& Copper Lakes
have had a warm and dry summer in the Pacific Northwest. With Labor Day
weekend approaching that, or course, began to change. With several days
of rain coming a five day backpacking trip in the Olympic Mountains was
canceled. In stead, Kim invited me on a trip up the West Fork of the
Foss River. I visited in 1988 and again in 2012. This would be only my
third trip in 26 years. The other trips were sunny. This would be
different. Kim is volunteering with the Skykomish Ranger District this
summer so our first stop was at the Skykomish Ranger Station. She
checked in and picked up a shovel. By the time we reached the trailhead
at the end of the road it was already 9:45 am. There were only about 8
or 9 cars in the lot. It was not raining though it was very cloudy. I
guess the weather affected the number of early morning backpackers.
The trail begins were flat as it heads over to the river. For a number
of years it was necessary to cross the river on whatever logs were
available. On my 2012 visit a new bridge was in place. The trail now
goes farther upstream before crossing on the bridge. I noticed
something odd on my way back in 2012. That trip was in late August too.
The sound of the river disappears as you near the bridge. So does the
water. It is completely underground in late summer. Not a drip of a
sound. Once across the grade begins to steepen a little. We stopped at
the huge tree along the trail. It is a monster. by now raindrops were
beginning to fall. I stopped to dig out an umbrella. While it was not
hot it was humid and not good conditions to but on a rain jacket. I
would have been soaked by sweat in minutes.
The trail crosses several open avalanche slopes and descends a bit to
Trout Lake at 1.50 miles. An easy walk to a nice lake. On my previous
visit there were a lot of tents at the lake. This time there were none
in sight. It looked like all the other cars were full of hikers going
farther. We did see a couple of folks already heading down. Beyond
Trout Lake the trail gets steeper and rockier. Not as rocky as I seemed
to remember but not smooth either.
The trail gains some 2000' in 2.5 miles to Copper Lake. The grade is
not too steep but it is relentless. It was worse on my previous visit
as it was very hot coming down in the afternoon. This time it was much
cooler but wet. Not all that bad a trade off. While short sleeves were
fine when the route became brushier I stopped to but on rain pants. We
soon entered the clouds. It was even wetter. We had drizzle, rain, and
even a few dry spots on the way up. Just like many hikes in the 9+
months when it rains each year. Kim dislikes extreme heat even more
than me and rain does not seem to bother her. She had no problem with
It seemed to take a long time to reach the junction with the way trail
to Malachite Lake. After that the route takes a break from the many
switchbacks and traverses towards Copper Lake. A few more switchbacks
and we reached the outlet creek. The rocks were a little slick but no
problem to cross. We followed the creek up to the lake. Not exactly
stellar views. The ridge behind the lake went in and out of the clouds.
We found a campsite that was partly dry under big trees. Time for
lunch. It was 1:20 pm. A group of four guys soon arrived. They were in
shorts and short sleeves. On the way down they passed us wearing all
their rain gear.
There never was any wind all day. The rain was off and on though mostly
on near Copper Lake. We did not see any tents at the lake.
Kim checked a few sites to make sure there were no campfire rings.
Fires are not allowed at the lakes. Considering the conditions we
decided to head straight on down. Little Heart and Malachite Lakes
could wait until our next visit. Going down the rocks were a bit slick.
I wore heavier boots and was glad for it. Better traction and dry feet
all day. Half a mile down we met a group of backpackers heading up. No
rain was going to stop therm. They were in good spirits. Soon we met
another party. Then another. The backpackers did not start early but
they did turn out.
Farther down me met several more groups heading up to camp. Lots of
families among them. When we reached Trout Lake I expected to find even
more campers. It is a short trip. Perfect for youngsters. Also perfect
for bailing out if the weather did not improve. In fact, we found
nobody camping at the lake. Quite a surprise to me on the first day of
a holiday weekend. The last 1.50 miles went by faster. We reached the
parking lot at 5:00 pm to find a whole lot more cars. We were a little
late when Kim checked back in at the ranger station. Among the best
parts was the lack of traffic on Highway 2 heading home.
This was a fun hike. The first wet one I've had in some time. The misty
clouds gave the trail a very different feel compared to the hot day I
had two years ago. We did notice a number of mushrooms coming up so
fall may not be far away. I had a chance to thoroughly uses my rain
gear too. I'm not ready for the cold wet days of November and December
and January and February, and March and April and ...hold on. I guess I
mean a little more summer would be fine with me. This was still a nice
change of pace day on the trail.