7 Breathtaking Days in the Winds

Janice

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Now I know why so many of you rave about the Winds! This trip was breathtaking in so many ways - jaw-dropping eye-candy plus challenging hiking that made me huff and puff more than I would like. I have never seen so many lakes in my life. We had a fabulous trip - gorgeous scenery, great weather (well, that includes 2 hailstorms which were quite exciting), almost no bugs (never used our bug spray), almost no crowds, and smoke-free skies most of the time. We will be back!

Our friend who has experience in the Winds planned a wonderful route; it was a lollipop with a short stick: Elkhart - Seneca Lake - Upper Jean Lake - Knapsack Col - Titcomb - Indian Basin - Tommy Lake - Elkhart

Day 1 - We started at Elkhart Park and enjoyed the beautiful lakes along the way - Barbara, Hobbs, and so many others. IMG_5530.jpg

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We got our tents set up above Seneca Lake just before storm #1 arrived.
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After the storm, the sky cleared - at least until later that night...
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There was a tremendous storm in the middle of the night. I heard a rush of wind approach from far away until its full force was upon us - I have never experienced this before. Our tent stayed dry. :)

Day 2 - Seneca Lake to Upper Jean Lake

I lost track of which lake was which - so many to enjoy!
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Fremont Crossing
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We got our rain gear on, covered our packs, and waited out the first hailstorm by a boulder above Lower Jean Lake. Brrr!!!
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We set up our tents near Upper Jean Lake and stayed dry during the second hailstorm of the day... (view from inside our tent)
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Day 3 - Upper Jean Lake to the east side of Knapsack Col via Peak Lake - this was a big day!

Loved seeing the sun finally peek out from behind the mountain!
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Starting to head down to Peak Lake
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I tried not to take too long photographing the wildflowers!
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Gorgeous Peak LakeIMG_5716.jpg

Some of us were a bit intimidated by this part - the trail around Peak Lake was sketchy with loose scree close to the edge...
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The long climb up toward Knapsack Col. We were excited to see the headwaters of the Green River (not shown in this photo but nearby).
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This was so tiring for me! Our friend was up ahead in the green shirt. IMG_5746.jpg

Made it to the top! But now we have to get safely down. Yikes! IMG_5760.jpg

Love seeing the glacier close up.
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Later that night, after this beautiful scene, I watched the planets and stars appear in the sky one-by-one. I was thrilled to see shooting stars, too. Happiness.
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Day 4 - Knapsack Col to Titcomb Basin (plus hike from campsite up to Mistake Lake)

Look at our tiny tents below Mt. Helen!
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Titcomb
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Purple Monkey Flower
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Fun to camp below Fremont Peak, which we had seen from a distance for so long.
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It was definitely not a mistake to head up to Mistake Lake - I loved this! In this photo, it's the lake on the right, with Titcomb Lake on the left (but actually way down below).
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I only saw these flowers (star gentian) at Mistake Lake.
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Day 5 - Titcomb Basin to Indian Basin (plus hike up to Fremont Saddle)

This was another big day. After setting up camp in Indian Basin, we went up up up to Fremont Saddle. I loved the views, but I get so tired on big uphills!

View behind us as we headed toward Indian Basin
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In Indian Basin, I loved the different colors and designs in the lake based on water depth.
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Views from Fremont Saddle
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Then we went up a little higher and loved this view into both basins, Titcomb and Indian.
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Back in camp, I loved this reflection of the setting sun lighting up only bits of Fremont and Jackson Peaks.
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Day 6 - Indian Basin to Tommy Lake via Lester Pass

Such a peaceful way to start the day...
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There were SO many people at Island Lake. I am very thankful to our friend for planning a route where we passed by this area quickly and didn't camp here.
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As we approached Lester Pass, we loved the views ahead and behind us.
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Tommy Lake was a beautiful place to camp. We lucked out with an incredible sunset that night!
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Day 7 - final day - Tommy Lake to Elkhart Park via Pole Creek Trail

Yet more beautiful lakes!
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Eklund Lake, with its scenery in the background, was stunning!
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I found it fascinating that from Photographer's Point you see one only lake, and if you didn't venture further you wouldn't realize how many hundreds of lakes are hidden amidst the remarkable terrain. What a special place this is!
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Great report! Glad you had great conditions. Wouldn't be the Winds without at least a little hail thrown in!
 
Incredible photos!
What percentage of this was off-trail? How was the literal wind? Aside from Island Lake, how many groups did you see per day?
 
Incredible photos!
What percentage of this was off-trail? How was the literal wind? Aside from Island Lake, how many groups did you see per day?
Maybe 15% was off trail - Day 3 around Peak Lake and then up and down Knapsack Col; Day 4 from where we camped to where the Titcomb Basin Trail starts. But there were use/social trails most of the way. Also, we were off trail going up to Mistake Lake and Fremont Saddle.

The wind was fierce at times! We tried to find sheltered areas to camp and sometimes succeeded, but there was a big gust on Day 4 that did some damage to each of our tents.

Other than Island Lake and the trail to and from Photographer's Point, we saw maybe 5-10 groups per day. On half the nights, we camped with no other groups anywhere nearby, and half the nights there was one other group either nearby or visible way off in the distance.
 
Very nice! I think the Fremont Saddle has one of the finest panoramic views I have ever seen. I'm impressed that you guys did Knapsack, as I've heard that's tough. Did it have much snow/ice?

I have a week off starting a week from now, and I REALLY want to head up that way but am a little scared of the smoke/haze so I may head south instead. Which days were you there? I've been eyeing the smoke map on fire.airnow.gov, but I have a hard time gauging what that means in terms of visibility of the mountains.
 
It's funny about Knapsack - on Days 1 and 2 we sometimes chatted with other hikers about our routes, and they often expressed surprise (Oh! Wow! - with big eyes) when they heard we were doing Knapsack. My husband and I were a bit concerned! We wouldn't have done it if we hadn't been with our friend who had previously been there and has plenty of off-trail experience in the Winds from other trips. That morning we talked to a few hikers coming down from the pass and they let us know it would be ok. It had no snow/ice on the west side, and not too much on the east side. I guess the low snow year helped in this situation. One person in our group was very uncomfortable with the descent. That didn't bother me, but the ascent was quite long and tiring!

Regarding the smoke/haze, we really lucked out. Ahead of time, I was obsessively checking the smoke map and wondered if we should go somewhere else. It ended up being a bit hazy on Aug. 5 (except for blue skies following the afternoon storm), Aug. 6 following a big storm that blew in from the north, the morning of Aug. 7, and then very clear the rest of the time (through Aug. 11), except for occasional times when it seemed hazy along the horizon. You can see from my photos that it was quite clear most of the time!
 
5 to 10 groups....... That is crowded
 
5 to 10 groups....... That is crowded
In my mind, "group" could mean one person solo (the nice young man from Germany thru-hiking the CDT), a pair (including the two Forest Service workers who thankfully were cutting down deadfall), a trio, group of 6 (I loved the family in Indian Basin with grandma, grandpa, mom, dad, son, and daughter all looking spry and fit!), etc. There were times when we went for hours without seeing anyone. To me, this did not feel crowded! I guess "crowdedness" is relative to one's prior experiences...
 
Perspective is everything. For me not crowded is maybe one or two in a week. Glad to here your trip was good cause I know you were worried...
 
Perspective is everything. For me not crowded is maybe one or two in a week. Glad to here your trip was good cause I know you were worried...
Thanks so much - the trip could not have been better!!!
 
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Wow- cool! You had an awesome trip, lots of beautiful views. The Star Gentian is gorgeous too. Glad you both liked the Food for the Sole meals!
Have been collecting Jewelweed seeds from the yard for you this week, will PM you.
 
Wow- cool! You had an awesome trip, lots of beautiful views. The Star Gentian is gorgeous too. Glad you both liked the Food for the Sole meals!
Have been collecting Jewelweed seeds from the yard for you this week, will PM you.
Thanks so much!
 
That's awesome! Glad everything went that well for y'all! Beautiful photos! :thumbsup: :thumbsup:
 
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