Met up with Nealbobwalks at the Foss Lakes trailhead, where he was waiting on the picnic table, on which he had also spent the night…
“Lot of cars for a Friday”, I said as I glanced around. I handed Neal a hot cup of coffee I’d picked up in Skykomish. Dora, his dog, almost knocked it out of my hand as she threw up her paws in her wild way of greeting.
“Eh, everyone’s probably camped at Trout Lake!”
When we got to Trout Lake we set down our packs for a quick breather, instantly noting the lack of people.
“Huh… probably all up at Copper?”
Further up in the hills we passed by Copper Lake where we also saw no one. Little Heart and Big Heart Lake also seemed to be devoid of obvious campers. Maybe the trailhead was overflow parking for the eclipse!
Leaving Big Heart, I felt a tinge of concern that there’d be a large party camped out at Chetwoot…
“Last summer a ranger told me the kids are getting out further these days, bypassing Trout Lake, even Copper…”
We were buying the hype, maybe. In any case, “I know a place there won’t be nobody, follow me!”
I knew of an old fisherman’s trail along the way to Chetwoot, but had never followed it. In theory, it’d end up somewhere along Lake Angeline.
We picked up the trail just off the main route and followed it through thigh deep blueberry, then steeply downhill where the bootpath mostly dissolved under duff and dead fall.
“We’re almost there, I bet!”
After a little bit of bush beating we arrived at Lake Angeline just as daylight was giving way to dusk and as the clouds lookin like they might dump a little rain. The wind had even picked up enough to hamper my attempts to cast for dinner.
We set up camp at a site that seemed like it was popular at one time, evidenced by an ample dirt clearing to set up tents and a concentric mound of ash and rusted debris.
From Angeline to Necklace Plateau via Iron Cap Traverse
Wind had hung around into the morning, but the overcast skies had began to let a bit of blue shine through. A bank of clouds forced it’s way through the rocky, narrow gap at the north end of the lake.
The clouds poured across, leaving a light chop on the water before them, each nebulous form unfurling like a wild, shapeshifting dancer. Man, this is some GOOD-ASS coffee...
We took a short break at Chetwoot Lake, with not a soul in sight. After a few minutes of absorbing the pleasant breeze it was onto a round of boulder hopping to Iron Cap Lake. It was there we finally ran into a pair of hiking humans.
“¡Hola! Taking the “Hi-Route“, Huh?
“High route? No, we’re staying low…”
They described their intended route as “low along the shelves” of Iron Cap Mountain. The route Nealbob and I were taking by contrast was up several hundred feet to the ridge then down through Iron Cap Pass.
“Hey! You know it’s good luck to drink from the lake before going up ol’ Iron Cap… Cup o’ the Gods it is!”
They smiled and went upon their way.
“Shoulda drank the water, I’m tellin ya”
Having passed by this way before, our journey through the pass went a lot more smoothly than it had on my first attempt.
As we traversed the eastern flanks of Iron Cap, we’d throw back glances for the other party, but they were nowhere to be seen… Maybe they got eaten by the Iron Cap Balrog!
We continued along talus and bare rock in the cool shadow cast by the ridge above us. From the top of a cliffy buttress, we saw a flash of colorful parka far behind us.
Good! Guess they must have found a way through the low road…
Talus and rock hopping soon gave way to pleasant meadow meandering, as we made our way up to the high grounds of the Necklace Valley.
We ended the day a stone’s throw from the Tank Lakes. There was a goodly crowd dispersed closer to the water, but there was still plenty of solitude to be found amongst the stark pale rock of the basin.
Necklace Plateau to La Bohn Gap via Williams Lake
The night was crisp and cool, stripping the last vestiges of work and the city from my mind during a very quenching sleep. Humans began to stir and draw water from the lake as the sun rose in the sky.
We got off to a leisurely start with breakfast, coffee and gear talk. It was probably after 8 by the time we started packing up our kits and setting out for Williams Lake.
On our way off of the plateau some lady started walking towards us. “Oh hey!” It was half of the duo we ran into the day before. She revealed that they’d indeed gone via some low route, and from the sounds of it, they had one hell of a time. She did not recommend it.
The route to Williams Lake wasn’t particularly perilous, we found our way through the brush and descended a few cliff bands down to lake level.
Williams Lake had the feeling of a place that spends most of it’s time alone… well except for the bears, of whom there was ample evidence.
Continuing east we made way toward an adit marked on the USGS map. At the adit we stopped to investigate and relax a spell.
Next to the waterlogged cavern, a narrow path led up the mountain side. This seemed the logical path to follow.
The rough trail headed up rather directly and varied in quality between clear, but narrow footpath, to bare scramble up scars of loose dirt, rocks, and roots.
The last bit into the Chain Lakes Basin was on large, white boulders and fairly tame comparatively.
“Holy Shit, what in the hell happened here!?”
Those were literally the words that came out of my mouth as I laid eyes on the Chain Lakes Basin.
At some point in the past, a mining operation was attempted here and what was left behind looks a bit like Superfund site left in the middle of nowhere.
A confluence of two streams meet up at the lower end of the basin; along the banks of one stream grew luscious green grasses and vibrant mountain wildflowers. The other stream was deeply stained with rusty toned oxides. The only thing growing near it was a thin layer of defiant moss.
The source of this rust is a significant pile of waste rock and ore that was simply dumped into one of the small alpine lakes.
I wandered around investigating the various ruins and heaps of glistening ore while Nealbob and Dora headed up the treeless slopes for La Bohn Gap where we planned to rest up before going up Hinman.
“Be up in a bit!”
Mt. Hinman and out the Necklace Valley
At dawn we woke and got moving to ascend Hinman and observe the eclipse, safe from the roiling bent-necked hordes and predicted traffic catastrophe.
We began our ascent up the southwest ridge with the plan that if we ran into anything the dog couldn’t handle, we’d call it good.
Dora, “dog o’ the hills” must have taken this as a challenge as she skilfully navigated the scramble sections and the endless shattered rock with the ease of a mountain goat.
Above us the great astral dance had begun, casting an unusual hue upon the surrounding high country, however even at the height of the phenomenon, we never even got close to darkness.
On the plus side we had the whole place to ourselves!
Across the remnants of a glacier and shattered rock we made our way to the summit.
Wind was howling as we ascended the final pile of busted rock to a spot near enough the top of the 7492′ stone behemoth.
Whoa. I’m so glad I’m not sitting in eclipse traffic right now.
Wind whistled through the ridge rocks, but beyond that silence reigned at the summit. The vast vistas on this absolutely clear day momentarily transcending any words.
The descent back down the massive mountain was jubilant and spirits were high. Perfect for steep hike down from La Bohn Gap and the long walk out of the Necklace Valley.
“What’s it? 15 or better? I dunno, but we’ll probably make the cars by dark…”
“Oh man, we should have totally parked one car at the other trailhead!”
Happy Trails, ¡PACKITINPACKITOUT!