Silver Lake - Barlow Point

I hike up to Poodle Dog Pass via the old and awful trail on July 4, 1989, the 100th anniversary of the discovery of gold at Monte Cristo. I came back with Gary in 2001 on our way to Twin Lakes. Now another 10 years later I chose to hike to Silver Lake for the first time. It was shaping up as a perfect summer day for a hike. Cool morning then up into the low 70s in the afternoon. I drove up the Mountain Loop Highway to Barlow Pass, arriving at 9:00 am. I was on my way by 9:10 am. The lower lot was already full though there was room for more cars parked parallel to the road. I drove into the upper lot to find only a couple cars. The 4 miles of road to Monte Cristo goes by very fast. Gary and I biked it on the Twin Lakes trip. I have walked it many times.

It's hard to believe that just a few years ago the road went right over Twin Bridges. Even more road was scoured away this winter. A new section of trail leads to the one year old new trail to the log across the river. The logs just down stream are now gone making a fall off the log much less dangerous. It's plenty wide and I had no trouble crossing. Columbine was the flower of the day. I saw it in full bloom along the road and in Monte Cristo. Buttercups also lined the road in places. At the river crossing and at various places along the road were openings to snowy peaks above. It does not look like a few days until August.

I saw nobody along the road. With a number of photo stops I reached Monte Cristo at about 10:45. Lots of people already there. Some seemed to have arrived a day or two earlier. On my first visit to Poodle Dog Pass the new trail did not exist. On the second it was known to be under construction. After a brutal scramble up the old route Gary and I saw the new tread meeting our route. On our way down we took the new route. It was done except for the dedication. I had been down it but never up it. I hiked up to Sunday Creek and picked up the Silver Lake Trail.

Easy switchbacks replaced the "pull yourself up the rocks in the stream bed" trail that used to go to the pass. One tree is down across the trail but is not too hard to clamber over. In the open rock garden it is still spring. Bleeding hearts are in full bloom. I passed a family at the creek crossing. A few minutes later I passed another group. I did not think this was a very popular hike. The meeting of the old trail is hard to see but the abrupt change in the tread is not. Mud, water running down the trail and rocky steps herald the change. I passed another group and soon reached a big snow patch. I did not see footprints and went too high. A quick glance at the GPS showed the trail heading off to the right and a minute later I was back on course.

I saw two places where the old route has been changed from straight up the fall line to switchbacks. The route climbed to near the pass where snow began. From dry to a foot of snow immediately. There is a snowy slope to traverse. Not deadly exposure but you could get banged up with a fall. It was hard going up but much softer and easier coming down. A hundred feet of that or so and I reached Poodle Dog Pass. There was not a cloud in the sky all day and the blue with all that white snow was very beautiful. There was at least a few feet of compacted snow at the pass. I met a group of young folks at the pass and they headed down to the lake while I had a short lunch break. It was about noon. Silvertip Peak was close by with more than half a dozen waterfalls cascading down it's steep slopes.

Soon I was descending to a snowy meadow then a short up and Silver Lake was right below. The lake has melted out at the outlet but most of the lake is still covered by a layer of white. There is a little bare ground in the trees but otherwise everything still looks like mid winter. I took a nice long break at the lake, staying for 1 1/2 hours. It went by very fast. A warm sunny day at a snowy lake is almost perfect. A steady crowd soon began to arrive. One group was staying at Monte Cristo. It included kids from about 7 to 15. We had folks of all ages at the lake.

The group I met at the pass had disrobed down to swim suits. They were trying to decide if they would head into the water. It is not very deep at the outlet but deep enough to get plenty wet. After a long debate they headed in. I think they all managed to get submerged in a few feet of water. Lots of reaction to the just barely not frozen solid water. At about 1:30 I packed up and headed down. More folks were arriving as I left the pass. As mentioned the snow slope was much easier going down. Once off snow it was just a slog back to Monte Cristo. It's only 2 miles from town to lake though it seemed like more. Likely the less than perfect upper trail is to blame. At the cabin near the Sunday Creek bridge I took a right and went up to a spot at a roaring cascade. Shaded and right on the water it was a highlight of the day.

The four mile walk back to Barlow Pass was not too bad. It never did get too hot and much of the way is shaded. In the first mile down I met half a dozen groups coming in. Only two bikers passed me heading out. By 4:40 I was done with 12+ miles and 2200' of gain. Time to go home? Not quite yet. It had been nearly 25 years since my one and only visit to Barlow Point. It is too short for a full day trip so any visit is after doing a hike. Most trips near there are pretty strenuous so I had never made a return visit. This day I felt like giving it a go. I walked right by my car and onto the Barlow Point trail.

The Barlow Point trail is listed as 1.2 miles each way with 800' of gain. I won't dispute the distance but there is 80' of loss heading up and a net gain of 840'. That means there is 1000' total elevation gain. Heading steeply up after a long afternoon of descending is not my idea of fun. I passed a couple near the top and was sweating up a storm when I topped out. What did I find on the summit? An aluminum chair. I have no idea who carted it up and left it but at the time I was glad to plop down in it. Just below the top is a bare point with views over to Big Four. It would have been a great view if not for the afternoon haze. Dickerman was clear right above us. This is a fine hike for a family or non hikers who want to get up to a view.

The trip down was much faster than the ascent. The deep forest is dark in late afternoon. There is a whole lot of moss in there too. It was 6:15 when I finally reached my car, again. This was an almost perfect day. Easy road turning to trail walking then up to the ridge crest and down to the snowy bowl of Silver Lake. The blue sky, tall peaks, and white landscape was beautiful. Adding in a short steep climb to another viewpoint rounded out the day. For the day I traveled just short of 15 miles with 3200' of gain. I hope we have a lot more summer days like this.

Crossing Log Over Sauk
Log Is Plenty Wide
Sauk River
View Down River
Railroad Tracks Unearthed
Peaks Above Town
Snowy Peaks
Sauk River From Bridge
High Above Monte Cristo
Turntable & Robin
Building Remains
Log Across Trail
Views Improve
Wilmans Spires
Great Views
Poodle Dog Pass
Snowy Meadow
Silver Lake & Silvertip Pk
Silvertip Ridge
Ready For A Swim?
Dive In!
Winter Like Snow
Back To The Pass
Crossing Snow
Sketchy Trail
Big Snow Patch
Bleeding Heart
Colorful Ferns
Scrooge Approved
Not Scrooge Approved
Monte Cristo
Looking Back Up River
Bridge To Nowhere
Dickerman From Barlow Pt
Relaxing On Summit
Sheep Mountain
Mossy Trail
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2011