to be the source of the creek. The eastern shore, pictured above is forested, the mist clinging to the tree tops. At the southern end, to the far left of the photo, there is the ominous feeling of a mountain standing guard, Glacier Peak, watching over the lake.

Sitting by the lake, as a blast of cold alpine air stings your face and dries the sweat from your shirt, conscious of your feet getting numb because of cotton socks wet with snowmelt and munching on a cold Turkey sandwich you become aware of how silent it is, the tranquility.

 

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It’s four and a half miles of absolute joy.

 

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And literally getting your feet dirty