My shin splints are still in recovery mode after our trip to Lily Lake, which has meant many fun things like kayaking! and book reading on the beach! and lots of bike rides, indoor rock climbing, and rooftop beers. While I am enjoying all the outdoor activities Seattle has to offer, I can’t help but ache to be in the mountains with the comforting weight of a pack on my back. Doctor’s orders say no backpacking until July, so to bide my time I have looked over backpacking trips I have taken prior to this blog’s beginning and thought I would begin a new series documenting trails from my past.
This particular trip occurred in May 2015, during an extremely low-snow year (we were backpacking in the North Cascades in March…that kinda low). I found myself itching to get on the trail, but had a mandatory breakfast event on Saturday and a family party on Sunday, and the idea of a “sub-24” was born. Sub-24’s are backpacking trips that take less than 24 hours from doorstep to doorstep, allowing us to squeeze in amazing weekends even when there isn’t enough time for a “true epic”. These trips have allowed us to appreciate what is truly in our backyard and are accessed quickly, but still feel remote and wild.
I am a bit obsessive when it comes to planning backpacking weekends, and as a devoted weekend warrior, there are only so many weekends in a single summer. Sub-24’ers quiet the voice in my head that worries I am wasting a weekend, and that I will die of cabin fever soon (creepy the shining kind of cabin fever, not the Tumblr cabin affinity fever). It allows me to not ignore all social interactions that fall between Friday and Sunday night in the May through October. Our first backpacking trip to become a sub-24 was Malachite Lake.
Malachite lake is on the West Fork Foss River, off the trail from the more popular Copper Lake and Big Heart Lake. As Big Heart Lake is awesome, many people make a full weekend hiking the 8 miles in, which meant that we had Malachite lake completely to ourselves, even on a sunny summer day. It was a marvelous backpacking weekend that I almost gave up when I believed there wasn’t enough time left to get somewhere that felt remote and wild with a less than 24-hour span. I have never been so happy to be wrong.
We started at the trailhead around 4 pm and started our way up the trail. The views of the waterfall, composed of the outlet of Copper Lake, were fantastic. We knew we only had 4 miles to the lake, so even though we started late we were able to take our time and enjoy the lush foliage and gorgeous valley views. The trail climbs alongside a river, which was both beautiful and an excellent way to cool off.
When we arrived at Malachite Lake, we found that we were the only people sleeping at the lake. The views were incredible and we got to pick the best campsite of the bunch. Normally, we wouldn’t camp quite so close to the lake, but it was a well-established campsite, so I feel a little less guilty. We made sure to do all cooking and bathroom-ing farther away from the lake. Unfortunately, there was a fire pit next to our tent in the picture, made by a previous camper. Like many areas in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, fires are not allowed at this elevation, so we disassembled the fire ring and hope that future campers will follow leave no trace principles.
After staking our claim, we wandered to Copper Lake. The lake was certainly beautiful and larger than Malachite, but I prefer the striking cirque around Malachite to the long, meandering shoreline of Copper Lake. Copper Lake was exceptionally crowded, with each established campsite full. People had found unofficial campsites that the trail walked right through, and it was noisy and boisterous. I know some people enjoy the hustle and bustle and community that some of the busier trails invite, but it made us very glad for the supreme solitude one lake over.
Back at Malachite Lake, it was my first time using our camping stove and I took a triumphant selfie once I got the water boiling. Of course, as soon as I snapped a pic the pot fell off of the stove, we lost all the hot water and I had to start over from the beginning. Serves me right for my hubris. We fell asleep while it was still light out and were awoken at 5 am by a beautiful morning light on the cirque.
We packed up our gear and headed down the trail, allowing for a return to the trailhead by 11:00 am, even with a half hour stop to soak in the river. A two-hour drive later, and we were home 23 hours after we left our doorstep.