I remember the moment the sun pushed through the trees. The warm tendrils wrapped around me like a secret and the fatigue of a long week washed away. I imagined lying in the warm duff, dank and dark beneath the ferns, and staying until the snow melted and the ease of summer returned. Alas, we were on a mission to get to Granite Lakes, and we continued on through a land that held onto winter with both fists.
The path to Granite Lakes started with muddy switchbacks and graduated to a long, snowy valley walk. Huffing and puffing up the first section of the trail reminded me of how much conditioning we still need to do before backpacking season, while the lovely views and an idyllic, mostly flat snow walk was a generous reward. If all of our conditioning hikes look like this, it is going to be a very good spring.
We arrived to a mostly empty trailhead at 9:00, after a short 50 minute drive. After leisurely tying up our hiking boots and shouldering our packs, we set out on the gravel path. Excited for a route that didn’t start in snow, we hurried up the trail. Switchbacks flew by and before long I was gasping for air. We have been taking it kind of easy this winter, but after planning our summer backpacking trips, I realized we were going to start doing some conditioning hikes soon. Living across the street from multiple amazing ice cream parlors is wonderful for so many reasons but also kind of terrible.
The valley was filled with fog, but sun pushed through occasionally as we dipped in and out of the forest. The leaves were dripping with a damp and persistent moss that had me stopping to ogle about every 30 feet. Meanwhile, a tumbling creek below provided a lovely auditory companion. After crossing the junction with the Granite Creek Connecter, we began to see small levels of snow. It continued to build and after about 2 miles we put on microspikes. The trail widened into an old logging road and opened up to lovely views down the valley.
While the first section was fairly steep, as we pushed farther back into the valley the terrain leveled out. Before too long we reached the junction for Granite Lakes and Thompson Lake. We had hoped to push up to Thompson Point, but given that I was still sick, we decided to stop at Granite Lakes and save Thompson Point for a later date.
We paralleled lower Granite Lake as the snowy trail continued up the valley. A few side trails spun off, leading to the lakeside, but we decided to continue on, hoping for a view with the lake and overhead peaks. We were in luck, before too long a viewpoint emerged and we stopped for lunch.
As we made our way back down, it began to snow very softly. Light snow drops, almost too light to land filled the sky. It was so delicate compared to the heavy, wet drops we have had recently that it felt like the perfect end to a spring hike.