Friday, February 13, 2015

Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Leaving Snoqualmie behind, we returned to the PCT once again...

As we hiked up the ridge, we passed hordes of people coming back down. The reason for the crowds was that Kendall Katwalk, a popular day hike destination for many tourists, lay a few miles ahead. We met a couple, Mike and Theresa, who were returning to the parking lot with their dog Stella. They asked if we had seen their two sons, who had run past us a few minutes earlier. Knowing that the boys had the keys to the car, the parents didn't concern themselves and talked with us for awhile. It was refreshing to see parents at ease with their children running around these days, willing to give them independence, something I was very fortunate to experience in my childhood. From our travels so far, I can verify that the world is not such a dangerous place as society declares it to be...

In the morning a Stellar's jay came over for breakfast. He wouldn't get close to us but rather stayed at a distance while we tossed him bits of trail mix. Then three Canadian gray jays took over and scared him away. Their numbers quickly grew to about 15 of them! They eagerly ate out of our hands while the Stellar's jay looked on with envy. Finally the Stellar's jay just couldn't take it anymore! He let out a despairing and threatening screech, scaring all of his cousins away. Still he was unable to bring himself any closer to us, but he continued to happily eat at a distance.

After breakfast we continued our ascent up the ridge. A few of the gray jays actually followed us for over an hour, up to Kendall Katwalk! By their behaviors, we knew that these were the same ones that we had fed, and they clearly remembered us very well!

Mount Rainier, visible to us yet again!

Part of Snoqualmie Pass and its ski slopes below.

Kendall Katwalk, a strip of trail carved into the ridge with views to the east and west.

We cooled down and ate trail mix while sitting on the edge of the Katwalk, looking to the west. From here we saw, in the span of a half hour, a mountain goat, bald eagle, and a golden eagle!

Then along came a couple from Seattle. The woman was wearing a pair of Brooks Cascadia shoes, the same brand that Freebird had purchased in Hood River, Oregon. When she heard that my shoes were falling apart and giving me blisters, I could sense that she was close to giving me hers. But that's okay, I didn't need new shoes yet. Sometimes they bothered me, and other times not. I had plenty of bandages I could use in the meantime if I needed them.

Just past the Katwalk we met Sherpa (PCT '05), her grandson Luca, his father D.J., and their dog Jinx. Sherpa received her name for being a helper on the trail; when her friend was injured, she carried much of her extra weight. While we spoke with Sherpa, a butterfly landed on her. Meanwhile Luca was climbing all over the rocks (he says he wants to be a rock climber one day), with Jinx and D.J. at his side, protecting him. Luca wanted to stay outdoors and climb all day. Whenever his family mentioned going home, he would cry.

A flock of snow geese.

Gravel Lake
We were looking for a place to swim, in the midst of this unusually warm October in Washington. I had declared that I would never go swimming during our visit to Washington, but here in Ridge Lake we both took a quick plunge. At this time one year ago, the ground was completely covered in snow.

Alaska Lake

Another view of Mount Rainier.

As the sun was about to set, a spectacular cloud show commenced. We traversed the ridge, watching the movement of the clouds until the sun went down. The experience was so spectacular that I was jumping up and down for joy when I wasn't made completely immobile with awe.

Glacier Peak, the fourth tallest peak in Washington, to the north.

Clouds rising up the ridge below us.

Once the light began to fade, the cloud show ceased. We continued walking into the night with the full moon illuminating our every step. We switch-backed down the ridge through a grayscale dreamland that Freebird compared to walking through an Ansel Adams photograph. As we pressed on into the night, we could hear the distant hoot of the Great Horned Owl.

That night we settled into a patch of trees amid a marsh that was speckled with several tiny lakes. Not until the morning could we completely perceive the landscape about us, and it was then that we realized that we were within a sea of red. We looked up at that ridge from the night before and noticed how saturated it was with color in the daylight...

As those men in Snoqualmie had recommended, we knew that we wanted to merge onto Pete Lake Trail that very day, since it would be the best option for getting a ride into town. As I mentioned in my last post, there was an important errand to complete for my father.

But there was one issue. Here we were with all maps we needed of the PCT, but we had no sufficient maps of the other side trails. As we were preparing breakfast, Freebird met two brothers, Kevin and Jeff, who were heading southbound past our site. Of course, they just happened to have detailed maps of all the trails in Washington! With that no longer an issue, it was determined that we would hike to Pete Lake next.

Spectacle Lake

A smaller tree growing off of the bent trunk of a larger one.
We walked down a side trail to an overlook of Spectacle Lake and ate lunch with this view.

We passed this "little" guy who was grazing along the trail. He was unaccompanied by his mother, but we knew that surely she was nearby and could return anytime. We left him alone, knowing that a meeting with his protective mother would not be a pleasant one!

Soon we came to the trail that would split off of the PCT, leading to Pete Lake.

Not much later we arrived at Pete Lake and picked out a campsite. The men we had met at Snoqualmie told us how beautiful this place was and highly recommended we visit there, while some others on the trail acted as if it were nothing special. We're glad that we ignored the comments of the latter group. This place was amazing! We would sleep here overnight and then hike out the next day, hoping to catch a ride into town.

Lemah Creek, which flows into the lake.

That night we cooked dinner and kept warm beside the campfire. We watched the smoke drifting out over the lake, hovering above the still waters. Then as the sun set, we watched the moon rise. It was indeed a peaceful night at Pete Lake.

The next morning we packed up everything and began the last few hours of our walk down the trail.

Cooper River

Cooper Lake

Crossing Cooper River on the other side.
Just past Cooper Lake we walked down a small trail access road a little ways and then arrived at a forest service road. It appeared as if no one would be driving past soon, so we used our remaining food to make wraps for lunch. The first car that stopped was a family from Seattle who asked us where was the best place to pick mushrooms. Awhile later, a couple named Karen and Jean were leaving the trail head and offered us a ride. They would be very instrumental in getting us to town.

That was a small taste of Alpine Lakes Wilderness, but it was incredible in every way. I walked through the North Cascades for the first time, and along with our previous experience in Goat Rocks, I could see why Washington is the favorite part of the trail for many PCT hikers. Once the errand in town would be completed, we would find some way to return to the PCT, to continue enjoying the beauty of the North Cascades until our scheduled flight out of the Pacific Northwest.

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