Two Popular Lake Basins in the Cascades


Life really is better Here
Apr 20, 2013
This year's trip to the Cascades continues.
The first trip the days before can be found here.
This report is photo heavy, and the PNW wetted out my humor perhaps!

This trip in particular was high on the list after a trip the year previous on a different shoulder of Mount Daniel.
That report from last year can be found here .

Both basins we visited are popular places. Still, we were both intrigued, and we knew our luck was best if we started out on a Monday or Tuesday. With some slightly bad weather, and colder weather on the forecast, it ended up being just about perfect. This trip was never about laying down miles, or linking places together off-trail. It was straightforward miles with Cascade climbs and time to just chill and enjoy the scenery.
Stats and tracking are not really my thing. We hiked some miles each way and climbed thousands of feet.

Let's begin:
After a few days in Rainier, I woke up with my knees not loving me, but my heart and mind excited to get back on the trail. We had a quick breakfast and were on the road before traffic got bad. Up over the pass and on down the other side and through Roslyn. The leaves and colors were bright and catching the early morning light. It was wonderful.
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We arrived at a trailhead that was not even 1/4 full. Indications were that we had timed it right.
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The first miles gave way easily as we walked under the shadows of Daniel and the other mountain slopes along Lake Hysop. The climb up the first pass barely caused us to remove our extra layers. We were completing a Y-shaped route, so when we hit the junction, we dropped down the trail a little bit, ate lunch and bear canistered as much food as possible for the second portion of the trip.
With our bags a little bit lighter, we soon joined the PCT only to break off and start the easiest part of the whole day.
The colors along this portion were wonderful, even if they were muted by the constant overcast clouds and drizzly fog.

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Eventually down we went, through a beautifully autumn-colored, misty bowl surrounded by colorful slopes, and then it was time to climb once again. The climb was not bad. The previous days and the previous trip to the Cascades had made such climbs familiar to me.
We continued past a fork and arrived to the large lake and found ourselves alone. We knew there was a group of 3 ahead of us with the same final destination, but in spite of our hopes, they had not stopped here.
The lakes name seemed a misnomer, there were no Marmots! At least in the rain.

It sprinkled and misted on us. The trail around the lake was a slippery, unpleasant up and down and up and down again shizzy kind of trail.
The color of the lake and the misty mountains with the autumn colors were pleasant.

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The climb up and out was not pleasant.
Steep, slick and quite a bit of work to add onto the end of a long day with legs still tired from the few days before.
My friend swore at me a few times. He was hangry and tired. I was hangry, but I had hope that whatever sacrifice we made today would be worth it.

We had purchased ultralight umbrellas, originally for Rainier's forecast, but they had gone unused.

The umbrellas were useful now as I climbed ahead, twirled my umbrella, sang and danced to a few lines of Mary Poppins to brighten the mood.
(I was a bit desperate... singing I can do a little, dancing I cannot do anything worthwhile)
Chim-chimeny and we kept climbing into the rain and the clouds.
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Onward and upward.

It really was not that bad. Brief spells of singing and dancing, staying out of reach of my friend's swinging umbrella trying to stop the madness, and soon we were up totally into the socked in basin and lake.

The three younger guys were there already. We waved hello. The sun was setting and we moved toward the only spot that looked large enough for the Tangerine Tipi. We set her up in the misting rain, strung a tarp between some other trees that clung to a cliff above the lake, and we settled in for dinner.
I think this night was Peak Refuel Sweet Pork Burritos on good flour tortillas, pepperjack cheese, cholula hot sauce... and for desert, I broke out the circus peanuts.


During dinner and dessert a particularly brazen mouse ran across our feet a few times.
In the dark and misting rain I gathered everything into the ursack, topped it with my cup turned upside down and walked a little ways to a different set of trees not near any campsite to try and keep it from the obvious tiny-bear rodent pressure.
It was still early, but it was dark and raining, so we moved into the tipi.
After a little while my friend produced a little ziplock bag with a couple fruit bars and his dry crystal toothpaste.
"You could take it and put it with the food, or set it outside, or whatever."
The wind howled a bit and it rained harder.
"Alright, well, I will seal it and set it here between us."
I fell asleep fast.
In the morning he told me, "That mouse was pretty bold. It ran up the mesh of the tent a couple of times last night."
I looked around, nothing was chewed or out of place.
"Looks like we were lucky," I said.
A little while later my friend picked up his ziplock bag.
The corner was chewed and dry toothpaste spilled out onto the floor.
A quick investigation showed the small hole the mouse had chewed and luckily entered and exited from.
Lucky indeed that it did not decide to nest or chew on anything else.
The mouse must have been pro-gingivitis, cuz one taste of the toothpaste and it did not bother anything else.

In the cold mist, we wandered a little.
The others had already packed and left. Their loss.
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The rain continued and we were socked in with barely any light until after lunch.
Then it lifted just a little more.
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We had a very lazy day. The original plan had been to go up to Pea Soup and Dip Top, but considering things like the rain, my knees, the pain of the day before, and all the stress of just getting work done before the trip, had caught up to me. I read and slept.

Then later in the afternoon, it was lighter outside. The rain had not stopped, but I looked out to crepuscular rays on the lake, and water droplets on the pine needles glistening like jewels.
The lakes Jade color or Turquoise or Aquamarine or Crest Toothpaste-ish was wonderful, no matter the light.
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The show continued on and off for some time. So you will see several pictures.
Sorry, not sorry.
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Eventually we were socked in again, and I made a trip up to the scenic Loo.
There's nothing like sitting bare-cheeked in the cold on a moist, wooden surface as you get drizzled on :)

It was misting again, so we broke out our dinner and snacks. Early, just in case...
The just in case happened and some blue sky appeared at times, only to be covered by waves of swirling clouds.
It was great.
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The colors of the lake and the surrounding peaks changed and glistened in the sun.
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The autumn colors were about as bright as they could possibly be.
I quoted "Skittle colors- outlawed by the state of California".
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The sun started setting, lighting up the rising clouds and fog.
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So many views that I feel are worth sharing. Pretty spectacular.
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And the colors turned golden first.
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The clouds thinned out and it got even better as they raced up from the drainage going into Necklace Valley.

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It only lasted a few minutes, and as the pinks and purples settled in, I found one composition that I really liked.
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And then it was over. Thicker clouds blocked the remaining sunset and it was back to bed. Reading and listening to the stillness at first, and then some Radical Face when I woke up at 430am.

We woke up the next morning. Socked in again and in a drizzle.

The Tangerine Tipi was especially heavy and wet, so I packed it on the outside of the pack and we dropped back down the steep climb. The colors were still beautiful.


We left the second lake, dropped down and then climbed back up, making good time on rested legs.
Colors everywhere... Skittles, M&Ms, tic-tacs, almost garish. We were walking once again in a land where Autumn had tossed color everywhere.

The sun tried to break through at times.


I turned a corner and felt that sinking suspicion. I looked over and there were a few does looking at us.


It did not take long before we were back at the stashed bear canister. We traded out food for trash and dropped a few extra things, and then re-cached the canister.
It was time to climb.

The climb was a bit more spurty than we had thought it would be. It did not take too much out of us, and given the clouds and mist, it was not hot or unpleasant.
We passed a single group on their way down who said they were the only ones in that direction besides a spry older gentleman at the lower lake.
We arrived at said lake and sat down to look at the final climb ahead of us and to get some calories.
The spry gentleman came over and we chatted for a while. He was trying to decide on whether he was climbing up that afternoon, or the next day.
Eventually we parted ways and hit the climb up into the thicker clouds.
The climb was a mix of fun and butt-kicking. Solid granite and a trail that we only lost once, although going down we found a few easier bits. The granite was a lot like slickrock, but still by the last push, we were tired.

We passed a nice, lonely larch, golden even in the dense fog.

We arrived at the saddle of the basin. There was nothing to see but fog. We dropped down and caught a few glimpses of water, but the clouds were thickening and the rain was en route. I had marked a few places that looked trammeled in google earth, but otherwise at times we couldn't see more than fifty feet ahead of us and so we moved to where we thought would be best.

After dropping our packs and scouting around, we took the most straight-forward option, again one of the few sites that were flat enough to accommodate the Tangerine Tipi, and we got her pitched up just as the rain started and the wind began to blow.

Dinner was forgettable, something Mountain House and eaten with numb fingers and my stomach upset from having eaten too little and hiking too much. I drank enough water and sat outside until the rain started in earnest. The long nights of autumn had begun and 11 hours in a sleeping bag is fine, but 12 or more... eek!

The wind howled, but mostly slipped around us, rarely right on us.
Near dawn, everything was perfectly still and I reached up and touched the tent. Totally dry. I unzipped and the clouds were all gone.
We climbed back up to the saddle for some shots of Venus' belt and sunrise, and then returned back to camp.
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good views
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I love the deep cut in the mountain side, and there were a few waterfalls flowing in that same little valley too.
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A common view and photo from this basin.
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We wandered that afternoon over to the Granite pots. We found a couple of larches on the way.
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A larch near the lake.
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We also found the promise of other larches, just on the horizon.RCM04545-PNW 2023-231005-47.jpg

Wandering, taking it easy, and just enjoying it was the name of the game for this leg of the trip. The trip the year before we had not included a rest day at any location, and so this year we had planned on one day in between at each basin.
We soaked in the lake, although I did not go fully under. It was just a bit too cold with the outside air for it this year.
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Views everywhere.
Toward Rainier.
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Granite pots and a lake farther down the hillside.
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More red.
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Another shot of this view.
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Down by the wonderfully clear water.

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Another dinner and sunset left us talking with the one other person at the lakes. Our acquaintance from the day before had made the climb and setup not too far from us.
We talked about the Olympics, Cascades, possible treks, photography, and stories about the desert until the Starlink satellites came overhead and the Milky Way made as good an appearance that close to Seattle as it could. Then it was off to reading and bed once again.


I woke up early for a few moments and caught a view of Orion, and then went back to bed.
I slept in the next morning, but eventually we headed off in the direction of the mountain pass where we had seen more larches the day before.

We found them.
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As well, we found some great views toward the north.

More views on the way back.
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We enjoyed the morning. By afternoon there were some day hikers, and one other group that camped a ways around the other lake.
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The second day of light exploring, while great for my knee did give me a bit of wanderlust. It is pretty rare that I have ever camped the same place for two nights, better yet three. The lake was great for soaking, and the views with the white and gray granite were extraordinary, but it was time to move on.

The sunset on the last night. We stayed out watching the Milky Way, but not quite as late as the night before.

We packed up quickly in the morning, with the promise of a bacon and mushroom cheeseburger for lunch, and we started the descent. The descent had a few tricky spots, and descending was still more painfull on my bruised knees.
Still, we made good time and dropped down to the lower lake in no time.

The main trail was busy with groups going every direction. We had timed our trip just right this time.
The colors were still spectacular, and I tried to soak them in.

Once we had cell signal, a lingering concern was confirmed.
Rain was forecast to start, leading to snow overnight and cloudy/rainy until Wednesday afternoon.
Even if the rain was a little late, my third trip with an approach of 9-10 miles might just not be worth it. My body was tired, I knew I could pull out the miles. I just was not convinced that I wanted to do the miles just to spend more downtime in a tent.
So I changed plans.

Larch Madness is really a thing. ISo far on this trip, we had seen a few isolated trees and a small grove, but I had a chance to go north during the peak color.
I stayed the night at my friends, ate some cottage cheese pancakes and made the drive north.
Traffic was light, and much of the drive was beautiful.
I arrived at a possible campsite, where plenty were available. Things were looking good.

I drove off in the thickening traffic into the park, along the Skagit River, past the recent burns, Gorge Lake and made a stop at Diablo Lake overlook. The crowds were getting larger.
I reached one trailhead, found a parking spot along with about 500 other cars and grabbed just a water bottle, fleece and a camera. My legs were fresh for that day and without a pack I felt light as a feather.
I ran up the trail, as much as I could while passing people in everything from their Sunday best, to slip on Vans, to bulging daypacks.
The larches were worth the crowds and I found a few quiet spots.

One line of parked cars.

Some Larch photos:
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Some Goats
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After finishing that hike, I headed toward another trailhead. It was even more packed. So I continued on downhill towards a campground. There were two sites available and I pulled into one and sat at the picnic table.

It was only 345pm. What now?
There were some nice people around. It could be a fun night of meeting people.
By 4pm I was back in my truck and heading downhill and then south along the eastern edge of the Cascades and then the northern reaches of the gorge. There was no way, even with the promise of another hike in the morning, that I was going to sit around for another 5-6 hours until I was tired enough for bed, when I could get halfway home.

Some areas above the gorge look very "home-like":
I drove on, passing Moses Lake and Richland. I got some cheap food, and after leaving Richland just after dark, my maps popped up and said "Faster route available". Ok, I hit it and off it took me, away from the interchange leading to I84 and down into the river gorge at first and then a winding road up higher among the fields.

This is all fine and all, especially if I could have seen on the map where it was it was taking me- I had no service and it had not saved enough map to show me.
Or it might have been fine, if it had not been getting to that time in twilight where it is dark, but hard to see...
OR that because of being hard to see and a plethora of animal activity along the winding farm roads once I climbed onto the plateau I had to slow down below the speed limit.
I was not enjoying this part. It was not faster than the normal way.

Driving along that road in the dark, I had to brake for the following- not joking:
-two groups of deer in the road
-two black cattle standing on side of the road right after a blind bend
-Mice. I never tried to avoid them, but I ran over a half dozen field mice out of the dozens running across the road
And here are the two clenchers:
-I came to a complete stop when I climbed up a hill and my headlights revealed a small farm cat, not much larger than my kitten, fighting a rattlesnake on my side of the road, impervious to my being there, so I inched past it and drove on
-Around another bend in the oncoming lane was a very tall, long-legged canine. I had seen some coyotes already on the drive in, and this was one was taller. It was mangy and it's eyes glowed green in my headlights, and red in my tailights as I drove past.
It did not move anything more than its head to watch me inch past...
It could only have been one thing.
Chupacabra! hahaha :)

Once I finally gained a little cell signal, I was able to see that a turn would put me on the freeway, while the maps was still trying to take me farther south through the farms. I took a turn and got on the interstate. I was done dodging animals in my headlights.

The climb over the Blues is still pretty cool, even in the dark, and it was not too long before I was getting gas in Idaho.
I slept at the rest stop just after Mountain Home, it was after 1 am. Within a couple hours I was back on the road again, got some cheap gas station breakfast and was home just after the kids left for school.
It was a pretty good trip!


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Great trip report and loved all the photos. Gorgeous! Thanks for posting!
That looks like another great trip. I love all the photos with the fog/mist and the light.

Thanks for posting trip #2
Great photos and write-up! Like wsp_scott, my favourites are the fall colours in the mist.
And yes- Larch Madness is real. It's great to be retired, so we can enjoy it without the hordes that descend on hot spots in the Alberta Rockies.
You've got the reds popping again in this report. You do have a way with fall colors @Ugly. Great report. Thanks for sharing. I really like images 38 and 72. I keep going back and admiring 38 for some reason. And the Circus Peanut goes without saying. How many did you end up consuming?
You've got the reds popping again in this report. You do have a way with fall colors @Ugly. Great report. Thanks for sharing. I really like images 38 and 72. I keep going back and admiring 38 for some reason. And the Circus Peanut goes without saying. How many did you end up consuming?

It was a moderate amount, as I did not want to be overwhelmed by beauty and taste at the same time.

I actually had some leftovers since I did not do the third trip... I took those to the eclipse, along with the leftover orange wedges, paydays and other assorted candies. I am pretty sure @Titans believed I only brought a half of a subway sandwich and then lots of sugar for that trip.

For the reds, I was actually a little sad that some of the stretches in and out were only under cloudy skies. I got my share of spectacular colors, but some of the middle stretches on the way in and out were among the best color I have ever seen. We did miss out on the berry season this year, and although bears are supposedly common where we were in Rainier we were stumped on bears and bear activity.
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