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Archive for the ‘OnlyMeB4ckp4ck1n6’ Category

In an attempt to keep our crop of bug bites going from weekend to weekend, Amy and I made plans to head up into the Gros Ventre Wilderness Southeast of Jackson, to a destination called Shoal Falls. The drive out there is a little longer than the drive to the park, and the last 10 miles was on a crappy, pot-holed dirt road, so it felt a lot more like backpacking in Washington.

Not knowing anyone who had been to this destination before, we resorted to following some directions downloaded from Trails.com, which turned out to be the biggest letdown of the entire trip. They did, however, get us to the parking circle without too much difficulty, and even there the views were gorgeous.

The Parking Circle
From the Parking Circle

After gathering our stuff, we considered our options. According to our map and directions, the trail for this trip apparently meets again with the parking lot after a 12 mile loop, with Shoal Falls being at the furthest point from us. Given that information, “we” thought that it wouldn’t really matter which side of the loop we started from, so we picked what looked like the long side and started up the path. Now, the people that I’ve spoken to who are familiar with the trail network in the Gros Ventre Wilderness have all basically said the same thing: it’s a mess. Right off the bat, it was tough to decide which sign pointed where, as there were more trails than arrows and designated paths than were indicated on the sign. No worries though, we had our uber-accurate trails.com directions to help us out!

After some discussion, we settled on one path and started up it. Only a few minutes in, I noticed a birds nest just above eye level in a tree right off the trail. I couldn’t see inside of it, but I could reach my camera over the top to take a shot!

Robin Chicks

A few minutes further along, we spotted a small and rather naive buck along the side of the trail. He seemed pretty accustomed to human presence.

Small Buck

The trail winds through the forest along the side of Swift Creek — and in case anyone out there ever uses the trails.com directions, their map indicates that the trail is on the incorrect side of said creek. Just fyi.

Swift Creek

After maybe a mile or so, the trail meets with the creek, and seems to just disappear. We blundered along the overgrown bank for a minute or two before coming to the conclusion that there’s no WAY this is still a trail. Arriving back where the trail and the creek met, I noticed some logs that before looked like they had just fallen across the stream — not so. Three 7″ diameter logs were the makeshift bridge. Happy to have found that the trail continued on the other side of the creek, we continued on. …until a few feet later, the trail hit an unsigned junction. Without any real clue which way to go, we gambled on the left side and kept walking.

At about that time, this trail gets tough. It pitches up pretty steeply and doesn’t quit until you’re up the entire valley and through a couple of snowy basins.

The View Down The Canyon
pano2

The first basin (above) was a welcome relief, because you get to walk along flat ground for the first time in hours. Amy made an off-handed quip about maybe just wanting to camp here instead of pushing on to our destination. Little did we know…

Above that basin, we entered a giant cirque that was still filled with snow. We had already been dealing with patches of it covering the trail in places, but here the trail became totally lost.

Upper Swift Creek Basin

The upper basin area was absolutely vast — I imagine it was formed by glaciers many years ago, judging by its immense size. It’s hard to really understand the magnitude of these kinds of areas from pictures alone — they can’t really convey depth in a meaningful way, so I will say right now that the shot I’ve provided sucks. For a scale reference though (Washington folks), it was like standing in the bottom of the Columbia River Gorge.

swiftCreek-1-3

By now, a few things were obvious: first, the trails.com trip distance estimation was totally incorrect. We had come in at least 4 miles, and judging by the provided map, were only 1/3 of the way through the trip to Shoal Falls (not even the whole loop). Second, it was completely impossible to know where the trail went – by now it was covered under several feet of snow with no indication that it even existed! Begrudgingly, we both agreed that we had been outmatched by the snow and let down by our directions, so the best idea would be to head back down to the basin we saw before. On our way back down the trail, we were treated to some views we hadn’t noticed on the way up!

pano1

All told, our “consolation prize” campsite wasn’t a bad spot at all. We set up the tent right next to the stream, and I built a fire pit out of some big loose rocks that had been washed downhill in the creek’s last flood cycle.

The sun started setting and soon our little valley was in the shadow of Antoinette Peak, but the sun illuminated Corner Peak behind us for a lot longer. Our tent and fire pit are visible in this picture if you look closely!

swiftCreekHDR

As we watched the sun retreat along Corner Peak, we built a fire in our new fire pit. Big trees here, I might add.

swiftCreek-1-2

As it got dark, a myriad of photo opportunities presented themselves.

Firepit
Moonlit Antoinette Peak
Our campfire and Antoinette Peak in the light of the moon.

We weren’t quite able to hold out until the moon rose over the Corner Mountain massif, but a few minutes after we crawled into our tent, the eerily bright glow washed over us. We turned in and had a relatively comfortable night sleep, considering that our tent was pitched on a pretty awful mixture of dirt, peat gravel and washed rock!

Since we did this trip as an overnight, we spent most of the morning hopping around the immediate area taking pictures before we packed up and headed back down the trail.

Campsite in the Basin
Fireside Setup

Swift Creek

Amy by Swift Creek

Morning Butter Cup

The trail back down to the truck was one giant descent down the steep, rocky trail we had climbed the day before. By our calculations, it took us only about half as long to make the journey – 4 hours up, 2 hours down. There was a falls we had noticed on the way up, but we knew it wasn’t our destination so we didn’t bother to stop and take photos. On the way back down though…

Swift Creek Falls

In all, the trip was a successful failure. I won’t ever bother with trail directions from trails.com again; this was too miserable a failure to overlook. I’ll also not expect the path to be visable on North-facing slopes above 9,000 ft. until later in the year — probably much later. We’ll also probably take the short way to our destination around any subsequent loop trails. But in all, we had a good trip and enjoyed some striking vistas. At the very least, it was a good way to be introduced to the Gros Ventres.

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As the first backpacking trip of the year, I was expecting a few things to go wrong on our 3-night at Trapper Lake. That’s not exactly the greatest mindset to be taking into what would probably be the “wildest” (in terms of big game population) trip we’ve ever been on, but somehow we were still confident.

Token trailhead sign shot.

The trip starts with a 40 minute drive to the String/Leigh Lake trailhead. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised by the fact that the drive there was entirely on nicely paved roads, and ended in a [comparatively] giant parking lot. We lucked out getting a spot close to the TH and got all of our stuff together, making sure to keep the bear spray out and accessible.

Bear country.

First impressions of the trail were: road-like, flat, pounded to death, dusty, jammed with tourists. Pessimism… not a good start to the trip. Shift focus.

Further along, the trail downsized from a road to sidewalk, and people in pleated pants and penny loafers became less and less prolific. We stopped for a quick second to put on some bug repellent, and just by chance ended up standing in the midst of a Morel mushroom hot spot! It was the first time I had ever seen one.

Morel mushrooms near the parking lot.

We kept moving along the trail, passing along the East side of Leigh Lake. It’s not hard to see why this area is popular among park visitors – the trail is as flat as a pancake, and the landscape is beautiful.

Beaches of Leigh Lake
Leigh Lake.

Past the end of Leigh Lake, the trail pitches up sharply* and leads you through a burned area of the forest into an open meadow. It reminded me a little bit of Spider Meadow in Washington, and I couldn’t help but imagine that the foliage in that area would be waist-high or taller by the end of summer.

*for someone in penny loafers.

Alpine meadows.

After you finish the walk through that meadow, you descend into a shallow little ravine created by a stream that feeds Bear Paw Lake, which is another less-hammered camping destination past Leigh Lake. The trail winds upwards to the Northwest, and opens up as you reach the small meadow around Trapper Lake. The campsite was about 50 yards off of the trail to the South.

The campsite was small but well built, with a fire pit and some logs set around it to provide some relatively comfortable seating. Surprisingly, the site is hidden from the lake by a little hill and a pile of rocks — rocks that were inhabited by a pair of marmots that were highly accustomed to human presence. They fear nothing.

Nosy neighbors.

We had arrived early in the afternoon, so we killed time by exploring the area and taking pictures.

David
Little wildflowers.

Trapper Lake is pretty small when compared to the other lakes around it, and although it pales in comparison to the magnificence of Leigh Lake, it is still beautiful in it’s own right:

Trapper Lake

Some friends met up with us at our campsite just as the weather turned horrible, but eventually the clouds parted and we were treated to clear skies again. We built a fire and sat around chatting for the rest of the night.

Amy by the fire.

The next day we got up and made plans for a day trip to Holly Lake — located high in a canyon on the other side of Leigh Lake, which we thought was closer than it actually was. During breakfast, our friend Danielle noticed movement on the far shore of the lake, and it turned out to be a moose with a baby! It was far away, so I apologize for the obvious crappy quality of this photo.

Looks just like her!

We watched that pair for a while, and I think the secret hope on everyone’s mind was that they would get all the way in the water. No Dice.

Once the moose encounter was at an end, we said goodbye to our friends (who were only there for one night) and headed out on our day trip. It took us back down most of the trail we had traveled along the day before, through the tourists-hiking-with-dress-shoes-on area, and up into a forest on the Southwest side of Leigh Lake. The incline on the trail could barely be considered moderate, but the drop in ambient tourist level indicated that the barrier of effort was in full effect. Two miles in, we arrived at a junction above the lake, where a sign indicated that Holly Lake was 4.4 miles further on. Once we were [an estimated] 2 miles past the sign, thunder started rolling in the distance, and everything indicated that the weather was about to go to hell. We decided to turn around before reaching the lake; however, we vowed to make it the destination of a trip later in the summer.

On the way back, the conversation turned to mushrooms for some reason (must have been Morel fever), and I spotted this random species in a nice patch of light. No idea what they are though.

Unidentified mushroom species.

We made the rest of the trek back to our campsite, thankful that it never rained. With sore feet, we ambled up to the site and rested for a while — for the first trip of the summer, it was clear that we had bitten off more than our feet could chew.

After a decent night’s sleep (I never sleep that well in the backcountry), we started in on the familiar task of packing up all our stuff in the site. Although it took a little longer than normal, I think it’s excusable for the first trip in almost a year, and the fact that a Moose accidentally sneaked (snuck isn’t a word) up on us and it freaked us out! Once it was about 40 feet away, it saw us, flipped out and ran off – obviously a little less accustomed to human presence than our neighbors the marmots.

Who's nosy now??

On the way out I snapped this picture of a tree growing out of a teeny little rock island in Leigh Lake.

Perseverance.

It was weird to only drive a few minutes a be at a trailhead, as opposed to the 2-3 hours required to really get into the wilderness in Washington. Once we were there, the sheer number of obvious tourists was surprising and almost overwhelming. At first, these things made me feel a little less like camping out where we did was an indication that we had accomplished something that most people wouldn’t do. But the moose encounters and the fact that the people dressed in their Sunday best didn’t venture much past the first mile on the trail went a long way to change my mind. And when you really get down to it, having fewer miles to drive once you get back to the car just means that regular food is closer than ever before!!

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First Teton Hike

Well, the entire earth hasn’t turned white yet, which has come as a bit of a shock, but whatever. To be quite clear, there isn’t any snow anywhere but the tops of the Tetons and underneath the snowmakers — nothing in the village, and none on the hiking trails.

Because we’re both still jobless, we decided to try a hiking trail I spotted while we drove along Snow King Ave the other day. We got there around 9:30 or 10, and it was still freezing. Literally. Anywhere that hadn’t been exposed to the sun for the first part of the day was still in deep frost. Still, we got out the gloves and hats and headed out of the parking lot. Just a few minutes up the trail, we ran into the posts from a forgotten fence line. It would have been weird, but we were still within earshot of the highway.

Old Fence

We didn’t really know where we were going because we’d only given the trail map a quick look before leaving the trailhead, so we inadvertantly ended up traversing East all the way to Snow King, a small ski resort just South of town. Again, since we didn’t really know where the trail network was going to take us, we decided to go with the most obvious option: climb straight up the hill.

That went alright for a while, but I still have an ankle that’s on the mend, and Amy wasn’t really enjoying life either, so when we ran into a path that traversed the slope about 400 feet from the top, we opted for that instead. From that path we were able to see all of the town, and spent a minute trying to piece together where our apartment is. It took a while, because we don’t really know the layout of the place that well, but we found it.

Our Place

We made the rest of the climb to the top on the established path, and had a bit of a rest while we took pictures. Can’t knock the scenery.

Aspens

The "Hole"

On the way down we were pretty well swarmed by people and dogs running every which way. We ran into a few mountain bikers as well, and I have to say they were a damn sight nicer than any of the hikers that we passed. Maybe I’m just used to the stop-and-chat hiking code from the Pacific Northwest. I always used to kind of roll my eyes to myself every time we would have to stop on the trail in Washington and talk with some dude grabbing his suspenders. I definitely miss those interactions, by comparison. Anyways, we ran into some joggers with a gaggle of dogs in tow, one of which apparently wasn’t theirs, because they asked if it was ours. The canine in question was a little poodle mix — a cute little thing — and he looked lost. We tried to get him to follow us, but he spooked and ran off along a split in the trail. Godspeed little fella, hope you find your way.

It’s a bit nerve-wracking, having such bleak lack of employment opportunities. If I haven’t filled you in yet, every place Amy or I have tried to drop off resumes/fill out applications has said they’re not hiring until early December. Somehow I had myself convinced that we’d roll into town and both have jobs within the first week; sadly that has not been the case. But days like today help me re-focus on the good things, like having time to hike on a sunny day, and having a view like this just a hop and a skip away. I live here, it’s time to stop feeling like an outsider.

The Grand and company

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Continuing the trend of going to lakes whose namesake animals are nowhere to be found, Amy and I headed to Goat Lake in the North Cascades. We actually had a really difficult time finding anywhere to go because snow was predicted to fall on Monday night down to the 4000′ mark, so we had to scrap plans to go to the Gothic Basin, which we thought looked more interesting. At this point in the season though, we were thankful to get to go at all.

We headed out of Seattle a little later than normal, mostly because we were up looking for a place to go beneath 4000′ until 1:30 am. The drive went by pretty quickly, and we were at the trailhead in about two hours.

Trailhead

Oddly enough, there are two trails that start from the trailhead and end in exactly the same place – Goat Lake. The Upper one is a disused early-20th century mining road, and the old tread is pretty damn obvious in places.

Long Gone
Elliot Creek Trail at the junction with Goat Lake.

On the other hand, the lower one is strictly a hiker trail, cut by the WTA or some organization. The lower trail is also described as slide and washout-prone. Perfect, we’ll have that one.

Bridge Crossing

The reality is, the lower trail is actually better maintained and requires less elevation gain than the upper one. It is, however, closer to Elliot Creek, which is probably why it gets a bad rap — but in late season, there’s really nothing to be worried about.

Vitesse

Along the way, we did see one or two blow-downs that would have been a problem if a hiker had been around the area when they happened, not the least of which was this one…

Blowdown

After a while, the trail intersects with the upper trail again, and meanders through Alder groves as it climbs up to the actual lake. The switch from the darker, damp conifer forest to the bright, cheery alder grove was a welcome change.

This Way

After a little while we left the alders behind and came face-to-face with some of the most enormous cedar trees I have ever seen in my life. That includes trees that I thought were big when I was in grade school too — I’m talking huge here.

Welcome

Once in the actual “wilderness,” you hit the switchbacks. The climb up to Goat Lake was actually annoyingly difficult to me, simply because until that point, the hiker is led to believe that the whole trail will be as flat as the first five miles. No such luck, but you just deal with it, even when the trail is mostly made up of bits of the adjacent trees.

textureTrail

On the way up the hill, I started to recognize different little signs of bygone human presence. I can only assume that all the notches I was seeing on cedar stumps were boot holes from when someone was cutting the tree down. God only knows how they ended up moving it in the 20s or whenever…

Boot Holes

We started to hear the sound of crashing water, and took a second to investigate at the end of one of the switchbacks. We ended up finding a crude little trail down to what looked like a pretty big falls. We probably should have taken our backpacks off before trying to make it down — the trees you had to climb over/under were slick from recent rain and left lovely slime souvenirs on your clothes anywhere you touched ’em. Luckily, it was worth the trouble. Simply gorgeous.

Amy at McIntosh

Vestiges

Clean Linens

We spent probably 30 minutes buzzing around the falls like a couple of little flies, trying to find a way to get a long exposure without getting a wet lens. It was definitely a highlight of the trip — and I can only imagine how much more extraordinary the falls must be during the melt in late spring! After we were done, we headed back up to the real trail and were at the lake shore within five minutes. We followed the signs up a trail to the established campsites, hoping they would be as beautiful as the falls and the lake…

And what do you know, they were absolute rubbish. First off, it was basically like a backcountry KOA setup – fire pits (even though you’re not supposed to have fires), wooden benches, outhouses, super close quarters, and a really awkward staring-problem dude who was already camped at the most centrally located spot (just in case you wanted any privacy). In spite of the state of things, we poked around and found a spot that looked like it might work out well, right up until we saw that the last fuckers who used the site “buried” their garbage right next to it. I use the term “buried” very loosely, because it was basically a costco trash sack with a couple kicks of dirt on it, and a little branch set on top to try and hide the abomination. How are you gonna fucking hike all the way to a beautiful backcountry lake and leave your shit right out in the open for the next guy to deal with? Makes me sick.

Anyways, the decision to NOT camp next to Lucky Pierre and the haphazardly buried trash was quickly made, and we headed off in the direction of what looked like a trail down the Eastern shore. About 1/8th mile or so down the trail, those plans shit themselves too, as the path disappeared and we were left hacking our way through some pretty thick vine maple. Luckily, a little less than 50 yards back from where the trail evaporated, we found ourselves a clearing and pitched our tent. The obvious next step was to start taking as many pictures as possible.

Trailside

Goat Lake fills the bottom of a cirque between several large peaks, the biggest of which is called Cadet Peak, after the Cadet Mining Co. that staked its claim here over a century ago. (History) The peak has a few mini glaciers — really just ice masses — on its flanks, which leads one to believe that this valley could well have been home to a mighty glacier in millennia past. Unfortunately, my pictures of the peak and the lake all turned out like crap, as did my HDR image, so here’s the best I got:

Cadet Peak

Trivia tidbit: this peak is a good 1000′ shorter than Mount Daniel, which we climbed a few weeks ago.

We made ourselves some dinner down at the little pebbly beach, and played a little game where we tried to throw a stone and hit this lone stick above the water line. Amy won.

textureReflection

Okay so that night it started raining pretty much the second we got into the tent. It escalated from a drizzle to a furious cloudburst in pretty short order, so we were stuck inside. We didn’t really have anything to do and neither of us were tired, so we had to think of something. My idea was a competition to see who could make the most hideous, foul and in all other regards wretched face, and then get a picture of it. I love it when you know you’re going to win before you even play the game. Weak stomach? Don’t do it… (mouse-over to see it.)

All night I kept thinking I could hear a bear coming down the path — I hardly slept at all. But we didn’t wake up dead, so I must have been wrong.

Tuesday’s weather sucked balls, to be quite frank. It was actually so bad that we decided to cut the trip short and just head back to the truck. Kudos to whoever came up with waterproof tent fabric though, we definitely owe ’em one.

It snowed on the peaks above us, but I didn’t get any worthwhile pictures of that, so it might as well not have happened. Really, because the lighting was so flat, the whole day turned into a texture study, because I like diffused light for close-ups. Here are a few, in no particular order:

textureMaple

textureSurreal

textureMetal

textureWhite
I’m aware of what it looks like.

textureOrange

textureMicro

textureMoss

textureStarlette

textureBark

textureFern

On the way back down, we stopped off at an area underneath the main part of McIntosh Falls, where the old wagon road and the trail part from each other. Apparently if you are able to cross the falls and then follow what’s left of the trail, you’ll end up at the old mining village. I was game for it, but Amy seemed creeped out, so that didn’t happen. I have to admit, there is something a little eerie about these dilapidated old wagon trails.

Wagon Trail

The falls that they lead to were every bit as spectacular as the ones we stopped at the day before. Couldn’t keep the rain off the lens, though.

bridgeSite2

bridgeSite1

We had stayed as long as we could, but the rain was intensifying, so we hurried off down the trail. Again, one or two HUGE TREES are down in the gorge beneath the lake. Did I mention they’re huge?

Grand Entrance

In the rain, it was slow going, and we had to put trash bags over our backpacks so they would stay dry. Well, I put one over mine — Amy didn’t because she thought her bag would be fine. …until it started pouring, so about three quarters of the way back we stopped and rigged her up with a backpack condom too. Woohoo!

Amy

Everything else about the trip to the car was pretty uneventful. For the trip home, we thought it would be a fun to stop and have some food in this po-dunk little tavern we’d seen on the way to Goat Lake. You know, to support small town folk.

Granite Falls

Can you say “omfgNoWayFail” five times fast? The second we walked in there, we knew we were out of our element. It was deserted except for token barflies Tom, Dick and Harry, who were sitting at the bar. Well, that is besides the haggard, worn-out looking old bartender woman. I looked at Amy as if to say “anybody wanna get the fuck out of here?” And we did. Quick. Ended up finding a little Italian joint nearby and had some pizza there instead.

It rained like it was angry on the way home. Absolutely poured.

textureRain

This trip was fun — it didn’t leave me with a feeling of success like Mt. Daniel did, or in thoughtful silence like Spider Meadow, but it sure wasn’t any f-in Deep Lake. Still, I was happy to be home. …and Seattle looks nice in the rain if you’ve been away for a little while.

Needle

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After some last minute changes-of-plan including (but not limited to) not wanting to pay for parking and a shuttle to/from the lodge (??) at a DIFFERENT trailhead (who does that), Amy and I settled on a trip to Josephine Lake, in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness right behind the Stevens Pass ski area.

Our trip actually started by not getting started. By that, I mean that when we almost halfway to Monroe on SR-522, I had an “oh shit” moment when I realized I hadn’t brought my hiking shoes. Turned out that we had both forgotten them, so we had to turn around and drive all the way back to Seattle. In the meantime, there had been an accident on I-5. Fitting…

I-5 South
Much Ado…

After we got our shoes from the APT, we headed back the way we came. On the way across SR-520 there were some astounding views of Mount Rainier – it must have rained recently.

Freeway Scenery

We were trying to make up for lost time as much as we could, but the gravity of the Sultan Bakery proved too strong to overcome, so of course we had to stop by there. A few doughnuts later, we were on the home stretch to Stevens Pass.

Actually, the Forest Service road that accessed the trailhead we were going to is right at the end of the aptly named “big left” on Highway 2. We hopped off the road there and enjoyed the shortest trip down shitty, sloppy, rutted and potholed dirt roads to the trailhead that we’ve had all summer. Oh joy.

There isn’t a lot of parking at the Tunnel Creek trailhead, so we parked about 50 yards down the road at a turn-around-looking little cleared area (who knows who we might have inconvenienced by doing that). Feeling good, we shouldered all our gear and hit the trail.

Farwell
Last Words

Lets just say that this trail isn’t exactly a peach. Right from the start, you’re asked to put one foot in front of the other up some incredibly steep, mucky terrain that is rife with slippery roots and rocks. From the topo map, we could see beforehand that this trail was going to basically head straight up the drainage gully of Tunnel Creek, sans switchbacks, and that’s exactly what it did. To say it’s unrelenting would be an understatement. (Little did I know, the status report at the trailhead says “Usage: Minimal,” and “Difficulty: Most Difficult.”)

The terrain aside, the trail was certainly different from the other hikes we’ve done. It had the lushness of the temperate rain forest on the Olympic Peninsula, but with a different style of greenery, and an incredible variety and abundance of mushrooms. Luckily, it was soon over (only 1.6 miles of grueling uphill). At the top of the climb, we entered the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and immediately arrived at Hope Lake and the Pacific Crest Trail.

Entre
Entrez-Vous

I don’t know the back story about how Hope Lake was named, although it could have been so named by people coming up the Tunnel Creek drainage for the first time (sans trail). I think this must have been the case, because compared to other alpine lakes (even some seen on this trip), it is nothing but ordinary, and isn’t otherwise very hope-inspiring. …but I digress.

We continued North on the PCT, along a mercifully less graded portion of the trail. One or two little “Mario Bros.” mushrooms lined the path.

GoombaGoomba
Actually, it’s a amanita muscaria var. flavivolvata.

We called them Goombas, even though Goombas are the solid colored mushrooms with eyes. Margins of error increase when you’re backpacking, alright?

Mig Lake was the next little pool the PCT wanders past, and it turned out to be a bit more scenic. I stood still long enough to get a few dragonflies to land pretty close.

A Drink

We headed out from there, stumbling onto one or two more tarns before switchbacking up to the top of a small mountain above Swimming Deer Lake. Another case of false advertising vis-a-vis lake names. Although we did not necessarily end up right at the shore, it was clear even from where we were that there we no swimming deer in the lake, or any other kind of big game, for that matter. I suppose I’m being too critical of the moron poor chap that named this little pond, but I feel like if you’re going to name the damn thing “Swimming Deer,” you had better set up a phone tree amongst the local deer to make sure one of them is doing laps in it at all times. Just sayin.

Could have easily gotten away with calling it “Huckleberry Lake.” One or two of those around…

Patch of Color

Further along, you can see Josephine Lake from the PCT, and a 20 minute jaunt up and down the Icicle Creek trail is all it takes to get down to the shore. A lot of the would-be campsites are closed for restoration, so we hunted around for a spot to camp for a while. Just before it seemed all hope was lost, we found a spot in the trees about 200 feet from the lake shore. We were happy to set up camp and spent the rest of the night snapping the shutter.

The Light Goes Out
Lights Go Out

This spot's good.

Long Ago
Way Back

The next morning, we decided to make our way along the PCT to the top of it where it intersects the Stevens Pass ski area. Along the way, we passed the beautiful little Susan Jane Lake, tucked into the bottom of a small cirque.

Susan Jane Lake
Should have stayed here.

We poked around for a bit and found a couple of idyllic campsites, made a mental note (next time!) and moved on. The foliage between that lake and the ski area went through a metamorphosis about three times. First, there was a hedge of hideously dank and dead section of rotting greenery, which had a lovely aroma. We didn’t linger. Then we passed through a sub-alpine meadow area dotted with a few small pools and one or two dry creek beds. Last, a dark, wet forest with several running streams and a plethora of mushrooms. Leaving the forest behind, we broke into the backside area of Stevens Pass.

From Below
Into the Light

The clear-cut, sun baked ski area was a stark contrast to the dark, shaded forest. The PCT in this section is hot and tiring, and the few breaks from the sun were a welcome relief.

Jupiter
Up

From here, it’s a rather unremarkable amble up to the top of the Jupiter Chair. We decided to rest here for lunch and have a look around.

Poached
Poaching the chair

Jupiter

Tradux

For the first time ever, I was able to get a shot of a Pika – a tiny relative of the rabbit.

Frozen
Snuggly Mountain Bunny!

We had some lunch and headed back to Josephine, stopping once or twice for the occasional photo (as usual).

Near/Far
Yuk Berries

I stopped on the trail above Lake Susan Jane to try and take a picture of a thistle, but this fly didn’t want to share.

Thistle
Piss off.

After leaving the PCT to take the Icicle Creek trail down to the lake, I must have startled this guy. He was frozen on the tree, most likely in terror. These animals are so fearful, even though they are all too capable of getting away from people.

O HAI DERE.
O HAI DERE

Speaking of harassing wildlife, once back at the lake shore, I decided to go for a dip to cool off. Turns out I wasn’t the only one! (P: Amy)

La Grenoille

After freezing my uh… well, being really cold in the water, I got out and got back to business. I snuck (sneaked?) up on this little spider, testing the macro abilities of the G10. This spider was no more than 3/8″ long.

Caughtcha.

Night caught up with us soon enough, but when I was hanging the food bag I noticed a beautiful hue on the horizon, so I ran back to camp to grab my camera.

Deepest Blue

The next day I realized that I left my second SD card at home, and only had 7 more exposures left on the current one (shooting RAW with 14.6 MP and only a 4 GIG card), so I had to reign it in a little bit. Still, when Goombas call, you have to answer.

Goomba
Little Polka Dot Dress

And the fall foliage at Mig Lake was another shot I couldn’t pass up, although I think Amy’s turned out better.

Fall at Mig

And to answer that nagging question that’s been on everyone’s mind, you should always try to find the bear shit on the way OUT of the backcountry, not the way in. Look at that — problem solved.

hrmm
Classic stop, drop and roll.

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After our pathetic showing the week before, we watched the weather (sunny and 70+ all week), and, expecting much of the snow to have melted, we headed back to Mount Daniel. Boy, were we surprised.

Not by the condition of the road, though – that’s still absolute rubbish.

It was much warmer this time around, so we stopped at Squaw lake for a second to cool off. Dragonflies darted around at the water’s edge.

Hover

Something smelled like ass on the trail most of the way up, and we finally caught sight of the culprits. Turns out it wasn’t ass after all, it was Equus.

Trail Company

We hit the meadows on the top of the ridge leading to Cathedral Rock and the pass – what a beautiful sight.

Cathedral

After the pass we headed down the Peggy’s Pond trail. Again. Third time this year, actually. It’s getting easier for Amy, but it’s still tricky in places.

Trail to Peggy's

The trail to the pond passes the remains of an old four-sided building. I have looked around online but haven’t been able to track down any information about the history of the site, other than someone called it “Peggy’s Cabin.” Odd that the old girl’s cabin is actually closer to the shitty little puddle we camped at before than it is to the actual pond…

Peggy's Cabin

Well anyways, we meandered our way to the ACTUAL pond this time and set up shop right at the water’s edge. It was smooth as glass while Amy pumped some drinking water.

h2o

Before the sun completely went down, we popped over into the Hyas Creek Basin to have a look at our prize – the summit of Mount Daniel.

The Summit

We called it a night, determined to get an early start in the morning. Our route took us up through the Hyas Creek Basin, up the moraine valley and the to base of the Hyas Creek Glacier.

In the valley.

Criss-cross

From there, it turned northwest and climbed up several steep sections of talus and scree before we reached an upper shoulder area.

The Valley

Looking Back

Our guidebook said from here we should cross on to the North side and continue onto top of the Daniel Glacier, but that didn’t look like a good idea.

Terminus

We decided to descend until we could find a traverse route heading southwest under the East peak, which led us to a snowfield.

Scramble

Traverse

Once we pointed ourselves North again we climbed to the top of the ridge and it was just a quick scramble to the summit.

Last Gasp.

Marker

That was cool, but we knew we weren’t on the real summit – it was still West of us, past the middle summit, across the “plateau.”

Summit Plateau

So we retraced our steps to the edge of the ridge and pointed ourselves down some immensely steep scree at what looked like a climber’s path. Horror (for Amy) ensued, but we reached the path and all was well. I’d be hung if I posted pictures of the terror in her eyes, so we’ll skip that.

The footpath across the summit plateau was crude, but it got the job done.

Amy under the Middle Summit.

Once we reached the foot of the West Summit, a quick scramble was all it took to get to the top, where I found the summit registry.

Summit Register

With a sense of occasion, we popped a teeny bottle of champagne that I’d carted up in my backpack. We had Mountain House macaroni and cheese for lunch (Mmmm… ) and washed it down with some bubbly before we got back to the task at hand: pictures.

W Summit

Alpine Lakes

W Summit.

The wind was picking up as time went on, so we paused for the mandatory summit shot and headed back down.

All Smiles

Our route-finding back down into the moraine valley and Hyas Creek basin left something to be desired, let just say. First up was our icy glissade down the upper part of what used to be Hyas Glacier. Would have been nice to have an ice axe for that…

Glassade

Below that, we were nearly cliffed out several times. Should have stuck with the original route – it would have saved us at least an hour. Won’t say who chose this route…

Hyas Cliffs

It was an awesome trip, and a spectacular way to end the summer of backpacking, in case we don’t get the chance to go again before we move to Jackson, WY.

Reflection

(Route Guide and Topo Map)
Daniel Routes

All photos at:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/41681734@N04/sets/72157622397043670/

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I had read a trip review online about some people who had climbed to the summit of Mount Daniel (elevation of over 7,960 ft), and from the pictures, they looked like a bunch of old fogeys with hiking boots on. Amy and I are fit young people, we would not be outdone by these Newt Gingrich lookalikes! Armed with that information, I decided this would be our next challenge.

Here is Mount Daniel:

Huckleberries on the trail

Well, things weren’t exactly right from the beginning. For starters, I worked until almost 2am the night before – probably the busiest Sunday EVER in Feierabend history. Second, I was in the early stages of a pretty rough cold. Third, our location – the starting location for the hike to Daniel, was completely wrong. We were doomed.

For starters, the person who maintains the road to the Cathedral Rock trail must have died. Years ago. I was rejoicing that we had 4wd, because the jeep track of a road was soaking from heavy rains and rutted/potholed to hell. Thank you, truck. Thank you, thank you.

It got us there.

A steady mist fell on us all the way up to the Spinola Meadows, which are just underneath Cathedral Rock. Lucky for us, we stumbled upon a wealth of huckleberries, which lifted the spirits.

Huckleberries on the trail

We pushed on to Peggy’s Pond (what we thought was Peggy’s Pond, anyways) and made it there an hour or so before dusk, crossed the creek and set up camp. I was feeling poorly, so we turned in almost immediately. Thank God for the 20 degree sleeping bags, it was a frigid night.

When we woke up the sun was out and melting the frost off the huckleberries around our site.

Huckleberries at camp

After perusing the hike info one last time, we plowed off in the completely wrong direction. The trail that we followed quickly dwindled away to nothing, and we were soon forcing our way through brush and climbing scree slopes without any real explanation. The situation began to boil when I decided we’d climb a creek/waterfall instead of continuing to traverse the hill.

Climbing a streambed

We finally made it to the top of the sketchy creek climb, and found ourselves at the foot of another, this time snow-covered, scramble. It looked easy enough — just up and over, right? — so we committed to it.

Looking up SE Ridge

By about the top, we were nose-to-nose with a slippery, slushy, melting-snow-covered talus field that was the definition of suck.

SE Ridge approach

Finally, we made it to the top of the southeast ridge, and some of Amy’s first words were: “we’re not going up there.”

Amy and SE Ridge
(Not pictured are the overhanging cornices and the rest of the ridge linking up with the east peak of Mount Daniel.)

The views were spectacular, and we spent a few minutes taking it all in before turning around, defeated.

Amy and SE Ridge

Circle Lake from SE Ridge

From here, we descended along what was more or less the actual SE Ridge Route.

SE Ridge descent

Once we got to a more gradual sloping part of the ridge, we laid eyes on a body of water beneath us. It was obviously Peggy’s Pond …just not our Peggy’s Pond.

Peggy's Pond and Cathedral Rock

Once we had descended even further, we were able to see the shitty little tarn where we were camped, which was SE of the actual Peggy’s Pond. We settled on the name “Peggy’s Puddle” for our sad little body of water, although other, more crass names were kicked around.

We didn’t have time for another try at the summit, because we were leaving the next day. Frankly, we were just totally unprepared for the unseasonable accumulation of snow that we encountered, and probably wouldn’t have made the summit even if we had taken the proper route. Moral of the story: if you find yourself at a V-shaped tarn (NOT triangular), you aren’t at Peggy’s pond. It’s East Northeast of you over the small ridge. Follow the trail back the way you came and find the one leading to Peggy’s.

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