We decided try and escape the crowds in the Coast Mountains and head south of the border for the August long weekend.
We drove down to Sedro-Woolley in Friday morning, stopping for breakfast and pickup up a Northwest Forest Pass at the park office. We drove out to the trailhead, 37k along FS26. The trail follows the Suiattle River through old growth forest. There is are primitive campgrounds (pit toilets and decent trees for hanging food) at Canyon Creek (xxkm) and just before the junction with the Image Lake trail at xxkm. Both have water. There is a junction just after Canyon Creek which is only labelled Pacific Crest Trail north and south. Take the left hand, PCT northbound trail for Image Lake.
We camped at the second campground. There was no one around and we had a peaceful night in the forest.
The next day we hiked up to Image Lake. There is another campground part way up to the ridge, also with pit toilet and trees for food hanging. There is also a junction here – straight on is the PCT and left is Image Lake. Apparently there is also a a creek for water a little way down the PCT trail here. Not long after exiting the bridge the trail crests Miners Ridge. A left fork takes you to the historic Miners Ridge fire lookout. Russ, the volunteer who is manning the station for the summer, was kind enough to show us around. He is working on restoring the lookout. It is 80 years old and has the original interior and sighting device to accurately determine the location of fires once they are spotted, as well as the telephone. There used to be a phone line all the way up the valley – you can still see the housings for the wire on some trees on the trail! It was fascinating to have a look round.
After that we got set up at Image Lake, and had a look round the area. There were a few other people around but it was pretty quiet. The lake is full of salamanders! There has been a lot of work to restore the lake edge, apparently much of the replanting was done between 1970 and 1985 by women who manned the fire lookout in the summers. Previously, in the 1960s, the lake was so popular that there would often be 100-200 people camped there in the summer! Camping is not allowed by the lake anymore and the tent sites are on the south side looking towards Glacier Peak.
During the afternoon the clouds were gathering and there were a few showers. We went out between showers to get water and cook dinner. Not long after we ate, the heavens opened and there was hail and very heavy rain. The campsite was inundated and we spent about an hour diverting water away from the tent. The lightning was very close and it was quite the storm. It eased off enough for us to put out things away and get in the tent. The rain finally stopped around 2am.
In the morning it didn’t look too bad and all the water had drained. Russ came by to check on everyone. Apparently it was pretty exciting in the lookout and he spent quite a bit of time perched on his lightening stool!
We set off for a day hike to Cloudy Pass. The trail is lovely and passes through meadows caused by avalanches on steep slopes. It was very smoky which obscured what was would have been amazing views of Glacier Peak and the Suiattle River Valley. Part of the PCT was closed due to the fire and hikers were diverted via Cloudy Pass so we saw more people today. The Pass is beautiful and looks over to Lyman Lake. It was also really buggy and not very breezy. We stuck it out for a while and had a coffee before heading back to Image Lake. We took a short side trip along the trail towards Canyon Lake, which looks like a great day hike or overnight trip. We got back in time for Andy to swim in the lake and to enjoy a warm (if buggy!) evening with a beautiful sunset.
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