Lower Ice Lake, 08/27/09-08/29/09

Somehow, I found myself with an extended weekend at the very end of August; Nicole didn’t.  Thus, the table was set for my Second Annual Solo Backpacking Trip, a trip set to coincide with my twenty-ninth birthday.  Certain conditions were to be met.  The hike couldn’t be too high on our must-do list, because Nicole wouldn’t be along to enjoy it.  I also wanted something that would challenge me.  And why not make something that’s a little further away than our normal weekend overnighter?

In the end, I decided on Ice Lakes, via the Entiat River.  100 Hikes… put the round-trip mileage at ~28 and recommended allowing 3-5 days.  Ice Lakes were on my list, and the criterion fit.  I’d be carrying a heavy backpack (~45lbs) but reasoned that the elevation gain would be spread over so much mileage that it’d be no problem.  More training for the Canadian Rockies!  My itinerary was flexible: I’d leave Thursday, make the lakes Friday, spend Saturday exploring or summiting Mt. Maude, and return Sunday. Or, if the forecasted thunderstorms came to fruition, I might return Saturday instead.  Whatevs.

I left straight from work on Thursday around 12:30, and pulled into the trailhead parking lot at the end of Entiat River Road at 16:00.  The drive was nice, taking me past Leavenworth for the first time through Wenatchee and north along the Columbia River through an interesting landscape.  Though there were signs warning of big horn sheep crossings, I saw none.

I booted up and hit the trail at 16:20, setting a comfortably quick pace in order to put as many easy miles behind me as possible on the first day.  The trail starts off wide and dry, mixed-use as it is (hikers, horses, motorcycles).  The trees turn from somewhat unhealthy-looking to fully fire-scarred and destroyed as one makes progress down the Entiat River trail.

Evidence of a burn.

Evidence of a burn.

At 17:55, I entered Glacier Peak Wilderness, ~4.2 miles from the trailhead.  The trail narrowed.  Deer met me head-on on the trail.  The sun lowered behind the ridge to the west.  Every snap, crackle, and pop in the forest had me looking over my shoulder; I attributed each one to another deer, fearing a bear or cougar as the sounds stalked me along the trail.  I realized only later that the heat of the day had gone from the naked, burned trees.  And now they contracted in the shade like an old house in night’s silence.

hikers_50

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North Fork Sauk River & PCT to Red Pass, 09/28/08-09/30/08

The final weekend in September beckoned.  The weather looked to be fantastic.  Unfortunately, Nicole and one of her toenails were at odds with one another, so if anything were to be done, it would have to be done solo.  Somehow I decided that a mere dayhike wouldn’t suffice; this meant I’d be going on my very first all-alone backpack: two nights in Glacier Peak Wilderness.  I actually didn’t give it much thought at the time (that is, before I set up camp the first night in near-darkness and questioned every sound I thought I heard).  It just seemed like the natural progression of things, something that I knew I’d do eventually.

As I may have mentioned in the past, Glacier Peak Wilderness (hereafter, GPW) has held near-mythical status in my novice hiker mind.  Maybe it’s because Spring & Manning called it the last wild volcano.  I suppose that has something to do with it: unlike Mt. Baker or Mt. Rainier, you ain’t parking your Subaru on the side of Glacier Peak.  You gotta hike to get anywhere near it, man.  So when, a week or two prior, I saw a post on NWHikers about Sloan Creek Road re-opening, it stuck with me.  Sloan Creek Road (aka Road #49) had been closed for some time (forever, as far as it concerns me, since I wasn’t going anywhere near it before this summer) and it’s one of the nearest access points to GPW.  So it seemed predetermined that this trip would utilize the opportunity.

Old-growth along the Sauk River.

Old-growth along the Sauk River.

I decided I’d hike the North Fork Sauk River Trail (#649) on Sunday and spend the evening at or near Mackinaw Shelter, then get up Monday morning and hike until I reached the Pacific Crest Trail (#2000) and take that to Red Pass.  If I could, I’d investigate White Chuck Glacier or climb Portal Peak, spending the second night in the area.  Tuesday morning I’d hike all the way back out and get home sometime in the afternoon.  Since I was leaving the where-and-when with Nicole, I figured it best to stick as close to the plan as possible, and act conservatively.

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Summerland & Panhandle Gap, 08/31/08

With late-August weather signaling the end of an already-abbreviated summer, and with the glaring omission of Mt. Rainier National Park (hereafter, MRNP) on our yearly itinerary thus far, we set our sights on Summerland.  Ever since we’d driven along the Sunrise side of Mt. Rainier en route to Mt. Aix earlier this year, we’ve been anxious to return to the area.  Since it was the weekend of Labor Day, we decided to forgo any backpacking plans, opting instead to wake up early in an attempt to beat out our fellow dayhikers.

We were out the door by 05:00 and driving in the dark down a road that I doubted.  Google Maps set me along a different road than I’d taken previously, but we ended up on WA-410 nevertheless.  Clouds hung heavy over the highway, and while I did my best to will them off, windshield wipers were necessary–briefly–on the east side of The Mountain.  I often forget just how close Mt. Rainier is to Seattle–we pulled into the Sunrise/White River entrance at 06:45.  Since it was, as previously stated, the first time this year inside MRNP, we added the $30 annual park pass to our credit card bill (7-day passes are $15, and we know we’ll be coming back more than once in the coming calendar year).   Unfortunately, our success in early arrival meant that no one was manning the entrance booths and instead of a flesh-and-blood annual pass, a machine spit out a receipt that could be exchanged for the real deal.  In the pocket it went, and up the road we drove.

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Lake Ingalls, 08/03/08

After a one-weekend hiking hiatus (which actually amounts to about fourteen days, and felt like every minute of it) we were determined to make the most of our common day off, and get out and hike.  Since we’re still left with just Sundays–a temporary situation, we hope–we weren’t looking for an overnighter, and it had to be something marginally nearby.  I’d seen a trip report or two for Lake Ingalls lately, so I kept that in my mind as Nicole and I set about our routine of searching websites and guidebooks for other possibilities.  I wouldn’t call it wasted time, but in the end, we decided on Lake Ingalls anyway.  I think I can speak for the both of us when I say that we’re glad we did.

Panorama at Lake Ingalls.

Panorama at Lake Ingalls. Click if you care to embiggen.

Lake Ingalls sits just inside the Alpine Lake Wilderness boundary, in the Teanaway area of Washington State.  In years past, almost all of our hikes ended at an alpine–or, more likely, at that time, sub-alpine lake.  Mason Lake, Lake Valhalla, Rachel Lake, Watson Lakes…  We loved rewarding ourselves with a cool dip or cold plunge and some time spent resting before the return down.  This year, somehow, we’d yet to take a hike with a lake for a reward; the Pacific Ocean doesn’t count.  Lake Ingalls, which sits at an elevation of about 6500’, sounded perfect.

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