West Fork Foss Lakes Trail #1064

Sunrise at Copper Lake
Sunrise at Copper Lake

The West Fork Foss Lakes trail has long been one of my favorites.

I remember coming to Trout Lake with my “Uncle Bones” when I was just a kid, and then as now, the trail still wows me with every step.

THE NUMBERS

Trout Lake
Trout Lake

Elevation gain: 3300’±

Mileage: 14.6mi RT±

Difficulty: YDS 2 , be in reasonable shape

Free loading birds in your backpack the minute you turn around: n=n1 x n2/m2 x f(t²)

THE HIKING

Your journey starts out easily enough, gradually gaining elevation along the Foss River and it’s mostly dry flood channels.

Keep an eye out to your right for Shoestring Falls, descending into the Foss on it’s west bank.

The West Fork Foss River
The West Fork Foss River

About a mile in you’ll come to a very well built bridge which, if it’s secretly anthropomorphic, is likely counting the days until the next major flooding event, the likes of which destroyed it’s predecessor.

Counting the days...
Counting the days…

Standing on the bridge, you are a little less than a mile down trail from Trout Lake.

Along the remainder of the way there are a couple of points of interest;

One is an absolutely monstrous tree (can’t miss it). If you hike this trail with friends I can guarantee we’ll have one thing in common; a picture of someone standing in front of this tree.

Standard tree photo
Standard tree photo

The other is marked by a rusted 2-½in pipe crossing the trail. Without going into too much detail; above this pipe, blasted into the flanks of Malachite Peak is the 772′ long Imperial #2 tunnel, and the 112′ Vine Maple Prospect.

Below the pipe, along the banks of the Foss River, is the site of the old Imperial Power Plant. Not much remains, but the occasional rusted metal relic can sometimes be found.

Leavin' the lake
Leavin’ the lake

At Trout Lake take a breather, cast a line or stay the night at one of it’s campsites.

The trail begins to climb significantly after passing the west shore of the lake, almost 2000′ in less than two miles!

Silver Eagle Peak dominates the eastern horizon as you switchback up through mixed forest and shrub. At one point you’ll pass a corner with easy access to a slabby watercourse, great for dipping your head into and refilling empty water bottles.

Get used to seeing this guy
Get used to seeing this guy

Malachite Falls becomes visible as you gain elevation, it’ll be filling your ears with it’s 618′ of waterfally-ness before you can see it.

You’ll continue to gain elevation, eventually surpassing the waterfall and coming to an intersection with the Lake Malachite trail.

NOTE: You may also notice a sign near here that says “Campfires prohibited beyond this point” This means ALL points along this trail beyond this sign (Specifically any point above 4000′)

You can't "unsee" it
You can’t “unsee” it

Lake Malachite is only a short, sorta steep hike from here, offering great views, a few campsites, and fishing.

Malachite
Lake Malachite

Less than half a mile from the intersection you’ll cross a fairytale-esque bridge of perfectly placed boulders before setting eyes upon beautiful Copper Lake.

The popular campsites fill up quick, but the lake is spacious enough to allow some breathing room if that’s what you are looking for.

Like Alice and the beanstalk or somethin'
Straight outta Alice and the Beanstalk

If Copper Lake isn’t your thing, the trail continues along it’s eastern shore towards Little Heart Lake.

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Not a whole lot jumps out at you on this section of trail, but you will pass over the tailings pile of a mining prospect at the south end of the lake, and there are a couple of established campsites along the way.

Little Heart Lake seems a little less hospitable by comparison, it’s smaller, and seems crammed into the surrounding rock. Upon first glance, shoreline access also seems extremely limited.

Exploring around however reveals some established campsites, and ample talus shoreline if you are a little more adventurous.

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Leaving Little Heart Lake, the trail again begins to climb, gaining a little under 1000ft in a mile, then losing a few hundred feet on the way to Big Heart Lake.

Little Heart Lake
Little Heart Lake

The views through here become more dramatic.

Looking back you’ll see Trout Lake (perhaps bringing back memories of when your legs were not on fire) Delta Lake is down below, Otter Lake peeks at you from across the valley, and then finally Big Heart Lake, shimmering at you through the trees.

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The first time you approach Big Heart Lake is likely to stick with you for the rest of your life…

You walk in on top of a little ridge that parallels a small arm of the lake. The water is deep, and bluer than anything you’ve yet seen, not unlike that mysterious fluid barber’s put their combs in.

Morning mist on Big Heart
Morning mist on Big Heart

Here the official trail ends, there are a few campsites available in the immediate area, and a couple more hidden about.

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For the ambitious hiker, this may only be the base camp, for there are numerous boot paths leading to many destinations: Angeline and Azurite Lakes, Camp Robber Peak, Chetwoot Lake, you could even make it a loop back down the Necklace Valley.

Beyond the official trail...
Beyond the official trail…

The West Fork Foss river trail is your oyster.

Bearing that in mind, leave your oyster better than you found it; pack it in, pack it out, leave no trace, take only pictures, leave only footprints, I’m sure you know them all.

Basically; Don’t be “that guy”.

Happy trails!

THE GETTING THERE

Firstly, I’d suggest driving to Skykomish to procure a pre-hike sandwich, or some campin’ booze at the ever friendly and delicious Sky Deli.

After filling up at Skykomish, head east on the “2” and you’ll pass the Skykomish Ranger Station, keep your eyes peeled for the Foss River Road branching south (right) from the highway. Take it.

Might be wantin' one of these...
Might be wantin’ one of these…

A little over a mile in you’ll pass beneath a gargantuan railroad trestle, and then hit a fork. Stay right.

You’ll pass the Necklace Valley trailhead on your left in another half mile, and a half mile past that is your left turn for the West Fork Foss River Trail#1064. The turn is signed, but can be missed.

nwtrailpass

Two miles from the intersection and you’ll be there.

The trailhead has ample parking and a pit toilet, but on summer weekends, try and come early because this is a popular trail, and is steadily gaining in popularity with every new Ballard condo.

THE REQUIRED DOCUMENTS

Currently a NW trailpass or other qualifying document (America the beautiful interagency pass) is required at the trailhead.

Big Heart Lake
Big Heart Lake

References:

In addition to provided links,

Woodhouse, Phil; Jacobson, Daryl; Petersen, Bill; Cady,Greg; Pisoni, Victor, Discovering Washington’s Historic Mines Vol.1: The West Central Cascade Mountains. Oso Publishing Company, 1997

 

 

 

 

Anderson Lake

First glimpse of Anderson Lake
First glimpse of Anderson Lake

Looking for solitude? Well this is your place!

Diminutive Anderson Lake lies at the end of the abandoned and little known Dog Mountain trail. While only a few hundred feet down the road from the more popular Bare Mountain trailhead, the Dog Mountain trail sees very few hikers over the course of the season.

Who cut these logs?
Who cut these logs?

The trail is rough, muddy and sometimes difficult to follow, and so far as I’ve determined, doesn’t lead to the summit of Dog Mountain.

However it is quite beautiful and provides great views of the area especially in the upper portions as you amble across bare rock slabs and alpine meadows.

THE STATS:

Distance: 9mi± RT

Elevation gain: 3500’±

Other people you will likely see:

THE HIKE

The trail starts out at an abandoned bridge. It’s deck is sturdy enough to walk on, but has some very large holes. Don’t fall.

View of Pt.5312
View of Pt.5312

The journey continues along a derelict road grade, crossing two more bridges before gradually climbing up to the original trail.

Occasionally you will see remnants of the trail infrastructure; decaying puncheon, rock retaining walls and well graded footpath. Strangely some of the more recent deadfalls have been cut and cleared, but by whom…it’s anybody’s guess.

Much of the trail is overgrown, rough hewn and steadily eroding.

When you reach the higher sections of trail you are traveling through a beautiful basin of low growing conifers, alpine meadows and wide rock slabs. During the early melt these slabs are like wide and lazy waterfalls.

Trail through the meadows
Trail through the meadows

It’s easy to lose the way as you cross the slabs, but there are a few cairns to look for at the time of this writing. When in doubt continue in an easterly direction. After the slabs the trail is easier to pick up in the heather.

Dog Ridge looming
Dog Ridge looming

You’ll eventually climb up to a gap in the steep ridge that until now was not visible. Here you will get your first sight of Anderson Lake down below. Also you will get an interesting view of the Middle Fork Valley and it’s peaks; Treen, Garfield, Preacher, even Kaleetan and Chair in the distance.

At the time of this writing there is some flagging soon after you flip flop the ridge via the gap. To your right is the way to Anderson Lake, down below is the way up to Pt.5312 (or so I think it’s called).

Wildflowers
Wildflowers

Heading right you’ll pass talus and steep cliffs above you. The trail is often undefined here, but continue on. Eventually you will reach an old downed log. The “trail” seems to continue past here, but terminates shortly thereafter.

You’ll find yourself standing above a steep-ish, but easy enough to descend talus slope leading right to the lake’s shore. Make your way down and you’re there!

On a hot summer day this is an excellent place for swimming. It’s shallow enough to warm up so as to not freeze your, uh, parts off, but stays cool enough to refresh.

Also, because it’s so secluded it makes a great place for skinny dipping!

Nice soaking rocks
Nice soaking rocks

There exist a couple of primitive campsites around the lake if you’d like to spend the evening.

At the south side of the lake is a boulder field that offers a mostly unobstructed view of the Middle Fork Valley and points beyond.

FISHING

I didn’t try fishing during my visit, but also did not see any fish activity. If you were to ask me, I’d wager there are no fish in this lake.

ETC.

All in all I’d suggest this trip for anyone who seeks seclusion in the mountains. I can almost guarantee you will not see another human being out here, even on the weekend.

Looking toward the gap
Looking toward the gap

During the right season blueberries are abundant, and wildflowers abound. Great views are frequent and there are even some impressive old growth specimens along the way.

Anyway, as always, leave it better than you found it, pack it in, pack it out and pack out any other jerkoff’s crap you might find.

Happy Trails!

Decaying puncheon
Decaying puncheon

 

 

 

 

Francis Lake 4289′

Francis Lake
Francis Lake

I went to Lake Francis in July of 2013, and due to the difficulty of getting there, I probably won’t be back for quite some time. I thought though it would be worth regaling to you the tale of Francis Lake.

The map showing Ye olde trail
The map showing Ye olde trail
Green trails makes no mention of "Ye olde trail"
Green trails makes no mention of “Ye olde trail”

It started with a map, a blue dot and a black line on a map to be more precise. I don’t remember where I found it, online somewhere, but it showed that at some point there was a trail to Francis Lake. I was determined to find it.

Searching the internet brought up some clues, very old trip reports or anecdotes regarding the lake, mostly from fishermen. One of them even mentioned the old trail, which really got my hopes up. So, equipped with the essentials, and my fishing pole I set out one July day towards West Fork Miller river.

The old road is long abandoned now, and has largely been converted into a hiking trail. Some years ago it was very rare to see anyone along it’s grade, but in recent years it has gained some popularity with Boulderers, and don’t quote me on this, but I think it’s slated for new trails with the whole Wild Sky Wilderness expansion.

I’ve spent much time up the Miller river over the years searching for abandoned mines or foraging, so I’m very familiar with the area and the various landmarks. I even tried to find Francis Lake once before, ending up in the gully to the NE of it instead. Reaching the area where the map illustrates the position of “Ye olde trail” was no problem, it is more or less at the same area I like to call the “Coney Cut-off”. This area is where Coney creek meets up with the west fork, or a little before it to be precise.

The trail up WF Miller River
The trail up WF Miller River

Crossing the creek I found a nice little established camp, and lo and behold, a trail cut through the evil vine maple and bracken that seemed to be going my way! I followed this for a half an hour or better until it became apparent that it went nowhere. I still wonder just who blazed it, and for what purpose. Perhaps another fool trying to get to Francis Lake.

"The creek" Actually West fork miller river
“The creek” Actually West fork miller river

I returned back to the main trail and took a look around, this time deciding to follow the terrain and intuition rather than trying to find the ancient trail. I again crossed the creek, wading through deep, but quite still waters. Upon reaching the other side I started my way up through forest and up the hogback in the approximate position of the trail as illustrated by the map.

At one point I heard a strange buzzing sound, then felt as if my legs were getting warm. Looking down I was shocked to find I was swarmed by little wasps! Shit! I  ran,  sweeping them off my leg, when I finally felt like they were gone I was surprised to find I only had small welts, with only minor pain. So I carried on.

The route I was taking started to “cliff-out” so I traversed a rather steep slope to try and gain the hillside above the cliffs. It was steep, but thanks to years of cedar branch rock climbing, I was able to best the cliff. I continued to head up through forest and mixed density brush. Soon I began finding semblances of a trail. It wasn’t much, but it was something.

Is there anything better?
Is there anything better?

Following the trail was difficult, sometime impossible, but I continued up, eventually running into the outlet stream and paralleling it as best I could, often running into the odd section of trail. After much climbing I encountered a waterfall, I knew I was close. Climbing it, I could tell the lake was getting closer.

It wasn’t long before I was there. I felt pretty damned accomplished, lemme tell ya.

The outlet falls
The outlet falls

The lake is quite beautiful, tucked into a semi-circle crown of mountain tops. I was also surprised that the lake was much bigger than I expected. Upon emerging from the lake’s outlet I came upon an ancient campsite, the fire pit was overgrown, it was obvious that it hadn’t been used in some time. I dropped my pack off there, and started along the shores, fishing rod in hand.

The lake has a very shallow section, with a slab rock bottom and mud with bleached downed logs and aquatic grasses springing out of the waters.  This area is found north of the peninsula shown on the map. Working my way around the peninsula I found the waters grow far deeper to the south of it. Shore access also becomes very restricted the further you go.

Alpine beauty
Alpine beauty

It didn’t take long to catch my 5 trout limit, fishing bucktail spinners through the clear mountain water. They were all perfect pan-sized cutthroats, and I was looking forward to my feast that evening when I heard a crack come from the forest near the outlet. I moved to grab my gear and saw a black bear near the shore across from me. “Shit”, I thought. Usually black bear will run from you the moment they see you, but this one didn’t seem to care.

I decided it was in my best interest to find an alternate way back down, rather than close the distance between me and the bear by trying to exit via the lake outlet. I knew the gully to the northeast, as I’d been up it before. I thought I’d see if it could be accessed. Leaving the lake I plowed through chest deep brush in a north easterly direction. It didn’t take long to find the gully, and no, there was no way to get down the massive cliffs and into the rocky stream bed.

North side of the peninsula
North side of the peninsula

I decided to parallel the gully as best I could, hoping perhaps to find a way to descend into it. I still had plenty of daylight, and worst case, I had the gear to spend the night. Most of the way was pretty straightforward, plowing through dense brush, then into semi open forest. There were only a couple precarious cliffs to descend, or to all together avoid. Before I knew it, I was at the base of the gully, and as luck would have it, stumbled upon an old mining camp I’d been searching for some time previous. Score!

Underwater slabs
Underwater slabs

My piscean bounty was on my mind again as I made my way to the main trail and back to the old Subaru, and sure enough when I got home I cooked them up and had myself a trout feast.

All in all the trip to Francis Lake was worth it, it was quite an adventure, though I never did find the trail with any certainty. Realistically I probably won’t be back in this lifetime, but who ever really knows.

Piscean num-nums!
Piscean num-nums!

If you reader decide to embark on a trip up there, feel free to lemme know, I’ll try and help with directions, and hell, if you want, maybe I’ll even tag along. Happy Trails, Harry Biped

Enamel ware relic
Enamel ware relic