Trout & Copper Lakes

We 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 the weather.

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.


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Trips - 2014