Photo Friday: Alpine Lakes Part 2

Last week I shared photos from the first two days of this 8-day, 65-mile excursion. Today we're going to enjoy one last clear day, then head into the smoke that wreathed the middle three days of the trip.

Day 3: Dayhike

After my killer long second day, I was happy to be in place for a layover day, with plans to either hike up Mt. Daniel (pretty ambitious) or visit Circle Lake. But first I had to enjoy the fantastic morning light.

Light filters between cloud layers to illuminate The Citadel.

The waters of Peggys Pond were calm, a condition that didn't last.

Despite taking my time over photos and breakfast, I was headed out shortly after 8. By then even in our sheltered nook the breeze had picked up considerably.
Clouds blowing over the top of Cathedral Peak

Out of curiosity, I began by following the signs that pointed to a backcountry toilet. It took me a ways off my route, and I calculated later that the loo was more than 1/3 mile from the pond. Well clear of any risk of contamination, but perhaps a bit far to be practical? Eventually I returned to my route.

Looking up to or towards the summit of Mt. Daniel. I'm going to climb pretty much straight up the blob on the left.

By the time I got through the trees and onto the lowest slopes of the mountain, the wind was howling. It quickly became evident that I didn't want to try for the summit, even if my legs hadn't needed the rest: the wind was just too miserable. Though I later encountered people going up or coming down; I don't know how far any of them went. The wind did die down some later on.
Cowering between a dead tree and a boulder to take a break.

Instead of the summit, I headed for Circle Lake, which I had heard was pretty. It also took me to the sheltered side of the mountain. Have to say, it lived up to reports, though the wind was blowing over the lake and down the mountain, so while much of the hike over there was sheltered and pleasant, hanging out at the lake was a little uncomfortable. I talked to a couple who had camped there and pretty much spent the night holding their tent down.

Most of the way around, Circle Lake has no shore access. I enjoyed it for a time from the high slopes where I first saw it.

Eventually I followed the trail on down to the outlet stream and the one point where you can access water easily.

Camp sites are down there and a bit exposed.

At the outlet

After lunch and poking around a bit, I headed back to camp. The wind was still blowing, and I figured it was nap time.
Peggy's Pond and Cathedral Peak

As it turned out, a party of 4 men and 2 teen boys moved in right next to my camp, so I spent part of the afternoon relocating to a more peaceful spot. I didn't quite get that right, either, as it was right on one of the access trails, but only one party came through after I set up.

Day 4: Peggy's Pond to Waptus Creek

The next morning conditions began to change (again), but at first it wasn't obvious to me. Again the early morning calm offered some good reflections, though I might have paid more attention to the color of the light.

Ready for breakfast

It wasn't until I started down the trail and got some longer views and a bit of perspective that I realized that the longer views were gone. Smoke had moved in overnight. At higher altitudes it wasn't so bad, and I hadn't been smelling it. That changed as I dropped.

Passing Deep Lake, where smoke dimmed Mt. Daniel. Peggy's Pond is in the low spot on the ridge to the right of center.

Once past Deep Lake, the day's hike was in the trees, in the smoke, and sadly short of water for several miles. I made camp in mid-afternoon at Waptus Creek, as far as I could go without committing to either a 14+ mile day or a dry camp. Neither option appealed.

Smoke-light reflected in the creek.

Day 5: Waptus Lake to no-name tarn

The day began with a 3000' climb up from Waptus creek to the crest for which the PCT is named. If you are imagining the PCT as a 2600-mile ridge walk, think again. There is a LOT of up and down in and out of river valleys.

Looking down on Waptus Lake, barely visible as an orange glint far below a dim sun.

Topping out that climb put me back in the barely-sub-alpine lands I prefer. Air quality was also a little better at higher altitudes, as smoke tends to settle in valley bottoms.
The first reliable water is a pair of tarns in an area where camping is not permitted.

Continuing on, I began to get tantalizing glimpses of some high and jagged peaks--Chimney Rock and Lemah Mountain. These peaks, along with Mt. Daniel, have most of the remaining glaciers in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
You can just see the Chimney Glacier through the trees below the jagged summits.

Chimney Rock and behind, Overcoat Peak with Overcoat Glacier.

There is one main viable campsite along here, before you drop to Lemah Meadows, a long descent I didn't care to do just then for either physical or aesthetic reasons. I took a very early stop and snagged the prime campsite at the tarn.
My camp is on the high point in the middle, with views of both the pond and the mountains. I wandered around the tarn to catch the sunset.

At this point in my trip I admit to wondering if I should take one of the possible exits the next day. The difficulty of getting in touch with my daughter for a revised pickup argued against that, and even more, I just didn't want to quit. I was clinging to the conviction that the wind would shift; scuttlebutt on the trail had provided me with a pretty good idea of the source of the smoke. 

It is fascinating how news travels on the trail. Someone gets word somehow that the trail is closed at point X or Y and each person passes that info along. If you've ever played the game "Telephone" you can guess how reliable all this is (though the trail was, in fact, closed north of Stevens Pass due to at least one and possibly two fires). I only knew for sure that the trail was open to Snoqualmie Pass, where I was headed.

I continued.


Next: On to Spectacle Lake, and clearing skies!

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2023
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  1. Replies
    1. :D Come along next week for the next leg! As for me, I'm heading home today and staying there for a while, I hope.

  2. I have often wondered about those lakes with no real access, and if a person could use a climbers ledge to sleep on, hanging from the rocks above the water.

    1. Well, you maybe could. But I don't think I would want to. Circle Lake was nice because there actually was water access, but based on the people who'd camped there, I'd want a calm night! I'm also not sure how happy I would be hauling a full pack up the "trail" to the lake.

  3. Still getting the hang of the website 🤪— totally worth it for the story and pictures!


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