Kelcema Lake

I was looking for a gently graded route. My knee has been sore after hikes recently so I did not want a steep snow trip. Right now almost everything is a snow trip. My first visit to Kelcema Lake was on skis in 1990. I was just learning to ski and it was not pretty. I was surprised that I was able to ski through the forest at the end to the lake. Back then very few folks snowshoed to the lake. With the low start there is little snow down low many years. After February's snow dumps there is plenty of snow. I went to the lake a second time on snowshoes with the Mountaineer in 2000. Nineteen years later I was set for a third visit. I am also a year early for yet another trip in a year ending in zero. I had an early but not really early start. I drove out the Mountain Loop Highway. Snow along the side just beyond Granite Falls. Much of the way after Verlot was on thin packed snow. Slicker than I was expecting. Three cars in a row did about 30 mph the last twenty miles. I arrived at the Deer Creek Road to find three cars parked at the start of the road. There was room for one more car but someone built a fire pit there. I was the first car to park alongside the road. I arrived at 8:30 am and was on my way by 8:36 am.

The road had two trenches at first. It was 27 degrees and the snow was hard but I still had pretty good traction. No snowshoes or microspikes needed. The first climb out of the valley might be the steepest section of the day. That is not saying much as the route gains 1600' over five miles. This is not a steep road/trail. Within ten minutes I came upon four young women with snowshoes on standing in the trail. I went by and they soon started following. I made much better time in boots and they were quickly out of site. The route is almost entirely in forest.  Trees along the side were flocked by snow. The now one trench was deep and was visible far into the distance. I reached the junction with the old Double Eagle Road to find a set of boot prints heading that way. Back in 1990 I skied up that road before brush became a problem. Back then the road was in the Cross Country Ski Trails book.

There is one spot where there are few trees along the road. This was the best view out on the trip. I was expecting mostly sunny sky but that did not happen. Just a few spots of blue sky all day. There were still decent views out in this one spot. I had one set of boot prints ahead of me. That was the one person with an earlier start. I knew that the road had washed out a few years earlier. I did not know if it would be a problem to get across. Whoever set the track did a lot of work. I had it pretty easy.

I reached the washout and it was impressive. All the trees below are now gone. A boot path dropped down then worked its way across. At the other side there was bare dirt and gravel that made it easy to climb up. On snowshoes it was a little more interesting on the way back. There were a couple other minor washouts that were no problem. I soon saw another hiker coming towards me. He had gone without snowshoes and was now beginning to sink in on his return. Due to limited time he had to turn around before reaching the lake. It looked like I would be first this day. When I reached the crossing of Deer Creek the snow was deep enough I could hear but not see the creek. As I neared the big right hand turn I began to sink in. At the turn there used to be great views of Bald Mountain. After 19 years the trees have grown a lot. I had little view from there. As the road continued climbing I did get some views of the summit.

There are a few spots on the upper road where brush has to be fought through on the road. Just a few spots and then it is better again. As I ascended I took a look to my left and saw a rock wall that was covered with icicles. A scenic spot and I almost did not see it. I finally stopped to but on snowshoes. A third of a mile later I reached the end of the road. Time for the short hike through the forest to the lake. Before the washout cars could drive this far in the summer. The forest section was the best part of the day. The trench would around through a meadow, up a hill and then up and down. There were a lot of snow blobs. Trees that were bent over and completely covered with snow. I reached Kelcema Lake at 11:10 am. I took 2:34 to hike 5 miles. Not bad on snow.

I dropped down to the lake level and sat down for lunch. It was now 35 degrees with minimal wind. With a jacket it was pretty comfortable. There was one set of ski tracks going across the lake. Although I saw a few patches of blue the sky remained mostly white. No sunshine this day. My lunch break went on for almost 45 minutes. I saw two groups while coming up and then had another 45 minutes of solitude at the lake. Just beyond where I parked there would be a lot of cars. Many folks snowshoe to Big Four every weekend. I had almost total solitude. At 11:55 am I packed u and headed down. Part way back to the road I met a lone snowshoer coming in. When I reached the road and started down it I met another lone snowshoer. Before the sharp turn I met a group of two. All the rest of the way back I met two more groups of two. That adds up to five people seen coming in and eight more while coming in. Thirteen people over ten miles. So much for crowds.

I kept the snowshoes on all the way down. The snow did soften a bit but it was great in snowshoes. Much to my surprise my problem knee did not hurt at all. I picked exactly the right trip this day. I reached the Mountain Loop Highway at 2:00 pm. I took 2:05 to come down. I could see lots of cars at the end of the road but very few at Deer Creek Road. The drive home was much easier as almost all the icy snow in the morning had melted. Mostly bare road all the way back.

Nineteen years is a long break since the last time I did this trip. Hiking up a forested road is not the most scenic trip but the lake was great. The snow conditions were really great. Deep but packed down well and smooth. It has been almost that long ago since I skied the Mountain Loop from here to Barlow Pass. With the low elevation snow I may be able to get that trip in too this winter. All in all, this was a great way to spend an early March day in the mountains.

Deer Creek Road
Open Gate
I Passed 4 Snowshoers
Miles Of Packed Trench
Reaching Washout
Bump On Road
View Out
Asphalt Creek Bed
Lined With Trees
Snowy Branches
PITA To Get Through
Peaks In Sight
Icicle Wall
Close Up Look
Snow Blob
Bent Over Trees
Kelcema Lake
Ski Track
Heading Back
Blue Patches Of Sky
Lots Of New Snow
More Icicles
Bald Mountain
Distant Peaks
Mt. Dickerman?
Rocky Ridge
Snowy Arch
Big Four Mountain
Another View
Snowy Ridge Peaks
Close Up View
Leftmost Point
Road Washout
Kelcema Lake Panorama
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2019