Monday, July 13, 2009

Deadwood Lakes, July 12, 2009

Deadwood Lakes, July 12, 2009

A few years ago I became almost obsessed over finding and exploring abandoned trails. That has not diminished much in recent years though aging has slowed me down a bit from pursuing some of the more strenuous routes in my book “Hidden Hikes”. Deadwood Lakes was one of the “easier” trails in that now out-of-print tome. Hard to believe that “Hidden Hikes” is now going for hundreds of dollars on Amazon! Would or could I do a second edition or a revision? Probably, yes. The spirit is willing and the body still in good enough shape to pursue those trails; albeit at a slower pace. Is there a need? That’s a question hard to answer – now that abandoned trails pop up everywhere on The Internet to anyone who is interested.

That being said, we went back yesterday to check out Deadwood Lakes from Chinook Pass. The “trailhead” for this trail is the Pacific Crest Trail (in the parking lot for the PCT just east of the pass). You can also access the Naches Peak Loop from this trailhead (a part of the PCT runs through it). A spur from the trailhead connects to the PCT – hike east (right) if Deadwood Lakes is your destination; west (left) for the Naches Peak Loop.

In less than 100 feet look for an obvious trail heading uphill (north) on the left. There may be branches over the trail. The trail didn’t seem to show more signs of foot traffic than it did 10 or so years ago; still, the path is easy enough for an experienced hiker to follow.

In about 300 feet we came to a “pass” and a park sign with rules and regulations for use within the park. This is where the trail enters the park. Here we met an off-duty park ranger and chatted with him about the trail and other hiking-related topics, including other forgotten trails.

From the pass the trail drops down, at times steeply, about 400 feet to the lakes. En route there are overlooks of the lakes; one of them outstanding a little off trail (left). Looking down on the lakes may provide a better view than from the lakeshore. There were a few patches of snow on the downward stretch; not enough to warrant cause for alarm or need of an ice axe.

Flowers are blooming in various ages of youth and age; Western pasque flowers, bear grass, glacier and avalanche lilies, heather, an occasional columbine and Mertensia (bluebells) at lower elevations. Mountain ash is prevalent; in fall the white flowers will transition to orange-red berries. A few marsh marigolds are popping up in boggy areas, especially around the lakes.

The main trail leads to the first of the two lakes; Yakima Peak rises above the lake bold and imposing. Quiet meadows encircle the lake mixed in with willow bogs. This time of year it is hard to reach the lakeshore; the meadows are soggy and fragile with grasses and plants just coming into bloom.

The second lake is harder to locate; it is well disguised by a web of fisherman and game trails. You’ll have to look a little harder to find the second lake; a dense, forested isthmus separates the lakes.

It took us a few tries to find the second lake but we were determined; I remembered a sandy area we’d named the “beach” on that first visit and wanted to see it again. We did find it but it wasn’t very beach-like in June; rather it was where a soggy meadow met the lakeshore. The lakeshore was pocked with elk and goat prints. In fact, we could smell elk as we approached the lake but didn’t see them.

We hiked back out without encountering anyone else on the trail. We stopped at the pass while my companion took a break as I followed an old trail along the ridge in an easterly direction toward Peak No. 6,468. I was tempted to climb the peak but hesitate to scramble alone so turned back once I reached the base. En route there are several easy rock-outcroppings with a stunning view of both lakes.

For the best outcropping with a view of the lakes: at the pass follow the easy path (right) – the viewpoint of the lakes is about 50 feet above the pass. That will be far enough for most hikers.

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