Monogram Lake

Thirty percent chance of thundershowers didn't seem all that bad. Kim and I wanted to get out backpacking. With temperatures heading into the upper 80s for the weekend we wanted to get somewhere higher and cooler. The original idea was Lost Creek Ridge with Monogram Lake as an option. By Friday night we decided on Monogram. Kim had been there in the fall and stopped at the high point above the lake. I had been to Lookout Mountain but had not taken the spur trail to Monogram. The lookout is in the National Forest but the lake is in North Cascades National Park. Camping permits are required. We left Seattle at 5:10 am hoping to get to the Marblemount Ranger Station when it opened at 7:00 am.

We made one stop in Darrington and pulled into the Ranger Station at 7:04. There was a line of half a dozen groups ahead of us. It took us 30 minutes to get squared away but we had one of the two nightly permits allotted. Bear canisters are highly recommended by the rangers. There are trees but few have branches more than a few feet long. Hanging food it not practical. The lake is also known as an active bear location. Use a credit card to cover a $90 refundable deposit and the canister is free. The camping permit is also free.

We headed the 7 paved miles down the Cascade River Road and parked in the small lot. One group was leaving just ahead of us on their way to the lookout. By 8:15 we were on the trail. On the positive side, the bugs were nearly non existent at first. I recalled this trail as being one of those that does not seem as difficult as the numbers would indicate. We had 2.8 miles gaining 2800' to the Monogram Lake junction. It does climb consistently but does not seem like 1000' per mile.

We climbed steadily in the early morning cool as it rapidly began to warm up. After 2100' of climbing we stopped for a break at a campsite right on the trail. The forest is thick and dark with some non chlorophyll plants like Indian pipe and candy stick. Some really big trees too. Next comes a brushy section with nettles. Stinging nettles. One creek crossing on logs and the trail levels off. I felt like we had gone past the turn off and in fact I did walk right by. Kim noticed it. There is a post with the trail names and it is on the right side behind a log. The trail goes straight up the fall line. I completely missed it.

At this point the bugs were really noticeable. I pulled my long steeves back down even though it was past 80 degrees now. Kim stopped for long steeves and long pants. The trail to the lake is a maintained fisherman's route. A few big logs are down but the smaller ones have been cut away this spring. It is steep in places and narrow in others but it is perfectly fine. There are a few short muddy stretches too. At about 4900' the trail pops out of the forest into a big meadow. The first wildflowers of the day were here.

I crossed the meadow and waited for Kim. Thee is an excellent view across to the Lookout Mountain lookout from the meadow. It was hot but on went my zip off pants legs. flies were everywhere. I noticed some clouds coming in too. From the meadow we followed the trail up to the high point on the ridge overlooking Monogram Lake. This is where the views and the wildflowers are at their best. South across the Cascade River to peaks. I think I recognized Snowking to the southeast. Little Devil sits high above the lake. I could see the lookout on Hidden Lake Peak. I think the tallest peak behind Monogram is Eldorado.

Blue, red, pink, white, yellow, and more colors in the meadow. The trail drops 450' to the lake. There were still a few small snow patches but only one was on the trail. It will be gone soon. We stopped at the first campsite. The forest service said one was dry and one was still soaked. The first one was dry. I went to the second one and found it no better. We set up our tents at 3:00 pm. It started to rain just a few minutes later. A couple minutes after that the thunder began to boom.

I wanted to fit everything into my winter day pack and succeeded. To do so I took my tarptent. I figured that a 30% chance of thunderstorms meant a little here or there. I didn't expect 2 1/2 hours of non stop thunder and lightning. To it's credit my Tarptent Rainbow kept me completely dry. It was really coming down for most of the storm. From the amount of noise it sat right over us much of the time. Well we did turn a hike to a lake into an adventure. At 5:30 it stopped and we were able to cook dinner.

Kim dove into her tent before 7:00 pm and I held out an hour later. I did take a walk back to the other campsite and found a tent and two very territorial dogs. The lake is in the national park. Dogs are not allowed. There are two big signs at the trailhead pointing it out. I guess the other campers did not know. They must have hiked in during the thunderstorm. I'm glad we weren't out in it.

In the morning the sky was clear. We were not in a big hurry and left at 9:45 just after the other backpackers. It was already very hot. The uphill start was not appreciated. We did meet one day hiker near the ridge. He was on the trail at 7:00 am. That was smart. The hike out was even buggier than the hike in. At the junction we stopped and a mass of black flies descended on us. The continued most of the way down. We passed a number of groups heading up in the heat of the day. There is no water for the first 2500' of gain. NOt good for the dogs we saw. By 2:15 we were back at the car.

It was an interesting weekend. Great flowers and mountain views mixed in with one heck of a long and loud thunderstorm. And the bugs. bring lots of deet and a head net if you are staying at the lake during the next few weeks.

Smooth Trail
Tiger Lily
Creek Crossing
Meadow Lupine
Big Meadow
Nearly White Paintbrush
First Clouds
Kim In Meadow
Peaks To The East
Monogram Lake Below
Snow To Cross
Peak Behind Lake
Flower Show Begins
Lousewort & Lupine
Green Slopes
Kim & Flowers
Wet Campsite
Clouds Down To Lake
Heather & Lupine
Cloudy Reflection
Moody Reflection
Rocky Reflection
Mutchler & Snowking
Morning Reflection
Morning Flowers
Morning Peak View
Green & Blue
Elephant Head
Colorful Border
Little Devil Ridge
Lookout Mt. Lookout
Mt. Baker
Meadow Again
Queen's Cup
Indian Pipe
More Indian Pipe
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2009