Thursday, December 5, 2013

Return to Melmont, A Ghost Town in Pierce County, Washington

Melmont Ghost Town, Melmont Schoolhouse The ghost town of Melmont is near the Carbon River Entrance of Mount Rainier National Park and can usually be hiked to year-round on an old railroad grade. We enjoyed the historical walk so much last spring that we returned a few days ago to see what it was like in winter. Melmont dates back to the early 1900s when a subsidiary of the Northern Pacific Railway (the Northwest Improvement Company) opened the Melmont coal mine. Though little remains today of Melmont the settlement bustled with activity – then the town included a saloon, train depot, post office, schoolhouse, hotel and cottages used by the miners. The coal was shipped to Carbonado for processing by rail. By 1915 the little, spunky settlement of Melmont began its slow fade into oblivion - the post office closed and a few years later the Northwest Improvement Company ceased operations. Though a few mines were opened by another mining company (the Carbon Hill Coal Company) all mines had closed by the early 1920s and most of Melmont was destroyed by a forest fire. The hike is not designated by a sign. To get to the railroad grade - from Wilkeson/Carbonado continue on route State Route 165 as if approaching the Carbon River Entrance of Mount Rainier National Park (go mid-week if possible, parking is limited). Drive across the Fairfax Bridge that spans the Carbon River and note a small parking spot on the left-side of the road. Park there, walk back across the bridge and look for a short, steep path on the north side of the bridge that descends to the railroad grade – the path is rocky and steep (a hand-line was in place on our recent visit though you might not need it). Turn left (south) onto the railroad grade and enjoy! Spring or winter are the best seasons to explore Melmont before the vegetation leafs out and obscures what artifacts remain. In early December the vegetation was not dense and we were able to get better views along the way, including the visibility to follow a steep path that led to a wrecked car between the rail-grade and the Carbon River that looked it had come to rest some time ago in a tangle of small trees, blackberries and other assorted foliage (not a hiker-friendly setting!). Explore such paths at your own risk – though the railroad grade is safe (other than being unpleasantly muddy at times) if you go off-trail it is all too easy to get lost or injured due to dense vegetation and cliffs. Also, since parking is limited so keep your party-size small. The first feature you’ll notice along the grade is a wall embroidered with moss and licorice ferns (right) that was part of a retaining wall utilized by the Northern Pacific’s railroad grade. A bit past the retaining wall you’ll come to another stone structure (left). Though it might look like something you might see in an Amazon jungle it is an old shed (powder shack) used by the railroad to store dynamite. The roof is gone as is the dynamite and though the walls are standing it looks like moss and ferns are holding the structure together. A little further along you’ll come to a split in the trail. The path (left) climbs to the site of the Melmont schoolhouse; an ideal setting for lunch on a sunny day. We stopped there first - enough of the structure remains that with a little imagination you can visualize what the schoolhouse might have looked like once upon a time (see additional information). After a break we hiked back to the railroad grade and continued toward the site of Melmont. The town site is not much beyond the spur to the schoolhouse and at first glance looks like a grassy, plateau about the size of four football fields. A couple of short paths drop down to the site and on this cold, sunny day wisps of ground fog rose from the ground where the grasses and shrubs still glittered with frost. Thin ice had formed over pockets of moisture in the grasses creating beautiful effects that we attempted to photograph with some success. As for structures, none remain though there are a couple of old wrecked cars, riddled with bullet holes – apparently abandoned cars make good targets for target practice. You can understand why the town took root here on this plateau between the railroad grade and the Carbon River. It becomes a lush meadow in summer and is in the sun on a clear day. We found a grassy hummock in the sun, ideal for lunch though we had to keep moving as the shade seemed intent on following us. Other reports from those who have explored these sites indicate some foundations of the Melmont Bridge remain though we did not come across them on our visit last year. We found them on another visit but getting to them involves a steep descent on an exposed, steep slope above the Carbon River (it is not for the faint-hearted, a stumble would be a disaster). In winter the Melmont town site is a good turnaround. Come back in the spring and continue on the railroad grade to Manley-Moore Road about a 7-mile hike one-way (a car shuttle can be made for a one-way hike by leaving a car below the bridge at Manley-Moore Road (further along the Carbon River Road). This is probably best done in the spring when days are longer and we can guarantee you will want to dawdle and/or explore. While the walk to the Melmont schoolhouse and the town site is easy, the trails can be muddy as the railroad grade is also used by ATVs. Sturdy boots and gaiters are recommended, especially during the rainy seasons. Statistics: It is about 4 miles round-trip to the town site of Melmont/Melmont schoolhouse with about 400 feet gain. When (or if) you encounter private property signs do not trespass. Refer to the site below for a “Code of Ethics” regarding ghost towns which should apply to anyone interested in discovering ghost towns. There is much more history as well as old photographs of what Melmont was like in its heyday (other ghost towns too). Additional information/resources: . To view my recent photos of Melmont click on the link below, scroll down to third set. Karen Sykes

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Iron Goat Trail, October 2013

THE IRON GOAT TRAIL FROM SCENIC TO WELLINGTON The Iron Goat Trail between Skykomish and Stevens Pass is one of the best fall hikes around. Though Halloween has passed keep this hike in mind for next year if your friends and family enjoy Halloween-related themes - it is a great Halloween hike (spooky tunnels, oh my!) and with snow-sheds that haven’t been used so long that stalactites are growing from the ceiling. The “trail” is an old railroad grade once used by the Great Northern Railroad. Engineers didn’t realize how dangerous the route was across Stevens Pass until it was too late when in 1910 an avalanche knocked a train asunder in which many lives were lost and passengers trapped for days awaiting rescue from nearby settlements. The transformation of the railroad grade to trail began in the 1980s thanks to the dedication and efforts of the late Ruth Ittner, a prominent member of the Seattle branch of The Mountaineers. Ruth Ittner, employees of the Skykomish Ranger District, Volunteers of Washington (VOW) and others worked tirelessly to turn the abandoned railroad grade into a hiking trail for hikers of all ages and abilities. Ittner was also the founder of VOW and is honored by Washington Trails Association (WTA) as one of the 12 Hiking Legends. Ruth was hard to say “No” to – she’d take you aside and gently ask “Wouldn’t you like to volunteer for ____ (fill in the blank)”. Ruth was never too old to take on anything new and exciting including climbing courses and The Mountaineers photography courses. There are three trailheads to access the Iron Goat Trail; the Martin Creek trailhead (off the Old Cascade Highway), the Iron Goat Interpretive Site (at Scenic) where we started our hike and the Wellington trailhead at Stevens Pass. Of these trailheads Martin Creek and Scenic are the most accessible; getting to the Wellington trailhead is challenging if you are coming from the west because you must first drive east to Stevens Pass, turn around and head back west to find an easy-to-miss, steep gravel service road to the trailhead. If you start from Scenic take time to admire the red caboose and look at the interpretive kiosks to get a thumb-nail sketch of this historical railroad. Further along the grade other interpretative signs tell of the avalanches that doomed the route and cost the lives of many. The trail from Scenic to Windy Point is a good length for this time of year. There are 30 switchbacks from Scenic to Windy Point and in late October the trail was in good condition. The fleet of foot can continue beyond Windy Point as far as time, weather, energy and daylight allow. Though most of the fall color has past its seasonal blaze you’ll find colorful mushrooms of all shapes and sizes bordering the trail. At the first signed trail junction keep right and head uphill toward Windy Point. You can also turn left and walk a short distance for a view into a tunnel (you cannot hike through the tunnel). Peek inside where an interpretive kiosk gives a brief account of the Wellington disaster. On our hike clumps of mushrooms snuggled beside the trail, peeking out from pale bracken, still-green sword ferns and other vegetation. More forested switchbacks lead to a talus slope with a view to the west and US2. After negotiating the switchbacks and rocky steps the trail levels out on the railroad grade; here hikers can opt for a loop by turning west and following signs back to the trailhead. The railroad grade is easy-going once you are on it. Our goal was Windy Point for its views – plus Windy Point is situated in the sun making that an ideal spot for lunch or turnaround. In October the seasons were in transition; fireweed had gone to seed in silvery swirls and the leaves of Solomon’s seal were thin and translucent. Only the heart-shaped leaves of Wild Ginger were still green though something likes to nibble on the leaves. Before you get to Windy Point you’ll pass a sign for a toilet (right); a toilet with a view set far enough off the trail to ensure privacy. A little past the toilet sign you’ll come to Windy Point; here there are big views and the trail appears to end in a jumble of boulders (it doesn’t end there). Even though we planned to hike further we stopped to take in views of the first snow of the season dusting the peaks and ridges near Stevens Pass. Here you can also look straight down to US 2 and views across to the Chiwaukum mountains. Another feature of Windy Point (especially if it isn’t windy) is that it’s situated in the sun with plenty of places to settle a while. Just above Windy Point is a collapsed tunnel where the trail continues along the footing of the tunnel – the footing is about 2-1/2 feet wide but is covered with fallen leaves and could be slippery in frost or snow. Since the footing is also a few feet above the ground; some hikers might find this stretch a little spooky. You may wonder – as I did – what is the difference between a tunnel and a snow-shed? A snow-shed is open on one side, a tunnel is closed. After exiting the footing along the tunnel the trail continues through a shady, forested stretch and skirts seasonal waterfalls along an old retaining wall. When the light is right you might get lucky and see rainbows in the waterfalls. In about 4.5 miles we reached the west portal of the Wellington snow-shed. Here, you will see a tangle of rebar and a sign warning hikers of “extreme danger”. Stay on the established trail and watch for rock fall. Bring a flashlight not just for safe footing but also for better views of the ceiling and mineral formations along the concrete wall. Look up for old insulators along the grade – you may also spot old railroad ties on the open side of the snow-shed. About the mid-way through the tunnel a spur (right) leads to a platform designating the site of the Wellington train disaster (1910); here you will need a good imagination as no artifacts are within view (if any exist at all). This is also a pleasant place to linger as it is also situated in the sun with a bench. Shortly past the eastern portal you’ll come to the Wellington trailhead (this trailhead may be closed as it will soon be winter and it may not be possible to drive to the Wellington trailhead). Here we found a picnic table in the sun (the restrooms were locked) and enjoyed a leisurely lunch before retracing our route back to Scenic. Getting to the Iron Goat trailhead (Scenic trailhead): From Monroe on US 2 continue east to milepost 58.3. Turn left (north) onto the Old Cascade Highway and then immediately turn right into the trailhead, facilities and parking lot. While there is a sign for the center on US 2 the turn comes up quickly (look for the red caboose). A Northwest Forest Pass is required. Stats: Scenic to Wellington is 8.9 miles round trip with 1,550 feet of elevation gain. The map is Green Trails No. 176 Stevens Pass. For information on access to the Martin Creek trailhead or the Wellington trailhead and/or a detailed history of the Iron Goat trail visit their website for Volunteers of Washington (VOW): Additional Information: For trail and road conditions contact the Skykomish Ranger District – call 360-677-2414. You can also visit the WSDOT websites for up-to-date road/mountain pass conditions. To view photos of the Iron Goat Trail click on the link below, scroll down to the set for the Iron Goat Trail: . Karen Sykes

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Iron Horse Trail from Thorp to Thorp Tunnels

Hiking the Iron Horse Trail from Thorp to Thorp Tunnels Want to get away from it all? A quiet stroll along the Iron Horse Trail from Thorp to the Thorp Tunnels adds up to a pleasant, scenic day through a variety of terrain. Views range from sprawling ranches and farms, where curious horses, goats and cattle gather along fences that separates the “two-legged” from “the four-legged” to views of the Yakima River. Still-green hillsides rise above the Yakima River and irrigation ditches parallel the railroad grade from time to time. You’ll also pass small marshes, dotted with plump cattails and a few silvery swirls of fireweed gone to seed. Fat golden clumps of rabbit-brush added more color still. The hike is on an old railroad grade (Chicago-Milwaukee-St. Paul-Pacific Railroad). The stretch between Cedar Falls near North Bend to the Columbia River (Vantage) is about 100 miles in length and is managed by Washington State Parks. The Iron Horse travels two-thirds of the way across Washington State and ends at the Idaho Border. Though hiking the railroad grade is easy remember you have to hike back the way you came and the last few miles on the gravel surface can be tiring (be warned - we guarantee the scenery will lure you to hike further than you intend). Most hikers will be content to hike from the trailhead to tunnels No. 46 and No. 47. The hike through the tunnels is over 12 miles round trip with about 800 feet of elevation gain. Though the grade appears relatively flat there are minor ups and downs; they add up. In summer the trail is open to hikers, bikers, equestrians and horse-drawn wagons. In winter the trail is also open to snowshoers, cross-country skiers and snowmobiles (a Sno-Park permit is required in winter). On our way to the tunnels we passed pastures where horses grazed, raising their heads to gaze at us with mild curiosity. At one farm Black Angus cows gathered at the fence to watch us go by; there's always something peaceful about looking at cows. At another farm we spotted pretty black and white goats with golden markings. Along the railroad grade a few white snags reached their branches beseechingly toward the sky, their thick trunks encrusted with yellow lichen. In about four miles we skirted cliffs of columnar basalt daubed with orange and green lichen, home to cliff swallows and nearby views of the Yakima River. In about five miles you’ll reach the first tunnel (No. 46). There you are required to sign a permit relieving Washington State Parks from any liability issues that might arise as you proceed through the tunnels. Each hiker must sign the waiver and deposit that into the drop-box provided where the forms are available. Though it is possible to walk through the first tunnel without a light source you will need one to walk through the longer, second tunnel (No. 47) though we were more comfortable using a light source through the first tunnel. Between the tunnels we stopped to view and photograph an abandoned homestead. I remembered this scene from a previous hike before the tunnels were closed; it is a setting well worthy of a pause, with or without a camera. Signage warns hikers to stay on the railroad grade rather than explore the outbuildings though you can still get good photos of the homestead from the railroad grade especially with a telephoto lens. It looked like a scene out of John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” after the Joad family pulled up stakes and headed to California. Seeing the old homestead made us sad as we pondered what could have caused whoever owned the property to move away from this idyllic setting beside the Yakima River. Shortly past the homestead we passed under an old wooden road-bridge – this has been closed for quite some time as well. We soon came to the second tunnel; here we needed flashlights though both tunnels are in good condition. We only hiked a little further before turning around and heading back to the trailhead. As we anticipated the last couple miles were cruel; even with hiking boots. Despite tired feet we enjoyed ourselves in this quiet, nostalgic setting and are certain to return. Driving directions: From Seattle head east on I-90 to Exit 101 (Thorp). Turn left, (north) cross freeway to Depot Road and turn left (west), continue to the designated trailhead parking lot and pit toilet, Discover Pass required. Additional Information: A Sno-Park permit is required on the Iron Horse Trail between November 15-April 30. The Iron Horse Trail is open year-round, winter hours 8 AM to 5 PM If you have questions regarding the tunnels call Lake Easton State Park 509-656-2230. For information on Sno-Parks, the Discover Pass, campgrounds, winter schedules, rules and regulations contact Washington State Parks at: or call Washington State Parks at 360-902-8844. To view photos of the Iron Horse Trail scroll down to the fourth set at . Karen Sykes

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Burroughs Mountain, Mount Rainier National Park

THIRD BURROUGHS – SUNRISE, MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK The hiking season at Sunrise is short – the road to Sunrise is the first to close when snow falls and trails there often melt out later than other trails in the park. That’s a good reason to make some room on your September calendar and head to Sunrise when conditions are favorable. We’d waited for a good weather window and the sun was shining when we hit the road. Temperatures were ideal for hiking though when we arrived at Sunrise a drama was unfolding before our eyes. Three climbers had fallen into a crevasse on the Emmons glacier and helicopters were setting out to rescue them. Another climbing team had heard their calls for help; the climbers were successfully air-lifted out and we are hoping they will completely recover from their injuries. When we started hiking helicopters were flying back and forth all morning and at various points along the trail folks with binoculars were tracking the progress of the rescue, scanning the glacier with binoculars as clouds of mist rose and fell as the mountain played hide and seek for much of the day. From Sunrise we took the Sourdough Ridge Trail, turning south (left) at the T-junction facing Mount Rainier. Sunrise is hovering between late summer/early fall and we could even sense winter waiting in the wings as golden-mantled ground squirrels and chipmunks darted about, racing from rock to rock in hopes of hand-outs to shore up their winter reserves. Flowers have neared the end of their bloom; hellebore has gone to seed, only asters and sand dock are still hanging on though we saw fading magenta Indian paintbrush, fireweed and lousewort in the meadows near Sunrise. Past Frozen Lake (off-limits to the public) is a five-way trail junction at 6,760 feet. There trails head to Mount Fremont, Berkeley Park, Grand Park and Mystic Lake via the Wonderland Trail and Burroughs Mountain. Junctions are well-signed. The Burroughs Mountain trail is snow-free; snow patches lingered until August this year; not unusual for trails at this elevation. Though snow would not be an issue on this warm, late-summer day we also know how quickly the weather can change at these elevations. One moment you’re sweating in the sun, the next fumbling for your parka with numb fingers. Fortunately for us the fair weather held but it was a different story higher on the mountain. Soon you will also pass a junction for the Sunrise Rim Trail (some hikers make a loop by starting out on the Sunrise Rim Trail and hiking back to Sunrise via Sourdough Ridge). When we reached Second Burroughs at 7,400 feet (a plateau with a stone bench set inside a protective rock wall wind-break) we took a break. Many hikers are content with Second Burroughs. Here you’ll usually have company but the summit is generous and there’s room for all with plenty of places to settle and take in the views. In addition to hikers you’ll be visited by those ever-optimistic golden-mantled ground squirrels and chipmunks with their bright, sparkling eyes and their tiny, nimble paws. If you’ve watched one eat you know what I mean. Feeding them is discouraged though some hikers can’t resist. By the time you’ve reached Second Burroughs you’re in the tundra zone; anything that grows in this zone is dwarfed by the harsh environment. Plants are few and far between and those that do grow hug the ground. From Second Burroughs Third Burroughs looks further away than it is though getting there is considered a “grunt”. The view of the trail is a little disquieting as the trail from Second Burroughs plummet to a plateau before resuming a steep climb to Third Burroughs. The sight of the trail between Second and Third Burroughs can be a little discouraging but remember you can always turn around when you’ve had “enough”. If you do get to Third Burroughs you’ll have a significant climb back to Second Burroughs (most hikers prefer going down on the way out, not up!). Since you are hiking toward Mount Rainier the view should inspire you to keep going if the weather holds and if you’re an experienced hiker. Of course the last stretch of the climb is the steepest (funny how that is so often the case when it comes to mountains). The last few feet are steep and rocky and if this is your first visit to Third Burroughs the close-up views of the crevasses on the Winthrop and Emmons glaciers may make you gasp. Here are the beautiful and terrifying precipices and dungeons of the mountain. Here you will look straight down into the deep, pale-green crevasses of the Winthrop glacier (directly below), Steamboat Prow (a jutting rock formation that splits the Winthrop glacier from the Emmons). The Emmons glacier is directly above and on our visit most of it was under cloud-cover though we could hear the helicopters coming and going. That thin ribbon of water on the dark moraine below the Emmons glacier is the origin of the White River. Overall the views are harrowing but inspirational – Steamboat Prow, Little Tahoma above the Emmons glacier, composed of rotten, brittle rock loosely glued together with ice (a climber’s nightmare); you may even get a glimpse of icy Willis Wall and Curtis Ridge if the clouds allow. Third Burroughs is far enough for most with several places to settle and no lack of views; even though there were quite a few hikers on Third Burroughs we found a niche out of the wind which had become strong enough to almost knock me down at one point. From hikers with satellite phones we learned that the climbers were alive but in critical condition (their condition has since been upgraded). Though we dreaded the climb back to Second Burroughs it’s never quite as tough as we imagine. We paced ourselves and took another break at Second Burroughs as the sun was warm and there seemed little reason to hurry. By the time we’d returned to Sunrise the rescue was completed and the fallen climbers safely off the mountain. A reminder – the Sunrise Visitor Center is now closed for the season (the Visitor Center closes after Labor Day weekend) and the road to Sunrise will close with the first significant snowfall. Be sure to check road status before you set out for any hikes at Sunrise. Getting there: From Enumclaw drive SR 410 (east) to the White River Entrance of Mount Rainier National Park; display the appropriate pass or pay an entry fee. When you get to the junction for the White River Campground continue on the Sunrise Mountain Road to Sunrise, elevation 6,400 feet. Map: Green Trails No. 209S (Mount Rainier Wonderland Trail) Additional Information: Call the park at 1-360-569-2211 to confirm road and facility status, fees, rules and regulations or check their website for current information: To view photos of Burroughs Mountain click on the link below, scroll down to second set. . Karen Sykes

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Lake Twenty-Two, July 30, 2013

LAKE TWENTY-TWO (Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest) Some trails just never get old; Lake Twenty-Two is one of them. Many an experienced hiker chose Lake 22 as their first hike; the hike is popular and has gotten a lot of press over the years in hiking guidebooks, through word of mouth and the media. There’s an old saying that if a hikers’ first hike is unpleasant they may never hike again. Since it’s almost impossible to turn this trail into an unpleasant experience it’s a good trail for novice hikers (or any hiker for that matter). It’s also a good trail to revisit as it can be hiked (or snowshoed) most of the year and the ambience of the trail changes with each season; we like to experience them all. We’ve asked ourselves - what is it that draws us back to this trail? It’s not solitude for that’s hard to come by on this busy trail unless it’s a cold, rainy day in November. Is it the poignant song of the hidden varied thrush or the shine of skunk cabbage in the spring? Is it the colorful collar of wildflowers around the lake or the snowy cliffs and house-sized boulders at the far end of the lake? Or is it a chance for guys to spot pretty girls in bikinis at lakes’ edge on a hot day as happened to one of our friends? (We will tease him forever; once he spotted the mountain nymphs we found it very hard to get his attention again). Or is it a solitary niche by the lake where the berries hang low and the views are beyond this hikers’ description? Whatever your motivation get an early start if you seek solitude or would enjoy sampling the salmonberries that border certain stretches of the trail. Now about those waterfalls; how many are there? That depends on your definition of a waterfall; several can be seen (or heard) along the trail but avoid the temptation to leave the main trail for better views. Though you can see spurs where others have done so the terrain can be steep and slippery. Don’t risk an injury. Before you hit the trail take time to read the large, brown sign designating the area as a Research Natural Area (RNA) at the start of the trail. The Lake Twenty-Two Research Area was established in 1947, the purpose to study the effects of a forest in its natural state compared to similar settings in which forests have been logged. The trail is in good condition from start to finish with old-growth trees towering over the trail. Look for Pacific Silver Fir, Western Red Cedar, Douglas firs and hemlocks. At higher elevations you’ll also find Alaska cedars with their definitive shaggy bark. Between the giants the ground-cover is a thick carpet of moss, ferns and shrubs with ripening berries. All your senses will come into play along this trail with bird-calls, the gurgle of rivulets, the happy prattle of a child on the next switchback, the scolding jay you cannot spot in the trees no matter how hard you look. Ferns border the trail; oak ferns, deer ferns, lady ferns, licorice ferns, sword ferns and bracken. Bead lily and Canadian dogwood are abundant in summer (in spring look for trilliums and stream violets). In summer Devil’s Club is tall and topped with a spathe of red berries. Huckleberries and blueberries are beginning to ripen and on our recent hike most of the biting bugs were gone other than small, weird clouds of gnats hovering around monkey-flowers at the lake. Take bug juice anyway – some hikers are more attractive to bugs than others. We also recommend wearing sturdy boots as stretches of the trail are rocky and “rooty”. Note how Western Red Cedars clutch the earth with their knotty roots that resemble the arthritic fingers and knuckles of a giant – the roots sometimes form a latticework near the base of the tree or spread across the trail. Feel the creak of old puncheon under your feet where water runs down the trail during the rainy seasons. In about ¾ mile you’ll cross Twenty-Two Creek on a footbridge with views upstream and down, a great spot to cool off on a hot day. In about 1.5 miles the trail breaks out of the forest and switchbacks across a talus field lined with ferns and hellebore though open enough for views of Three Fingers and Liberty peaks. Relish those pockets of shade at the ends of the sunny switchbacks if in need of a rest. After negotiating the talus slope the trail returns to the forest and gets a little steeper before it reaches the lake. Lake Twenty-Two sits in a steep cirque, bounded by cliffs. You’d never know that Heather Lake was just a ridge away. The cliffs at the far end of the lake are in shadow for much of the day; hence, even in July the gullies still held snow; earlier in the year you may see (or hear) avalanches. Avoid the far end of the lake when there is significant snow. Once you reach the lake you can hike around the lake (1.2 miles) in either direction with no significant gain or hazards during summer. Spurs lead to potential picnic spots; on our recent hike, we were passed by a cheerful group of local teenage boys on a “football bonding” hike who were shouting with joy (or shock) as they jumped into the icy water of the lake, none of them stayed in for long. The far end of the lake is an intriguing mix of meadow, wildflowers and towering boulders daubed with lichen. Here we found mounds of marsh marigolds, sedges, heathers and monkey-flowers; if the bugs are not biting linger awhile and enjoy the beauty everywhere you look. As we continued around the lake we marveled at how it changed colors as the sunlight and clouds shifted direction, lengthening the shadows on the steep snowfields above the lake and silhouetting the fringes of evergreens topping the knolls between the lake and the cliffs. While not considered a wildflower hike we saw several including monkey-flowers, columbine, lupine, marsh marigolds, hellebore, Canadian dogwood, bead lily, mountain ash and more. There are so many reasons to love this trail that we’ve lost count. Enjoy! Getting there: From Granite Falls drive east on the Mountain Loop Highway – in about 11 miles you’ll see the Verlot Public Service Center (left); stop in for trail conditions and/or to purchase a pass or map if needed. Stop by anyway to view their displays; including one displaying a slice from an old-growth tree, each ring representing a year of growth. From there it’s another two miles to the designated Lake Twenty-two trailhead (right) and facility. A Northwest Forest Pass is required. Don’t leave valuables behind as this trailhead has experienced car break-ins. Additional Information: Maps: Green Trails No. 109 Granite Falls, Green Trails No 110 Silverton. Questions? Call Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Verlot Public Service Center at 360-691-7791 or visit their website: . To view photos of Lake 22 click on the link below, scroll down to second set. . Karen Sykes