After looking forward to this backpacking weekend for months, the early August forecast delivered chance thunderstorms, rain, and general misery. Gone were my dreams of lofty alpine lakes, or finally exploring the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Instead, we tried to find a route that wouldn’t be miserable in the rain, reasonably safe in a thunderstorm, and the possibility to pop up to a high alpine lake if conditions were great (they were not great). Waptus Lake was beautiful in the dark and stormy weather. It was not my favorite August backpacking destination, but I can certainly see myself returning during the shoulder seasons.
We arrived at the trailhead at 9:30 on Saturday, and the parking area was nearly full. Given that it was fairly early on a Saturday morning, we were a little surprised but still found a space on the shoulder to park in. The rain began as we put on our gear, but it was light and warm, making everything feel a little humid.
After grabbing a permit, we started up the Waptus River trail. The Copper River Trail also departs from the trailhead, and it looked very inviting. Instead we turned to the right and began to climb the classic Salmon La Sac forest.
The trail continued up and down, shortly reaching an area that was affected by the Pollalie Ridge Fire in 2006. The burnt trees in the rain were rather eery, but beautiful, and it was heartening to see the new trees coming up below. With sparse trees, we caught our first glimpse of the valley. It continued to rain harder and we slowly made our way closer to the lake. About the time we reached the ford the rain stopped and we switched to river shoes for the crossing. This was one of the easiest fords I have ever done, though I doubt it would be as easy in June. The flow was fairly light, and the water warm. It was warm enough that we were able to stay in the middle of the river and enjoy the view and the cool water on our tired feet.
It continued to rain harder and we slowly made our way closer to the lake. At about the time we reached the horse ford the rain stopped and we switched to river shoes for the crossing. This was one of the easiest fords I have ever done, though I doubt it would be as easy in June. The flow was fairly light, and the water warm. In fact, it was warm enough that we were able to stay in the middle of the river and enjoy the view and water on our tired feet.
After the ford, it was a quick, flat walk to the lake. As we arrived at the lake, the clouds parted and we were left with dramatic, rugged peaks in the distance. The campsites all appeared to be claimed by 2:00, so we continued along the right side of the lake, trying to find a spot. Eventually, just past the turn-off to Spade Lake, we found a site right next to the trail that had good lake access. We decided to stay at Waptus instead of continuing to Spade Lake, given the forecast of rain for the next day.
As the sun was out, and the water was warm in the lake, we prepared to go swimming. I hate water entries that have a lot of mud and sticks, and much prefer a rocky jump. I chose to wade in the water rather than venture through the muck to get to the area deep enough to swim. Michael enjoyed swimming deeper and if you are a reasonable human being that does not despise mud bottoms and logs, you will probably enjoy it as well.
After relaxing lakeside, we made some ravioli. I forgot the pasta sauce and wine, so it was a little dry, but remembered the hot cocoa, so not all was lost. We enjoyed a sunset then went to sleep. It was a warm night and my down quilt was almost too warm for the conditions. It rained overnight and the forest creaked and groaned.
In the morning, the skies were dark and stormy. My five a.m. wake-up to capture the sunrise was a useless endeavor. The skies got moodier as the morning grew. A rainbow came out and disappeared several times as we ate breakfast and packed up camp. A doe visited our campsite as we were packing up, then sauntered up the trail.
It rained a bit off and on during our walk out, with warm sunny patches. With the misty skies, the green lichen seemed to glow. We stopped for lunch at some dramatic rapids and enjoyed a sunny break in the weather.
We scoped out campsites on our way back for returning for a 3-day trip to Spade and Venus lakes. When we went to look at a large campsite, we noticed a series of waterfalls in the distance. Using a small footpath to the river, it looked like the waterfalls were accessible by rock hopping and wading up the river. We dropped our packs, strapped on river shoes and made our way to the pool below the waterfall.
Luckily, the water was warm and the flow low enough that there was minimal danger. Much like the earlier ford, I imagine this route would be very different in early spring. There was a nice pool (without logs or muck!) that we swam at for awhile, before returning to the main trail. After the refreshing swim, the trail seemed to go fairly quickly, despite the dust. Soon, we neared the trailhead and headed back to Seattle.
Our lunch on Sunday had been a little sparse, so we stopped at Commonwealth on Snoqualmie pass for a beer and some burgers. It was delicious.