Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Road Trip: Mt Rainier, Snoqualmie Pass, Lake Chelan, North Cascades, WA

"On the road again"

I needed this road trip. I needed to get away, to see something new. I know I'm incredibly fortunate to be able to travel overnight. I knew there were risks traveling to Washington State given the coronavirus numbers, specifically in Wenatchee (65% of the states new cases at the end of July)... and I was planning to travel within 20 miles. Nevertheless, I decided to go anyway.

Until a day or two before the trip I'd only booked the two nights in Chelan and the Lady of the Lake day trip.

My goal was to avoid any major highways and cities. I knew I wanted to travel past Mt St Helens and Mt Rainier.

DAY ONE: Travel - Portland, OR to Packwood, WA

I got a late start from Portland. I kept procrastinating on packing my stuff but I knew I had a place to stay so I really didn't matter if I got there in the evening. It was important to ensure I had all I needed for the trip.

I5 to Woodland, passed three lakes/reservoirs (Merwin, Yale Swift). Then, NFD-25 to Randle, then NE to Packwood on Hwy 12.

NIGHT ONE: Mountain View Lodge

 Mountain View Lodge

The Mountain View Lodge was a cool spot, nice grounds, and decent room. I was glad to be on the road again. I ate my mediocre food and watched TV.

DAY TWO: Travel - Packwood, WA to Snoqualmie Pass, WA

In the morning I found a route off Hwy 12 to poke around the forest and meander my way north.

It starts with Skate Creek Road S to NF-52. My original route took me to a locked gate into Mt Rainier Nat'l Forest.

I took the long way around and found a short 9 mi drive up a Forest Road #84 to the High Rock Lookout. I didn't actually know it was Fire Lookout facility so I drove a ways past the 8.5 miles to a view of Mt Rainier, before the actual short trail to Lookout. (I'll have to go back again).

I continued into the park and up to the Paradise Lodge. There were some amazing vantage points to view the mountain up close. When I got up to the lodge it was pretty busy with people so I didn't even get out. I just looked at the maps & found the route to Hwy 410.

It took me passed Reflection Lake which hold special meaning. Here's what I wrote on IG:

"I’m fairly certain this is one of the spots my neighbor when I was a kid & venerable photographer, Irving Haines, frequented. He and his wife Martha would travel up from San Diego and stay at the Paradise Lodge. I’m not sure how much I’ve embellished the story over the years but he was an old school photographer. They’d spend a week at the lodge and he’d only shoot 1-2 rolls of film. (I’m guessing this was 1970s or earlier as he was an octogenarian by the time I knew him.)
They’d wait at Reflection Lake for the perfect conditions: light, shadows, stillness of the water. But it wasn’t until he was back home and developed the film that he got to see the photos. Talk about delayed gratification but also the patience of a consummate professional.

I made my way to Hwy 410 and beyond. I continued up to I-90 and ultimately to Snoqualmie Pass.

NIGHT TWO: Summit Inn

I looked at the food options for dinner when I got to my room and decided to drive 25min back to North Bend for teriyaki plate. When I got to the area I topped off my gas tank and found the strip mall with the teriyaki joint. I was not impressed and bailed and drove 25min back Snoqu
almie Pass.

I ended up having a great salmon burger & salad from The Commonwealth.

The Summit Inn is pretty dated. It must have been cool back in the day but in July 2020, it feels run down. I questioned the linens, the TV remote and other surfaces. I rearranged the furniture so I could eat. I didn't sanitize but I made sure to avoid touching anything then my face or other parts of my body.

DAY THREE: Layover & Hike - Snoqualmie Pass, WA

I purposefully planned this as a layover day so I could hike. I checked out the trails on my phone and settled for the closest trailhead. I decided on Kendall Katwalk. What a spectacular hike! holy shit! A couple heading back down told me that I'd reach a point on the trail when the freeway noise from I-90 was miraculously disappear... and they were right! I found myself in a gorgeous trail in the forest and across some rock/boulder fields, going up, up, up. More jagged peaks formed a semi-circle. I was driven to keep going up to see more amazing views. I passed many hikers and virtually all of them practiced social distancing and covered their mouths and noses. Just before I reached the Katwalk I chatted with a forest ranger who was carrying a shovel to ensure no one at the lake campground ahead didn't have campfires. She thanked me for filling out my hiker card at the bottom. I saw here again as I started my journey back down and she wished me well and to have a great rest of my hike. It made me smile.


I was so exhausted when I reached my car. It felt so good to take off my boots and put on my sandals. My knees held out on the descent and kept my toe pain at bay.

I took a quick drive to Lost Lake just behind Keechelus Lake. I knew the restaurants closed at 8pm so I kept it short. I let a Toyota prod me to drive through the potholes faster than was comfortable but was still appropriately cautious.

I decided on pizza & salad for dinner at Pie for the People NW. The pizza was really good but the greek salad was amazing! I finished a salad-for-two. Mmmm.

DAY FOUR: Travel - Snoqualmie Pass, WA to Chelan Lake, WA

Shit show in Leavenworth, incident with tailgater, :( crowds at the lake
I get sandwich supplies at Safeway and drove up to Echo Ridge Recreation Area Trailheads.

Despite the crowded beaches, the area around the Riverwalk Inn was perfect and quiet. I walked around and noticed few people wearing masks. No wonder nearby Wenatchee is a Covid-19 hotspot.

NIGHT FOUR: Riverwalk Inn

wandered around until dusk. reminded me of lake isabella.

DAY FIVE: Layover & Hike - Chelan Lake, WA & Methow, WA

I knew when I arrived at Lake Chelan yesterday that there was no way I was going on that tour boat. Unfortunately I'd already missed the deadline to cancel the reservation and get a refund the previous day. I'd been hiking then.

The weather was gorgeous and not very hot when I got my start. It was a beautiful drive along Hwy 97 and the Columbia River. I stopped at the Wells Dam Rest Area And Information Center and snapped a couple photos.

I drove passed the turn off for Hwy 153 to top off the gas tank in Pateros. This short drive to the Gold Creek Road turnoff was a preview of my drive along the Scenic Byway the following day. At the beginning of Gold Creek Road I passed some local residents who waves and smiled. Definitely a good sign. As I wound my way up the road it turned to gravel/dirt. I was grinning ear to ear. This is what I got the Jeep for. It took about an hour to make it up to the top.

I passed a couple of cars coming down but I was not prepared for the parking lot to be nearly full. I found a spot and parked. I geared up and started the day's journey. The parking lot serves mountain bikers, horse riders and hikers. The trail to Crater Lake, WA is for hikers and horses.

The trail to the lake was 4 miles shorter than my hike to Kendall Katwalk but nearly the same elevation gain. As badass as I was feeling, seeing kids with their parents on the trail put things in perspective but also gave me some motivation (if they can do it, so can I).

It's funny. I wanted the solitude but also some reassurance that I wasn't really alone (if something were to happen). Virtually everyone I passed did not have a face mask but respected the social distancing, a contrast to my interactions with people on the Katwalk trail.

When I got the horse camp at the lake, I still didn't realize I'd reached the lake. There forest went right up the shore and the water was very still. There was a small trail around the lake but it wasn't super obvious. I found a path to the water and snapped some photos.

The mosquitoes and biting flies were out in force. I had a mosquito net for my head but I was getting stung. I saw an outcropping of rocks on the shore across the lake and started to make my way over there. It was already 3 pm and I had another 2+ hours back down to the trailhead.

I decided to have my lunch at an overlook about 20min back down the trail. I expected to hear or see other hikers at the lake but it seemed like I was alone.

At the outcrop I took off my top layers to dry them on a big rock. I was still get harassed by the insects so I quickly ate my sandwich and geared back up.

About a hour from the lake I passed a mom and her two young daughters. It was at the bottom of all the steep switchbacks and rapid elevation gain. They asked how much further. I said an hour and went on my way.

I remembered crossing a bridge and kept thinking "when I get to the bridge, I'll stretch and drink some water". I'd find it much further down the trail. "Where is the confounding bridge?" (line from Led Zeppelin's song "The Crunge" from Houses of the Holy. I keep reciting the lyrics.

I finally reached the trail junction and let a guy on a mountain bike go ahead. 20 mins later I'd reached the parking lot. Most of the cars were gone so I'm guessing most of them took the Eagle Lakes trail. (Next time :) I felt accomplished and tired.

I got in the Jeep and put it on 4wd. I was euphoric on the way down, playing Beth Orton's Central Reservation. I passed a couple of vehicles. Luckily one of the times, I had room to completely pull off to let a big truck and horse trailer by. Right behind them was a middle aged woman and older man in a town car. I'm thinking I'm badass in my 4WD Jeep with 2" lift and fancy 33" tires and here are these people in town car. LOL. Reality check.

NIGHT FIVE: Riverwalk Inn

I ordered dinner from a nearby bar (takeout) and got overpriced tacos and a big salad. The pizza joint across from the Riverwalk Inn was closed according to Google. I guess I should have looked out the window or called. Oops. 6 and one half dozen of the other.

DAY SIX: Travel - Chelan Lake, WA to Concrete, WA

Contrast: transition from Pateros (hot, desert) to rugged mountains @ Washington Pass and Ross and Diablo Lakes.

Hike at Diablo Lake

NIGHT SIX: Cascade Mountain Suites - Mt. Baker Hotel

weird check in and car/parking incident in Concrete

meal at nearby restaurant.

DAY SEVEN: Travel - Concrete, WA to Portland, OR

Trip down Mountain Loop Highway. Scouting for future trip.

Couldn't get a ferry reservation from Whidbey Island to "mainland" on the day or time I wanted, nor was there any available camping on the island or a reasonable room rate so I opted to skip the ocean/island route home. The Mountain Loop Hwy was serendipitous discovery and I was able to stay away from major highways, zigzag my way through the state, and continue the "rugged mountain" theme of the trip.

no touchy (branches)
fellas (ants), holmes/homie (insects),