Kendall Lakes

A very rainy day was forecast. Gary wanted to get out and suggested a loop on Mt. Si. John was interested in coming too. As the forecast turned worse Gary changed the idea to a ski trip up to Kendall Lakes just east of Snoqualmie Pass. With the lack of fresh snow we changed again to a snowshoe trip to Kendall Lakes. The road up used to be mostly skiers when Gary and I first went up together. Gary had been skiing the route well before me. Recent snowshoe crowds have make it less appealing for skiing. This would be Gary's first time up on snowshoes and only about my second. We used to do this trip almost every winter. It had been almost eight years since our last visit.To beat the crowds we started early arriving at the sno-park north of Hyak just before 8:00 am. Much to our surprise we were the first car to arrive. Another van arrived soon after us. We got started before them.

One reason for snowshoes over skis is that there have been a number of freezes and thaws since the last snowfall. We expected the packed snow to be rock hard. It was. Even untouched snow off to the side was very hard. We put on microspikes right at the beginning. Traction was great with spikes. It rained on most of the drive from my home to near Snoqualmie Pass. We found only mist coming down. Much different than the harder rain near Mt. Si. We were feeling pretty good with our change of venue. With no recent snow we expected all the trees to be bare. Instead, we found lots of icy snow flocking them. It really did feel like winter.

The first 3 miles of our trip was on an old road. The flocked trees and misty low clouds kept our views short and made for a more backcountry feel than hiking a road near a major interstate highway. We made good time at first then settled into a steady pace. Though it was near freezing it did not feel that cold. I had just liner gloves and a baseball cap. In fact, we had a clothing break in the first mile and all took off clothing. At the point where views open to peaks and ski areas to the west and south we had views of clouds. Up though a couple switchbacks then north up a valley. At about the 3 mile mark is a "T". Most folks turn sharply to the right and up to the ridge and Kendall Knob. We turned to the left. There used to be a bridge here but it was taken out. We climbed down to the small creek, crossed, and climbed back up to the road.

The heavily trod trench we had been following gave way to single recent snowshoe tracks. We tromped along the road a bit farther to where Gary leaves the road heading to Lower Kendall Lake. Here we stopped and put on snowshoes. The single tracks were hard enough that we might have been able to continue without snowshoes but we took no chances. Gary led the way off the road and quickly met the single snowshoe track once again. Since it was heading our way we followed it. Several minutes later I noticed my right snowshoe binding had the back strap hanging loose. I stopped to attach it and then noticed I only had one snowshoe on. Last year I did only one snowshoe trip. The year before only one or two. Clearly I'm out of practice. The guys waited while I headed almost back to the road to find my lone snowshoe right where I walked out of it. That says something about the hard snow that I did not even notice it was gone. I managed to get in a little extra distance and elevation gain.

I finally caught up and we continued up the valley. The route is a fun mix of forest and open meadow. Soon enough we were at Lower Kendall Lake. Lots of snow all around and on top of the lake. It did not take long for us to hike up to the middle lake. We dropped down to lake level and took a food and photos break. It was only 10:23 am. On the entire trip up to the lake we saw exactly zero other people. So much for huge crowds this trip draws. Gary had been up to the upper lake on several other occasions. I had never done it. We chose to give it a try. The avalanche danger was low. It is short but steep up to the upper lake. We headed around the lake and started climbing. The snow was thin and hard. Pretty good conditions for climbing. Less good for descending. That and our lack of ice axes made us conservative. About 100" below the lake we were uncomfortable with the conditions and decided to head on down.

Back down at the middle lake we took our lunch break. John and I met some aggressive camp robber jays on our New Year's Eve hike. The ones at Kendall Lake were not shy. One guy would land on my head then jump to my shoulder and walk down my arm looking for food. We took a number of photos of them as we ate. It never really rained but we had falling ice off and on. Standing still, I became a little cold. Not enough to dig out a puffy layer but enough to heavy gloves. Thirty minutes later I was ready to get moving. It was still only 11:37 am.

We headed back around the lake then descended to the lower lake. Contouring around that lake required us to jump several gaps as a little running water caused bare ground. At the other side of the lake we found a big trench to follow out. Perhaps the group that arrived when we started turned around here. The route back to the ridge top road crosses what was a clear cut not long ago. In the 8 years since Gary and I were here the trees have grown. The snow is not as deep as normal either. The trees were definitely bigger than we remembered.

Out at the ridge road there are views but this cloudy day they were not be found. We finally began to see some folks. Our total solitude ended. This road is the one that goes sharply right at the first "T" junction we reached earlier. We would loop back to where we first left the road. The trench was hard enough that snowshoes were not really necessary but we kept them on for now. Down we went to where the road turns and descends to the "T". We went straight ahead uphill to Kendall Knob. This wide old road was narrower than Gary and I recalled. A nice route out to the viewpoint. We were not expecting any views this day. We were not disappointed. A big group was at the viewpoint. It likely was the group that started right after us. They left before us.

We started down at 12:33 pm. Down to the first junction then left and down to the "T" junction. Along the way we crossed what looks like a bit of a washout on the road. Easy to cross but I hope it does not completely wash out. At the "T" we passed the big group. Now just 3 downhill miles to go. At Kendall Knob we took off our snowshoes. It made the descent easier and faster. The lower route was very slick in the morning and I expected to stop and put on microspikes at some point. It never happened. Boots worked just fine. We did pass people periodically on the way down. Nothing like a normal weekend day in the winter. Perhaps all the rain west of the crest kept folks home. We did see one lone skier coming up. Twenty years ago on a typical day we would see a dozen skiers and an occasional snowshoer. Now a skier is unusual. Near the bottom we started seeing the families with small kids and sliding disks. We made it out at 1:45 pm.

This turned out to be a great trip. My first snowshoe trip of the year and only third on two years. It was right around 30-33 degrees all day. What precipitation that fell was not rain. We had no views but we also did not see the highway below. Even the sound of traffic was muted. We did not see anyone at all for the first 4 hours. A whole lot more solitude than expected on the way to Kendall Lakes. John did not get out on snowshoes at all last year so he was happy. Gary went to an old favorite but by snowshoes for the first time. I was happy to be out in the snow. A great time was had by all.

Getting Started
Gary & John
Icy Road
Flocked Trees
Stream Crossing
Almost View
Heading Off Road
Lower Kendall Lake
Trees Around Lake
Middle Kendall Lake
Looking Back
Coming Down Ridge
John & Gray Jay
Jay Close Up
Lunch Time
Back At Lower Lake
Lake & Kendall Ridge
Kendall Peak
Ridge Road
Gary At Kendall Knob
Lone Hiker
John At The Knob
Snowy Scene
Nearing The End
Middle Kendall Lake Panorama
Panorama View From Kendall Knob
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2017