Elusive Mt Adams

In June of 2018 I stood on the summit of Mt St Helens and looked across the horizon to see Mt Adams. I’ll admit I stared at it for a few minutes before in my mind I thought “you are next”!

This past year has been a bit or a whirlwind with work, the kids, and my elderly mom. My stress level had been pretty high from a combination of all that. I spent many a night sorting through options. I needed to reprioritize some stuff in my life. Realizing I’ve kinda always put myself in the background so others were the priority, I needed to change that. So, I made a major life change and retired after 32 years in public service. Huge decision but entirely the right decision for me.

I’ve started doing more stuff for me. Still looking for more hiking friends since I’m free during the week! I’ve been pushing myself pretty hard at CrossFit and boot camp. Two things I really enjoy!

I started thinking about Mt Adams again this summer. Trying to figure out if I could make it happen or not. My hiking buddy had some scheduling conflicts so we pushed our attempt out to mid August which is a little late for Adams. Not much snow left which makes for a harder climb.

We decided to leave at 6 am on Thursday morning. It takes almost 5 hours to get to Mt Adams. You have to drive to Trout Lake to pick up your climbing permit before you can head to the trailhead. Since this is a two day trip I was carrying a 30+ pound pack. That’s not really fun. I think I need to rethink my packing!

We started the hike at 1 pm and it was hot! It took us 4 hours to get to the camping spot through the heat of the day. With a huge pack! Not a good decision! The trail winds though a forest that had a major forest fire a few years ago. Some of the trees were severely charred while others were this pure white color. Standing side by side they provided such a contrast. At the base of the trees was new growth of small pines and flowers. The weened prior was a massive thunder and lightning storm which produced torrential rains. Sections of the trail were marked with deep ruts, some two feet deep, from the rains. Nature is so amazing!

After the forest, you enter the mountain area. The trail is covered with pumice and rocks and heads steadily up the mountain. The trail is marked with large cairns to guide the way. It’s so steep you can generally only see 1-3 cairns at a time. Hoping each plateau is the final, but always disappointed to see another steep stretch lined with new cairns.

Around 8,000 feet it started to get windy and the temperature was dropping so we stopped to layer up! I noticed my boot was rubbing on my heel which never happens. I hike in these boots all the time. I took off my boot to adjust my sock and discovered a huge blister! Grrr! I’ve never had a blister hiking. So a band aid and athletic tape later I was good to go again!

We put our packs back on and continued to climb until we found the first camping area. I’m talking with some other campers we decided this would be a good place to camp instead of pushing on another 1,000 feet uphill to lunch counter. There was good cover from the wind and it was clear we would have a spectacular sunset right out in front of our tents. We set up camp and cooked some food. For as much energy as we expended I should have been pretty hungry, but I wasn’t hungry at all. That was a problem! We sat on the edge of our plateau, watching some mountain goats just below us as the sun set and the clouds blew by. There is something about being above the clouds! It’s amazing!

I went to bed right after sunset because I just wasn’t feeling very good and knew I needed good rest for the final 4,000 foot climb to the summit. It would be an early 3 am alarm for about a 5 hour climb.

Well at midnight I woke up with the shakes, clearly running a fever and my head completely clogged. It did not get better! I got up at 3 and knew there was no way I could make a summit attempt so I decided to pack up and head back down. It was a tough decision but the right one. I’ve never turned back on a trail before. It bugged me all the way down but I was feeling so crappy I just wanted to go home.

Driving out on the bumpiest road ever you get a really clear view of Mt Adams. We stopped to take a picture. I stared at it for a few minutes and thought “never again”. I was feeling crappy and I know it was just my disappointment in not achieving my goal.

So now I have about 9 months to train for Mt Adams in 2020! I’ll be back with a lighter pack!

Bandera Mountain via Mason Lake

Hiking is one of my sanctuary activities.  Whenever I have a lot on my mind and just need to get away into the mountains I head.  There is just something about the smell and sounds of nature.  The distractions just seem to melt away.  As you disappear into the forest and become one with the trail, you just feel all your struggles melt away.  Gazing through the forest at the variety of trees, flowers and berries you become a small part of the forest.  You don’t think about it or make an intentional action to relax or cleanse your mind.  It just happens.

This trail, named Ira Spring,  is the lead in to several options.  One can go to Mason Lake, Bandera Mountain, Mt Defiance and a number of other spots.  With that being the case, we arrived early, but the parking lot was not only full, it was overflowing and we ended up parking about 1/2 mile down the road.  It was a nice gently warmup walk for what was to come!  The trail winds its way through the forest on an unrelenting incline.  I’m pretty sure I read somewhere a description of this trail as “meandering” through the forest.  In my mind I envision “meandering” as a relaxed pace similar to a saunter that requires no much effort or sweat.  This trail definitely did not line up with that description!  Although the path is generally wide, flat is nowhere to be found on it!  My legs were feeling good.  My heart was pumping and sweat was pouring! You kind of always look ahead a bit to see the top of an incline so you can give the thighs a break, but not on this trail.  I could hear Todd behind me and he was breathing hard so I knew it wasn’t just me!

As we headed up it was becoming obvious that we would be socked in with a huge cloud layer.  No views for the day!  That is a bit defeating when you are working hard, but it’s okay.  We passed a few people on the way down who said Bandera was totally clouded over and that there was a huge tourist group (about 30 people) headed up there so they suggested Mason Lake as it is in a valley so it was clear.  One of those hikers is named Kristen and she has Largent, the famous hiking wonder dog!  I had my first Largent, the hiking wonder dog encounter!  At 3 miles in, there is a Y in the trail.  You can go to the left for about .9 miles to Mason Lake, or you can go to the right for about .9 miles to Bandera Mountain.  We chose Mason Lake.  The trail only continued the incline for about .4 miles, before we descended into the valley to the lake.  Mason Lake is one of the many alpine lakes in the Alpine Wilderness.  Each lake has its own unique characteristics.  From the lake we would see the top of Bandera Mountain and a few hikers up there.  At first they looked like little trees.  Until they moved!  There are some nice tent or hammock spots at the lake and lots of water bugs and jumping fish.  This would be a great place to backpack too and use as a base camp to hike up Mt. Defiance.  Bring your fly fishing rod!   We stayed at the lake for about an hour, eating some lunch.  I changed up my lunch routine this time and brought fresh pineapple, cherries, RX bar and my go to plantain chips!  It was a much lighter lunch that was refreshing and filling.  It recharged my body for the hike out.

On the way out, you feel good because after the initial .5 mile hike out of the valley, it’s all down hill!  My legs were feeling really good.  We could see the clouds were dissipating and we could start to see the mountains around us.  At points we were below the clouds and at other points above the clouds.  I told Todd let’s see how we are feeling when we get back to the Y for back to the car or head up to Bandera.  I was feeling good when we reached this point so I told Todd let’s check it out.  I regretted that decision when I saw the incline.  You know an incline is steep when you actually can’t see the top of where you are going.  You could only see about 40 feet in front of you and the view never changed!  It’s .9 miles to the top and it is straight up hill!  Trekking poles helped at first, but they just got in the way as you needed to use your hands to scramble up parts of the trail.  The trail is not very wide and you need to concentrate on where you place your hands and feet.  It makes passing hikers who are coming down challenging at times.  If you make a wrong step it can be disastrous.  We stopped a few times on the way up to slow the heart rate down and take in the massive amount of bear grass growing on the hillside.  At times portions of Mt Rainier would poke out through the clouds.  At one point it appears you are reaching the summit, but instead you duck back into a large grove of trees and disappear for about 15 minutes.  Once you come out of the trees you quickly realize there is more climbing to do!  Finally the summit does appear.  We were able to see back down to Mason Lake.  We were above the clouds so it looked like we were sitting in thin air.  The clouds looked like a huge bowl of meringue that went on as far as you could see.  I love that!  A light crisp breeze blowing by.  The high clouds turning with the wind patterns in the sky.  You close your eyes and just breathe in the fresh air and feel the sun on your face.  Your body is tired but it feels so good.  Relaxed.  Then a bug flies in your mouth and tries to fly down your throat!  Apparently I had sweat so much I must have appeared like a large salt lick!

After sitting at the top for a half hour or so we decided to head back.  You could see the low clouds coming back in and getting down that trail in little visibility would not be a good idea.  No poles on the way down.  Hand grabs were definitely needed!  We safely made it down to the main trail and started the 3 miles “meander” back to the car.  Not sure what it is, but sometimes the trail down goes so fast and other times it seems to drag on forever.  This trail seems to drag on but the forest was pretty.  Portions were in the clear and other portions were shrouded in fog.  We finally made it back to the car.  The body was tired, but it was a good tired.  The mind and soul were cleansed and ready to appreciate another day!

Altogether we logged around 11 miles.  Mason Lake is 6.5 miles and about 2,400 feet elevation gain.  Bandera Mountain is 8 miles and 3,400 feet elevation.  Since these trails start on the same trail the first and last 3 miles are the same.

Happy Trails!


Sauer’s Mountain

I’ve hiked this trail before last year but we didn’t have the best weather so there weren’t any views at the top. I decided to try it again as we had a few days of good weather, bordering on a bit too hot in Eastern Washington. This hike is located in Peshastin which is just east of Leavenworth. In the Spring this is a great hike to see wildflowers.

Since we’d had a bit of a dry spell this Spring the trail was pretty dusty and somewhat overgrown by all the wildflowers. The trail has views the entire way to the top. In some parts you look back over all the vineyards in the valley. Other views are mountain tops covered in snow against the backdrop of blue sky. On the flat parts of the trail you walk through meadows of wildflowers. Even though it was still early in the year quite a bit of the wildflowers were done blooming. With how dusty the trail was you can tell we will have a busy fire season this year.

At the top you have a 360 view. It’s a nice place to eat lunch and drink water! Not much shade on this trail so on a hot day you drink a lot of water! I was so happy to have clear skies at the top! Another great day out on the trail!

After it’s always nice to head into Leavenworth to grab some lunch and an ice cold beverage!

Dirty Harry’s Peak

We had a beautiful spring day in Washington. Late March and the 70 degree weather can’t be beat! We headed out to Dirty Harry’s Peak which is out close to Snoqualmie Pass along I-90. We decided to head there due to the views and climb being similar to Mt Si but without all the crowds. We arrived about 10 and the lot was already full so we parked close to the highway exit.

The trail wanders through the forest for the first mile and a half. At this point you come to the turn for Dirty Harry’s Balcony, which is pretty popular. It looked like most of the hikers went to this spot instead of heading up to the peak.

The trail to the peak was clear until about halfway then snow covered the trail to the top. The trail was easy to follow and microspikes were very helpful! The downside of the trail is it’s in the middle of the woods and goes straight up! The trees are so tall that there really isn’t much of a view along the way. Occasionally a beak a boo view would pop up but they are short lived.

This trail is notorious for the elevation climb. It’s a good leg workout for sure! At times, well honestly pretty much the whole way, the trail never seems to end! It’s seriously just straight up! Not even any switchbacks!

Once at the top the last 500 yards or so walk along the ridge line before you come to a spot where everyone sits. Mt Rainier is off in the distance. The ridges around the peak are all snowcapped. The sky was a deep blue. We have the most beautiful scenery here in Washington! The views seriously make you forget how bad your legs were hurting on the way up!

After about 45 minutes at the peak we decided to head down. The sun was out so the snow was getting pretty mushy. People without microspikes were slipping and falling. Even with microspikes it was a bit slippery. The decline is steep enough it was kinda rough on the knees after a couple miles. The last mile seemed to take forever but we finally make it back to the car. Sometimes the best sight ever is the car! Just knowing you can take your boots off and sit down is an amazing feeling!

Nice hike! Great workout!

What a winter wonderland

I’ve been a little house bound the last few weeks so I’ve missed my hiking time. I can totally notice the difference in how I feel mentally and physically when I hike. It completely clears my mind and obviously released lots of happy endorphins! Just stepping outside instantly calms the mind.

I saw some amazing pictures of Skyline Lake yesterday so I thought that would be a good snowshoe experience close to home. I headed out around 9 am and I could see once I cleared the valley fog that there was amazing blue skies at the pass. The roads were nice and clear so it was an easy drive.

As soon as I parked I could see how deep the snow was along the trail. That made me smile!! It was so white and fluffy. The trail was compacted but so smooth. That is grr absolute best conditions in which to snowshoe! Skyline Lake is not a long snowshoe but it’s a steady incline. My lungs quickly reminded me I need to get in better shape! I did manage to make it to the lake in an hour which I was very happy with! The views on the way up were amazing. I love pure white snow with a backdrop of deep blue skies. This is such a pretty state! I catch myself saying “wow” all the “time! As we climbed up the mountain you could see the moody skies moving in. It wasn’t a rain sky but the cloud layer had darker tones. In the distance you could see pockets of blue sky framing the nearby peaks.

The lake is frozen and covered in fluffy snow. There was a clear path across the lake from people snowshoeing. I completely chickened our walking across it! You remember on my last hike I fell for really no reason and split my face open, ending up with a lovely black eye! I figured falling through the ice into a freezing lake wouldn’t be a good idea! I walked around the lake. Ive always wanted to go beyond the lake and up to the ridge but never have. Well today I went up to the ridge and it was totally with it! The snow on the boulders was several feet deep. It was incredible! I really need to find a quality camera that is compact as my iPhone just doesn’t do the scenery justice!

I ate lunch at the top and ran into Lee Jacobson! I didn’t have on my ugly Xmas sweater so I was in disguise! I also ran into a really nice couple who travel quite a bit. She is a mystery novel writer for amazon kindle. She has a word press too so we exchanged websites. Can’t wait to read about her adventures!

It was a bit chilly at the top so I headed back down. Over the few hours I was there I bet I saw at least 50 split boards. They are obviously super common! I only saw them going up so they must take a different route down. It looks intriguing so I may have to try that sometime! One guy said it’s easier than snowshoeing. Interesting! Worth a try!!

Today was hike #1 for the 52 hike challenge for 2019! Great way to start off the year!!

Hall of the Fallen–Lake Valhalla

Valhalla is a Norse legend where the God Odin created a special place for only the most valiant warriors who died in battle.  Odin honored these valiant warriors by creating an alternate place in the universe where select warriors are chosen to enter.  Within the halls of Valhalla these warriors fight during the day as warriors in epic battles, only to come home at night to feast on a marvelous meal and be healed of their wounds so they can fight again the next day.  Entrance to Valhalla is revered at the highest honor.  Warriors are treated like Kings.  According to the Old Norse Poem Grimnismal, “Valhalla is made of shields, and has spears for its rafters.  Seats made of breastplates surround the many feasting tables of the last hall.  It’s gates are guarded by wolves, and eagles fly above it”.  Valiant warriors head into battle with the cry “‘Til Valhalla”!

It seems only appropriate on Veteran’s Day we honor our valiant voluntary warriors who signed up to defend our land.  Portions of California are under their own fight.  Residents losing their homes and more devastatingly their lives.  First responders putting their lives in danger to rescue others.  The sacrifices individuals make for the safety of others.

The day started out crisp.  The fall nearly winter air leaving a thick layer of morning fog covering the valley.  The coolness to the air cut right through my fleece jacket, quickly reminding me why I love my puffy!  As we headed up Steven’s pass the skies cleared and we were treated to beautiful blue skies.  There is something about Washington mountains.  The rock is grey with dramatic edges.  They are capped with fresh snow, set against a deep blue sky.  The road off Highway 2 just over Stevens Pass had a dusting of snow that covered the mud.  In the morning it was quite slick but manageable.  We arrived at the parking lot to about 6 other vehicles.  Clearly it has snowed in the last few days as the ground was covered in light, fluffy snow that was about 6 inches deep. Not a sound could be heard.  Only the crunching of snow under our boots.

The trail starts off meandering through the forest.  A stream is nearby, but it honestly sounds like a waterfall is in close.  It just turned out to be a heavy stream.  The trail initially was a bit muddy with noticeable amounts of water that were frozen making for an interesting path to maneuver.  Although there are several switchbacks the elevation game is pretty mild.  Once we hiked through the main forest section, the snow depth increased on a fairly steady basis.  There is a nice trail through the snow, that is easy to follow.  At points the sides of the trail are a couple feet deep with snow.  The views along the way are ridiculous!  It always reminds me of Whoville.  Large pine trees covered with puffs of snow.  The tops of the trees bend over in a curl from the weight of the snow.  If you’ve ever seen The Grinch, you know exactly what trees I’m talking about!  Who doesn’t love walking through Whoville!!!  Almost broke out into song because you know Cindy Lou Who just wanted the Grinch to feel loved, “Welcome Christmas, while we stand heart to heart and hand to hand”.  You can admit it.  You are singing along:)

Well, back to the trail.  We had the most perfect sun for this hike. It made the snow glisten.  Each snowflake could be seen as it sparkled in the sunlight.  It really was quite spectacular.  At the top of the Ridgeline you break out of the trees and get your first view of Lake Valhalla.  There is something about alpine lakes in Washington.  They each have their own look.  Different colors.  This one is a deep dark blue, covered with a light layer of ice.  The shore of the lake is actually sand.  An honest beach.  I bet this lake is quite popular in the summer for swimming and camping. Not nearly the hike of Colchuck.  We sat lakeside while we ate our lunch.  It was so still.  No sounds.  No wind.  Just pure relaxation, soaking up the sunshine and basking in the beauty of the surrounding rocks.  Grey jays are quite abundant her and were buzzing the heads of other hikers at the beach.  I got to witness my first marriage proposal right next to us.  That was cute and boy was she surprised!

The hike out was just as beautiful as we got to see different sights as we were facing the opposite direction.  The ice on the trail had melted from the day of sun.  This trail intersection with a section of the PCT, so I can actually say I have hiked on the PCT.  A very short section of the PCT, but still it was the PCT!!!

I love winter hiking here.  It is so surreal and feeds your soul.  Seriously, like how did we get so lucky to live in such a beautiful state.  Were we the chosen ones, who lived a valiant life.  Hand selected by Odin to live in the halls of Valhalla.  If this isn’t Valhalla, I can’t imagine how spectacular it must be.

Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called the Children of God.

‘Til Valhalla!

Lake Melakwa in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness

I have great plans to hike Heather Maple Loop trail because it has great fall color and larches. That hike is a few hours from my house so I had to set a 4 am alarm, which I did. I packed my backpack Friday night so I could just grab and go. Well my alarm went off and there was just no way I was getting up. So two hours later I finally dragged myself out of bed and decided on a new plan.

I’ve always wanted to see the Rockwood Farms in Snoqualmie as it is well known for the beautiful tree lined driveway. I stopped by there to take some photos before heading out to the Denny creek Trail. This is a very busy trail so the parking lot was full and many of us had to park along the road. At this point I realized I forgot my trekking poles at home. Ugh! I would definitely need those later!

The hike starts out through the forest where we saw lots of varieties of mushrooms and passed a few pickers along the trail. The trail winds along a hillside, which I thought was the hill we would be cresting, then drops you down for a stream crossing and away from the original hillside. After about a half hour after crossing the stream you break out of the forest and into a talus field. The hike to the ridge line is all exposed and consists of many switchbacks and a few talus fields. The trail feels like it goes on forever. We had great weather so the fall colors were pretty amazing!

At the ridge line it is a nice 15 minute stroll to the lake. What I love about the alpine lakes is the colors! They all are a little different but equally spectacular. I stayed at the lake for about 45 minutes and had some lunch. It was starting to get a bit chilly as the sun was behind the trees so I decided it was time to pack up and head back down.

This is where all the fun began!! One there are lots of trip hazards on this trail and lots of talus fields. Slow going but boy did I wish I had my trekking poles!! You hear pikas along the trail but rarely see them. I found one basking in the sun on a rock so I finally got a picture!! That was pretty cool.

I was waking down a dirt section of the trail, nothing unusual, and tripped on a rock. Before I knew it I was down on the ground! Bad part was I fell face first into a group of large rocks! It didn’t knock me out but boy did it ring my bell and knocked the wind out of me. The good part of hitting the rocks is they stopped me from sliding over the edge of the embankment. That would have been bad!!

I immediately knew my face was bleeding quite a bit. I managed to locate my water bottle which had fallen off my pack and sat on the side of the trail so I could figure out how badly I was injured. I used my phone camera to see where I was bleeding. My mouth and nose were bleeding pretty good. I had a goose egg on my eyelid already. Thankfully my sunglasses took the majority of the blow. The lens cracked but stayed intact. They must be made of something crazy strong to hold together with that hard of an impact. Glad they did though or I would have been in much worse condition!!

Luckily I carry a pretty well stocked first aid kit and I’m first aid trained so I was able to get the bleeding to stop. I checked the rest of me out and I was all good except for some sore ribs from my camera I carry on my front backpack strap. I knew I needed to get moving as I had about 3 more miles to hike out.

I could tell as I was hiking that my eye was continuing to swell. Even though my lips were severely swollen I was more concern about my eye. I passed a couple hikers on my way down and had them give my face a good once over as I couldn’t tell if I was still bleeding or if I missed an injury. They were great and stayed with me for a bit on the way down so they could tell I had my bearings.

I finally made it back to my truck and drove to the walk-in clinic to make sure nothing was broken. X-rays were negative just lots of swelling and bruising!

I hike quite a bit and 99% of the time it is uneventful. Well this hike was the 1%. Glad I always go prepared for the worst. I make sure someone knows my plan. I always carry my Garmin InReach and have it track my hike so friends can see where I am. I carry an extensive first aid kit and boy did that come in handy! I always have the 10 essentials. Things can change so quickly and they sure did for me! I know it was an unusual situation and it won’t deter me from hiking. It’s just a good awareness to have.

Today I’m feeling pretty good. I have a pretty good black eye but my nose and mouth are looking much better. Too bad it’s not closer to Halloween as I could easily go as either Rocky or Conor McGregor! Batted tested!!

Mt Pilchuck Lookout~Round 2

I’ve tried a sunset hike at Mt Pilchuck a few months ago but the weather did not cooperate and we were completely clouded in with a low ceiling.

The weather has been pretty nice the last few days so I thought I would try it again. Late September mid 70’s weather is perfect! I wanted to be at the trailhead by 5 so I would make the 6:57 sunset time. The trail is off Mountain Loop Highway. To say the 6.8 mile road from the highway to the trailhead is bumpy is a gross understatement!! It is full of huge potholes and I mean huge!! It is full off-roading on that road!

The parking lot was pretty full but I passed most people on the trail as hey were on their way down. The trail is in great shape. You have sections in the forest with many stairs and roots followed by all the boulders and rocks fields. You have to pay attention to where you are stepping or an ankle turn is definitely in your future!

The forest is a lush green with a decent amount of fungus varieties along the trail. As the sun was setting we had some spectacular golden glow in the trees followed by fire red strips along the trail. That was pretty cool. Once you get out of the forest you had good views for the remainder of the hike.

Rocks. Lots of rocks. I have to admit I’m not a big fan of rock fields. With going up or coming down. They move as you step on them so it’s an uneasy feeling at times. I learned that Mt Pilchuck once had chairlifts on it for skiiing. There are big concrete remnants along the boulder fields. Occasionally you will see a big bolt sticking out of the concrete or a huge cable with wheels. While you are hiking through this section you get your first glimpse of the lookout. Way up on the mountain. It looks like a little LEGO piece so far away. The trail is fairly wet through the section which makes the rocks slippery. I passed a family with about 6 kids on their way up. Most of the kids were under 5. (Yep they made it to the lookout! The hike down was pretty grueling for them though!)

Arrived at the lookout to a spectacular red sunset. The skies were so vivid! I was kicking myself for not bringing my big camera because iPhone photos just didn’t cut it!! It just doesn’t pick up the depth and richness of the sunset. I’ve been in a conflict with myself because my Nikon is so heavy I don’t really like carrying it out on hikes so I need to find a good camera, that is lighter, but will take quality photos while out hiking.

Stayed at the lookout for a good half hour watching the sun set then headed down. I lost the trail through the boulders three times for a brief moment. I was able to recognize it and correct my path quickly so I didn’t get far off trail. Hiked down with another hiker most of the way as it was dark and to make sure we stayed on the trail. Headlamps were very helpful. This time I didn’t see any bats so that was a bit disappointing!

Overall a great hike and I’m glad I went back for sunset. I still have an outlook overnight on my bucket list though but I think I want to do that at Freemont Lookout!

Adventure to Blanca Lake

Last Fall my friend, Todd, and I attempted to hike Blanca Lake a little too late in the season.  Although the trail started out fine, as we gained elevation the snow appeared and kept getting deeper to the point where it was not safe for us to continue so we turned around just prior to Virgin Lake.

You know the feeling when you set out but you don’t quite reach your goal and it just keeps nagging at you.  This was Blanca Lake for me.  The hike is roughly 14 miles roundtrip and it feels like its either straight up hill or straight down hill.  The trail is in great condition.  Although its pretty dusty since we haven’t had rain in quite awhile.   The trail does have a pretty constant presence of loose rocks and exposed roots.  You have to pay attention to where you are stepping or you can easily take a spill.

The first two miles are a walk from the car to the trailhead due to a couple large washouts.  This is along a road so it’s a pretty easy trek.  The first mile or so of the actual trail wanders through the forest.  Normally I imagine it is pretty nice, but we are experiencing some significant wildfires on the West Coast so most of the ridge lines are cloudy in smoky haze.  It smells like a constant campfire.  This is a popular trail but you only really see a few handfuls of people along the trail.

The hike up to Virgin Lake is definitely a workout.  I didn’t quite have the views from the ridgeline due to all the smoke.   Virgin Lake is pretty small and doesn’t appear to have any inlet or outlet for the water as it is pretty stagnant. It did provide for some nice reflections though.

What I wasn’t expecting is the hike from Virgin Lake down to Blanca Lake.  It is steep!!!  It’s about a mile in distance and pretty much straight down until you can see the lake.  Lots of stairs and rocks to step over.  When your legs are already tired you really take this section slow as one fall could have some significant problems!

Alpine Lakes in Washington are all unique.  Colchuck has its own green color.  Lake Ingalls is a deep blue.  Blanca Lake is one of a kind.  It is a smooth, creamy foam green.  You can feel the chill of the water when you see it.  You come out of the forest to an opening where your first sight of Blanca exists.  It’s larger than I thought, but that water is exactly what you see in pictures!  Breathtaking!  The shore of the lake is filled with logs.  Not really sure where they came from.  Landslide?  Most of the edge of the lake is big rocks and no trees.  They are all at one end of the lake by the waterfall.

I set up my hammock among the rocks and decided to dip my tired feet in the lake.  Wow is that late cold!! It makes Colchuck seem on the warm side!  They are alpine lakes for a reason!  I wish the smoke was gone because it surrounded all the ridges around the lake so you really couldn’t see.  It has been another really horrific summer of forest fires in California and Canada.

After lunch I decided to pack up and head back to the car.  The mile hike out and up to Virgin Lake was rough.  Your legs are already tired and this is a steep, narrow section.  I was so happy to see Virgin Lake as I knew the rest of the trail was pretty much downhill. It took about 3 hours each way.

This was my first hike to try out my new Garmin InReach mini.  I locked in the GPS before I started and marked a way finder point.  I dropped a few other points along the way so those on my map share could see where I was.  It worked really well and kept time,  distance and pace which I can see on my phone.  I was super happy with its performance and it does give some peace of mind knowing in an emergency I can send to an SOS message and/or let someone know my condition.

All in all a great hike, but it’s a one and done hike for me!

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