Ranking: 2.5/5 You knew this was coming…This hike never really met all of our desires, as we got blown out by weather…The fog was so thick, that we cut the trip short by a day, not getting to see much because of the dense cover that blanketed everything…There were 4 lakes to see, and we saw one, plus portions of the others. The trail maintenance to Dorothy Lake was outstanding, and gets high praise for such excellent work, and the views around Dorothy Lake are noteworthy. Other than that, there wasn’t that much to see…
Difficulty: 5/10 This hike seems to hit everything right in the middle. The biggest uphill was the 800ft switchback between Dorothy Lake, and Bear Lake. Trail maintenance beyond Bear Lake was overgrown in brush, but the trail to Dorothy Lake was some of the best we’ve seen. Only a few campsites around Snoqualmie Lake, but around Dorothy they were plentiful.
Maps: We continue to use the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Map, put out by ALPS. Also, you can use the Green Trails map, #175 for better resolution.
Permits: Are self issue, and can be picked up at the trailhead. Must also have a Northwest Forest Pass, or equivalent to park at the trailhead. For more information on this hike, and others in the region, look at the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest website. For this hike, click on US highway 2 link, and then the Dorothy Lake Trail #1072.
After a 3 hour drive to the trail head, only slightly complicated by the fact that the signage to the trail head left a little…No, ok, a lot, to be desired, it felt good to get out and stretch our feet. Seems the directions that you get from Googling it, and from the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie Natl. forest website, tell you to turn right onto the Old Cascade Highway, west of the town of Skykomish.
…From the highway, there is NO “Old Cascade Highway” sign…
Funny thing, though…From the highway, there is NO “Old Cascade Highway” sign, appears that you are supposed to know which road that is…Sigh…Learned that you need to turn right at the Money Creek Campground road! The trailhead parking lot is cramped, and during the peak of the season on weekends, I’m sure that the cars line the road.
Looking up, we can see that the skies are grey, but no one’s complaining, after the heat of the last week or so, it’s been very hot, almost too hot to struggle with full packs uphill, so the cooler temps are welcome, we’re just hoping it doesn’t rain…Once on the trail, we are amazed at how well maintained it is!
From the trail head to Dorothy Lake, it’s almost as if we were walking a wilderness trail at Disneyland, with all the puncheon bridges made out of huge timbers, earthen filled log containers, and log steps! They are the most detailed we’ve ever seen! Even the switch backs are built up, we can’t believe how much time and effort this must have taken, and it aids your trip to Dorothy Lake, some 1.5 miles in.
We’ve heard that this is a popular destination for families, probably because of the immaculate trail and relative closeness of the lake to the trail head. After we finish marveling at the trail, and reach the banks of Dorothy Lake, we are greeted by a sign that informs you that there are 32 campsites to choose from, and 4 toilets!!! Wow! Again, we’re amazed…It’s no wonder it’s such a popular spot to come to.
…walking over there is out, but the jagged and jumbled granite provide a beautiful backdrop that rings the lake…
The outlet of the lake forms the pretty stream that you’ve been following, called the Miller River. Stepping from the trees that line this side of the lake, onto its banks, you are greeted by a rather large subalpine lake, one of the biggest in the area. The other side of the lake is steep granite walls that lead right to the water’s edge, so walking over there is out, but the jagged and jumbled granite provide a beautiful backdrop that rings the lake, providing ample opportunities to indulge in squeezing wildly on your cameras shutter release…
As we plan on hiking to Snoqualmie Lake, and then the following day putting on daypacks and going further up the trail to Nordrum Lake, we push on. The trail along the lake is relatively flat, and long! Its 2 miles along the shore line before we round the end of the lake, and it’s mostly lined with old growth timber, with peek-a-boo views of the lake.
The further south we walk along its banks, the personality of the lake changes, as at this end, there are numerous small islands dotting this end of the lake, with trees growing on their domes. Other than looking at the changing scenery, we are also keeping our eye on the low lying clouds overhead…
Above the granite lined rim of the lake; you can see the gray of a dense cloud/ fog layer settling in. Hope that isn’t what we’re going to have to contend with…Finally reaching the farthest reaches of the lake, we round the bend, and cross the inlet stream that has washed out the bridge that used to be here, and begin the switchbacks uphill. It’s the steepest portion of the trail, gaining almost 700ft in .8 miles.
Greg praises the trail crew for their worthy efforts as we pass, which garners the reply, “thanks, but wait till you get further down..”
Once at the top, we begin descending down into Bear lake, and fog…The trail to this point, with the exception of a few downed trees, has been clear and relatively easy to negotiate, and as we’re still pretty impressed with the maintenance of the trail, we mention this to a trail crew that we pass, all dressed in raingear, which, should have been a clue that for the moment escaped us…Greg praises the trail crew for their worthy efforts as we pass, which garners the reply, “thanks, but wait till you get further down..”
I don’t like the sound of that. Another clue, that for the moment, gets stored in the back of the memory banks. There was to be one final clue as to how the rest of the trip was going to go…As we neared the banks of Bear Lake, its edge was barely discernable. We were now completely engulfed in fog, totally socked in. Since there were no photo taking opportunities to take advantage of, shy of some “Gorilla’s in the mist” analogies, we head back out on the trail after a short nutrition break to fill some empty tanks.
Not long into our re-start, we realize the reasons for the first and second clues…The Huckleberry brush is now crowding the trail, and as it’s now loaded with moisture from the heavy mist that surrounds us, we’re starting to get a little damp as we push through the soggy mess…Ok, wet. Drenched, actually…So, now the trail isn’t so well maintained, and suddenly the logic of wearing raingear now appears to be sound. I know I was thinking when we first passed the trail crew all covered in raingear, and we in our shorts and tee-shirts, I was thinking, “wow, what a bunch of weenies…”
…they are even growing on boulders or rock faces that seems impossible for the sheer size of some of these trees…Greg notes that they must have strong core muscles…
I take it all back now…The trail here is not only lined with sopping wet brush, but massive old growth cedars who, by the way, like it wet. In some instances, they are even growing on boulders or rock faces that seems impossible for the sheer size of some of these trees…Greg notes that they must have strong core muscles. Unfortunately, these old growth trees have collected the heavy fog in the area, and filled to overflow with moisture, they now shed it on us as we walk beneath them, and it falls like rain, huge drops smattering the ground, brush, and backs of our exposed necks.
Nothing like a big fat drop of wet down your neck to further brighten your mood. The fog gets no better, and in some places it looks as if it had really rained, leaving puddles in the trail. A short climb once again, to a saddle, and then we drop down into Snoqualmie Lake. Good thing we had GPS units, as it would have been difficult to guess where the lake began, for as we approached its banks, we could not see it until we were right on top of it.
Once along the shore line, we followed the trail until we could find an agreeable spot to pitch camp, and the pickings were slim. We didn’t find that spot until we got to the far end of the lake, at the outlet, where there was a nice spot partially tucked back under some trees, and elevated above the trail somewhat, and close to the outlet stream for water. Sold!
It seems a little upset that we’ve invaded his happy hunting grounds, pacing back and forth a few times with a look of consternation, before retreating to the cover of the boulders and trees…
After setting up camp, we head down to the stream to get water for dinner, and as Greg is pumping water, I spot a furry little creature running along the bank, keeping a wary eye on us. At first, I think it’s a weasel, but as it gets closer, I realize it’s something I’ve not seen before. It’s all one color, a deep chocolate brown, and a relatively slim black fur tail. It seems a little upset that we’ve invaded his happy hunting grounds, pacing back and forth a few times with a look of consternation, before retreating to the cover of the boulders and trees. It’s not until we get home, and look on line that we figure out that it was a mink.
Dropping our water off at camp, we venture back out to the banks of the lake hoping for a clear view. But, our hopes remain unrealized, as the lake stays shrouded in mist. Back at camp, we dive into our provisions, unable to hold back our ravenous appetites no longer. Having grown tired of the same old freeze dried meals, trail fare this evening is going to be something completely different.
We brought sandwiches with all the fixings: Pastrami, Salami, cheddar, and Provolone cheeses!! Outstanding! And, how did we keep them cold, you ask? Quart size freezer bags, filled about 1/3 with water, and then laid flat in the freezer to freeze. Makes a nice thin sheet of ice, and with two of them, I sandwiched the meat, cheese, and condiments (you don’t think I’d eat a meat sandwich without mustard and mayo, do you?) between the ice, and viola’! A portable reefer! There was still ice when we got to camp. Yeah, it was a little heavy, but…It was a welcome change from the usual.
With our hunger now appeased, we sigh with contentment, lean back to relax, and enjoy the quiet and…Drip, drip, drip…Perfect! The dew in the trees has now formed into treedrops, and is now raining on our parade. With resignation, we heft ourselves out of our comfortable positions, and rig a tarp over our heads to shed the now constant dripping. Mission accomplished, and our site now looks like ye olde “Tarpe and Tent”, complete with living room and sleeping quarters.
The fog has now firmly entrenched itself, so we remain in the living room for the rest of the evening. That is, until around 9:30pm…the daylight giving way to dark, the faint sounds of the small stream making its way over the rocks, and the gentle tapping of the droplets on the tarp that shelters us, create a lullaby that causes a slack jaw and droopy eyelids…Until the rude awaking created by something heavy crashing down through the tree limbs right behind our heads! “Crash, bang, snap, THUMP!” Yeow! I’ve been had!!!
…I dart out from under the tarp, ready to…Ready to do what I’m not sure, but…Check my drawers maybe?
Moving faster than I’ve moved all day, I dart out from under the tarp, ready to…Ready to do what I’m not sure, but…Check my drawers maybe? Whatever the case may be, I’m now wide awake, and staring into Greg’s bemused face. “What was that?” I asked Greg wild-eyed, to which he replied with thinly veiled guffaws, “I don’t know, a branch maybe?” A branch? A branch from what, a Redwood??? The night is still once again, and since nothing seems to be moving other than my racing heart, and I’m getting wet outside of our little sanctuary, I convince myself that all is right with the world once again, and plop myself back down…Too close to our little mosquito stick that we had left burning between us. Within seconds, Greg is swatting at me, “Dave! Dave! The stick!”
All my muddled brain could register was that the “stick” that had just attacked us earlier was back again for round two, so I twist my body around again to try and locate our harasser again, to defend myself if necessary. Greg practically has to push me off the glowing ember of our little mosquito smoke screen, that has now become a red hot poker…Drat! I managed to burn a perfect little hole into my brand new pants! Sigh…Oh, well, at least it’s on the pocket, and I convince myself that will be ok.
If I fall into the lake, think how much faster the water will now drain from that pocket with the pre-drilled hole…Not being able to stand any more fun, we turn in, hoping for better weather tomorrow…