Hike-a-Thon begins this week, so I need to get caught up on these trip reports! July has been absolutely amazing, but all of these adventures (plus a healthy dose of procrastination) have created quite a blog backlog. Let’s get to it.
Thorp Mountain is a laid-back summer favorite of mine. A pleasant trail to a great swimming lake, followed by a slightly less pleasant but definitely beautiful trail to an old fire lookout with tremendous views.
We’ve hiked here three Julys in a row, and at this point it just wouldn’t feel like summer without a trip to Thorp. This time we brought Ada along, and she spent the entire hike finding and fetching sticks of various shapes and sizes.
The wildflowers around the lookout were slightly past their prime, but still put on a good show.
We had a lunch and lazed around on the summit for a while (well, everyone except Ada – she was fetching sticks), taking in the views of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Mount Rainier, and my new best friend, Mount Adams.
It was Basil’s birthday, so he got some extra snuggles and treats to celebrate. We don’t actually know when he was born, so we’re celebrating his adoption day instead. This lovable little raisin of a dog has brought us lots of happiness since we adopted him a year ago, and he and Wellie are inseparable. Best brothers, best buds.
Unfortunately, the birthday boy is allergic to mosquitoes, so when the breeze died down and the little bastards came out in full force, we just had to get out of there. Benadryl is not a good birthday present!
We jogged down most of the trail, but I was having my first bad run in a while. I got my first side stitch since winter (I must have been holding my breath on the loose, sandy downhill bits), and my hair tie snapped, leaving me with an out of control, frizzy mane that was incredibly annoying in the heat.
The last two miles felt good, though, especially when we got to the swimming hole by the trailhead. I just took off my pack and walked right in to cool off. The water was absolutely freezing and absolutely heavenly. Basil hid in the shade while JK joined me in the pool, followed by Wellie who jumped in to rescue us.
And Ada? She was still fetching sticks. Some things never change, like summer traditions (hopefully!) and obsessive-compulsive dogs.
– Thorp Lake & Lookout | 8 miles | 2300 feet elevation gain –
JK, Wellie and I hiked to Thorp Lookout for the first time last summer, and it was one of my favorite hikes of the year. I don’t know if it was because of the trail itself or simply because of the timing – we hiked it on the day after the terror attacks in Oslo and what was to be the day before we learned that JK’s dad had passed away. I’ll always remember Thorp as a safe, carefree haven between unbearable amounts of sadness.
This is exactly why we need access to nature – a way to escape “real life”, clear our heads, recharge our batteries, fit extraordinary adventures into our ordinary lives, and restore faith and hope in those moments when the world doesn’t seem to make sense anymore. And this, in turn, is why we’re participating in this year’s Hike-a-Thon fundraiser.
Ok, fine, I also have selfish reasons – I want to hike as much as possible this month and maybe even fit into the sausage casing of a t-shirt they sent me by the end of it – but first and foremost, I hope to raise a little bit of dough for Washington Trails Association to support their trail maintenance and advocacy. If you want to help out, click here or on the picture in the sidebar. Any amount is appreciated (and if you want to join WTA or need to renew your membership, $40 will get you a one-year membership and a subscription to the excellent Washington Trails Magazine)!
Anyhoo, back to Thorp Lookout. Exactly one year later, we returned to that wonderful trail, this time with Dani, Jasper, and of course our lovable new nutria, Basil. Just like last year, we swam in Thorp Lake, one of the warmest alpine lakes I know. We learned that Basil is not a swimmer (and I use that term lightly) like Wellie; he prefers to spend his time rummaging through our packs in search of foodstuffs instead.
Once we were dry and fed, we made our way up to the lookout, enjoying a tremendous wildflower show which I failed to adequately document – you’ll have to go see it for yourselves.
We spent what seemed like hours on the summit, talking, taking photos, taking naps, eating human feces (only Wellie. Dig a cat hole, people!!), evading dog kisses (ugh) and taking in the views and the stillness.
Turns out Thorp is a great escape even when you have nothing to escape from.
I’m officially not allowed to whine about our hiking season anymore; last weekend was ridiculously summery (ok, I’m allowed to whine a little bit about how hot it was) and we were treated to a perfect sunrise up by Robin Lakes.
The hike up there seemed harder than the stats implied – I’m going to go ahead and blame it on the heat since even JK was exhausted – and the trail is a schizophrenic mix of flat and wide, steep and narrow and downright scrambly, but man alive was it worth it.
We knew that this place is popular, but it was still surprising to see tents dotting every available surface around the lake. The really weird thing was that most people didn’t get up to see the sunrise – they must not have realized what they were missing…
I’m becoming more comfortable taking photos now (the trip to Tank Lakes was good practice) instead of just handing JK the camera. Just one little step on the road to learning that I don’t necessarily suck at everything.
I took about 200 shots of the sunrise (seriously) before we snuck back into the tent to get some more sleep.
We had planned to scramble up Granite Mountain and check out some of the other lakes in the area, but instead we escaped the heat by napping and swimming. I loved just hanging around the lake, being lazy and talking to JK. I’ve been feeling tired and down in the dumps lately, so the endorphins, sunlight and good conversation did me a world of good. Our personal camp goat (we named him Aberforth) made it even better.
In the early afternoon we reluctantly packed our stuff and headed back down, stopping to swim in some of the lakes on the way. It was one of those perfect days I wish I could just bottle up and relive whenever things seem hopeless.
Poor Bobby has been suffering from various ailments (intestinal issues and broken bones) all year and hasn’t been able to hike much, so now that he has a clean bill of health we wanted to gently reintroduce him to the mountains. With 19 miles RT and only 1550 feet of elevation gain (according to the book, but it felt like more – possibly because it’s been a while since I carried a full pack. And possibly due to all the laziness and fatness. Ahem.), Spectacle Lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness seemed to fit the bill.
We took it easy on the way in to make sure Bobby was doing ok, and stopped after 4 or so flat miles to have lunch by Pete Lake. I have never heard anything positive about Pete at all, so I was pleased to find a very pretty little lake nestled below some impressive mountain scenery.
Bobby seemed happy and energetic even in the heat, so we carried on towards Spectacle Lake. After 7 miles or so we got to the double creek crossing where a ranger was hanging signs – apparently the bridge is out on the alternate trail via the PCT, so you have to ford the creek either way. It wasn’t deep, but it was pretty damn cold – here’s a video of the first half of the crossing:
We hiked onward and (finally!) upward with the ranger for a bit (hi Billie! ) until she forked off towards Escondido and left us to battle the dusty switchbacks up to Spectacle. The first view of the lake from the ridge is amazing, I fell in love instantly. Unfortunately the local mosquitoes had similar amorous feelings for us, so we hurried down and along the lakeshore to find a good campsite.
JK eventually spotted a great site at the very tip of the little peninsula, and we wasted no time getting the tent up and hiding inside. JK went for a quick swim, but apart from that and eating dinner, we pretty much spent the whole evening in the tent, reading and snoozing. Stupid little vampires.
We were hoping it would be better the next day since it was supposed to be windy, but by then the mosquitoes were bad enough that we elected to have breakfast in the tent, something we never do. We spent a couple more hours reading before deciding to just give up and hike out.
We cleaned off some trail dust in Pete Lake (heavenly!) on the way out and hurried out the last four miles to the car. I need to either grow thicker skin or be more liberal with the DEET. We spent a month in India for our honeymoon and the mosquitoes were NOTHING compared to here in the Cascades.
I might have been less pissy about the skeeters if the little buggers had been polite enough to avoid my face, but noooo, I had to walk around for the next week with a face full of what looked like giant, bulbous zits.
Here’s a clip from JK (and Wellie’s!!) swim in Pete Lake – it’s a wee bit long since I haven’t found a video editing program yet.
Hopefully I’ll be able to go back here later in the season when the little bloodsucking monsters have died.
I know I keep saying this every time we go somewhere and it is probably starting to get old, but this was the most stunningly amazing scenery I have ever seen. I frankly don’t see how anything could top it, given my love of glacial lakes and snowy peaks. Sigh.
Anyhoo, on to the trip report. Amy was out of town, so JK, Bobby and I kidnapped Tom and took him into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. We had heard the road to the Deception Pass trailhead was total shite, but we had no problems – one harmless creek ford (someone less fortunate had left their bumper in it though), and we were good to go. The five miles to Deception Pass just flew by, and we dropped down into the beautiful Hozzbizz Basin (flowers galore – but I left my camera at home to save weight and JK always insists on using the wide-angle lens, so no flower photos) before climbing on up to Marmot Lake.
At Marmot Lake we ate lunch, cooled off, were swarmed by mosquitoes, and decided to head on. Marmot Lake is a lovely destination in itself, but we had our sights set on higher places. The “trail” keeps going up and down over all sorts of obstacles before climbing up a steep, rocky gully. It’s hard to convey steepness in photos, but here I am going up, and then down again the next day:
Once we cleared the boulder field (which was full of pikas and marmots), we found a trail again – and man alive, was getting up that gully worth it:
We quickly passed by No Name Lake (yes, that’s its name) with the intention of exploring it the next day (this was not to happen), and made our way to Jade Lake – I had seen photos of it before, but I was still completely amazed by its color:
We set up our tents as quickly as possible since the mosquitoes were really getting annoying. Poor Bobby had swollen bites all over his face, so we wondered if maybe we should drop the rest of the hike and just stay in our tent with him…but the tent was so warm would all have been miserable. Solution? Stuff Bobs in a backpack, put DEET on the parts of his head he can’t lick, then keep moving.
We walked up and over the knob by the side of the lake and started traversing a steep scree slope to get to the Jade Glacier. Every other step seemed to relase a nasty slide, so naturally I started freaking out and angled down to the snowfield as soon as possible. Ugh. I have never been happier to walk on snow. Tom, however, skipped along the scree without a care in a world, seemingly unaware that death was imminent. Men!
As we made our way up the snowfield, the views really started opening up:
By the time we got to the top of the pass, I was a wee bit proud of myself – I have never gained that much elevation (over relatively challenging terrain) with an overnight pack on before. It seemed fitting to belt out the Rocky theme song as I walked the last steps to the top, so I did. :)
Diptop Gap is officially my new happy place. The view of Pea Soup Lake in front of Mount Daniel (the highest mountain in our county at 7,959 feet) and the Lynch Glacier is just amazing. I had no idea Mount Daniel was so beautiful. I think we need to climb it next summer.
Since the sun was setting, we reluctantly left Diptop Gap and glissaded down the snowfield. By now I had a really intense headache accompanied by a lovely bit of nausea (I get exertion headaches, so it was no surprise that I got one that day), so I only ate a couple bites for dinner and then tried to sleep. In vain. All in all I got around three hours of sleep, and woke up feeling like crap the next day.
Between my nausea and the mosquito situation, we decided to head out as soon as possible. I hiked the entire way out feeling like I was seconds away from vomiting (from now on I’m bringing anti-nausea pills in my first-aid kit!), while Bobby did his best to scratch his mosquito bites:
When we got to Hyas Lake, a couple of miles from the car, the boys went for a well-deserved swim (I stayed put on land, trying not to vomit).
Since Tom had spent the entire hike out talking about pizza and beer (this didn’t help my stomach by the way), we stopped in Roslyn on the way out. Fellow Northern Exposure geeks will recognize this:
There you have it, an absolutely fabulous first day and a less than stellar second day – but the views made up for the sickness. :) Lots of miles. So much elevation gain. Mosquito bites in the hundreds. Would I do it again? Oh yes. In a heartbeat.