Kendall Peak & Ridge Lake

I-90 was reduced to one lane west of the pass this weekend. Traffic was guaranteed to be bad there as well as on Highway 2 used by those attempting to escape the gridlock. With that in mind a closer destination made sense. I had not been up the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) yet this year so that was my choice. I was counting on not having to get on I-90 until after the backup ended. It was a cool morning as I arrived at the trailhead. By 9:05 I was on the trail. The trail is in great shape as usual. The grade is so smooth that I make better time on this trail than any other I can recall. I was surprised to pass several  day hikers coming out so early. The sky was a mix of blue and clouds leaving me wondering if there would be any view on top of Kendall Peak.

In exactly two hours I reached the turn off for the short scramble to the summit of Kendall. The beginning is now very easy to spot as the starting spot has now been beaten out by many boots. Part way up I managed to get slightly off route and stumbled upon seriously overloaded berry bushes. This slowed my progress immensely. The berries were as thick and big as I have ever encountered. Thanks to the berries it took me a full 30 minutes to scramble up about 400' to the summit. The sky was still partly cloudy but I did have pretty good views none the less. Only the top of Mt. Rainier was visible. Looking east was much better as Stuart, Hibox, Alta, and Three Queens were all in the clear. Chikamin was clear but the crest peaks to the north went into and out of the clouds. There was little wind and I was happy to spend a full hour on the summit.

I finally started down at 12:30. Once again the berries slowed me down. I knew there were berries between the Katwalk and Ridge Lake but figured that hungry hikers had probably eaten most of them. Once back on the PCT I made good time up to the Katwalk. The views are nice but pale when compared to the close by summit of Kendall. It was still early so I continued on towards Ridge and Gravel Lakes. Fall colors are well along towards their peak near the crest. Surprisingly I began to come upon berries... lots of berries. They were right along the trail within easy reach of passing hikers. It's hard to believe that this late in the berry season so many were still there. Not that I'm complaining.

The trail dropped down to Ridge Lake where I was the only hiker present. It was time to finish lunch and enjoy a nice long break. In fact, I spent another hour lounging by the lake. Just as I was getting ready to leave five horses came around the corner. I waited for them to pass before heading back. I made very slow progress returning to the Katwalk. There were berries to eat and photos to take. The lower sun was backlighting the red and golden leaves. The colors were quite vibrant. A little sun makes for a world of difference. It was just passed 3:00 as I neared the Katwalk and in short order met the majority of the hikers I would see all day. There was quite a crowd of late starters this day.

While I hate to see the end of summer, hiking conditions this time of year can be outstanding. It was bright and sunny most of the day but never hot. With those conditions I can hike for hours on end without getting tired. This is a popular trail and deservedly so. You can go as far as you like on smooth tread with gentle but considerable elevation gain. For the day I traveled 14 miles with 3600' gained. From high on the PCT below Kendall Peak I saw what I had hoped for. I-90 was a miles long single lane of parked cars. The old highway was open but I saw only one car going down. As I drove out of the parking lot I saw several cars getting onto the gridlocked highway. I turned right instead and ten minutes later I was back on I-90 driving 70 mph. A little local knowledge saved a whole lot of time and frustration.

Photos Coming Soon!