Monday, August 31, 2009

Snow Lake, August 28, 2009

Snow Lake (Alpine Lakes) August 28

Since just about every hiker in the Pacific Northwest has been to Snow Lake this report will be brief. It may be the most popular, most-often visited trail in Washington and is justifiably so. Where else can one find such a beautiful trail only an hour away from Seattle?

That being said we were dismayed to find the trailhead toilet at the Snow Lake trailhead in such disarray and so filthy we could not bear to use it. We understand that land management agencies have had money and staff slashed to the bone but to abandon this privy seems “overkill”. This is a trail that is hiked on a regular basis by many; it is the first “serious” trail a new hiker may undertake, the first trail a visitor from another state is apt to visit (the trail is heralded in all forms of media past and present).

It is not only the land management agencies at fault; they did not leave the fetid piles of trash inside to be discovered by unwary visitors – though the odor as one approaches may suggest an alternate place to “go” (such as nearby vegetation – how’s that for keeping the wilderness pure?). For the time being we suggest stopping at “Travelers Rest” at Snoqualmie Pass before parking at the trailhead (just to be on the safe side).

As for us, we “passed” on using the outhouse and warned others who were approaching the trailhead.

The trail is in good condition, the vegetation poised between summer and fall. There are too few flowers to call it Summer; not enough fall color yet to call it Fall. Sadly, much of the vegetation that would turn brilliant color in fall has simply died due to lack of rain. Leaves that should be red and gold may never get brighter than “brown”. The berries are still plentiful, especially on the “old” trail to the lake.

At the trail junction for the Source Lake “overlook” and Snow Lake, we continued toward the Source Lake overlook. Even if you are not hiking the “old” trail to the lake this is a pleasant stretch of trail where you may find (and enjoy) some solitude. You may run into a climber or two heading for – or back – from the Tooth or other airy goals. Perhaps even another hiker (just like you) who also prefers avoiding crowds.

The “old” trail begins above the overlook on a sketchy path (or two) up a steep, rubble-strewn hillside held together by loose rocks and scraps of vegetation. If in doubt, look for a cairn (you are aiming for a more discernible path below the “waterfall”). As for that waterfall, in summer it is merely a trickle but you’ll know soon enough if you’ve scrambled too high.

We went a little too high on the scrabble path but memory served me well; we descended a bit and spotted the old trail just where it should be – “under” the waterfall (now mostly damp boulders).

From there the old trail is relatively easy to follow through patches of vegetation, mountain ash, evergreens, small meadows (some even sporting gentians!) to the ridge where the regular trail climbs to a pass before it drops to Snow Lake. However, the old trail drops a little below the pass (below “lunch rock”) where it meets the regular trail. This time of year there are no difficulties of any kind on the trail.

Once on the regular trail we hiked down to Snow Lake and took a few photographs (it’s hard to get a poor picture of Snow Lake on a nice day). We stopped at the chimney of the old cabin where part of a wall still stands; surrounded by blazing fireweed still in bloom. We followed the lakeshore trail partway around the lake; not surprised to find most “prime” viewing spots already “taken” (even on a weekday).

From the lake we hiked the regular trail back to the trailhead, stopping at the privy to see if anyone had stopped by to clean it up.


No comments:

Post a Comment