9.5 miles, 738ft gain/3028ft loss. I awake to the sounds of Elk bugling, and it’s clear there’s two different groups calling out to each other. In fact, it sounds as if one of the herds is right outside my tent! I can hear them chomping on grass, and drinking out of the lake. It’s not quite light out yet, so I have no interest in hopping out of my tent in their midst, not wanting to surprise a huge animal with horns…They continue their calling for at least an hour, and after I get up around first light, I have to look to find them.
“…the grim reality of returning to civilization and work begins to creep into my conscious…”
Across the ridge, at the base of the Klickton divide, is a herd of at least 12, possibly more, grazing on the hillside meadow. There appears to be another herd, below the ridge here at the lake, but I can’t make them out. Too far away to get good pictures, I still capture them on video. After breakfast, the grim reality of returning to civilization and work begins to creep into my conscious, so, with a heavy sigh, I break camp, take one last longing look around, (there’s still so much more to see and explore), I leave this area, and head out the way I came in. This time, however, as I get to the ridge where I made a cross country trek, I decide to follow the trail cut into the side of the hill to see if I can follow it back to trail 1120.
“…Perhaps if more people visit this area, the trail will be easy to follow?”
It seems as if one time, this was a maintained path, as its’ relatively easy to make out even as it enters the trees. I keep a close eye on my GPS, and I can see that it indeed is heading back towards the trail. Occasionally, it’s hard to follow, but, as I mentioned earlier, it’s easy to follow out. As I break the tree line right near the trail, having travelled 1.74 miles from the lake, I look back, and can see why I passed it earlier, it’s amazing how well hidden it is. Perhaps if more people visit this area, the trail will be easy to follow? And, if not, only a handful willing to go off trail in search of the valley above, will know of what is to see and explore beyond the ridgeline. I complete the loop back to the Surprise Lake junction in good time, the trail an easy downhill grade to the reconnect, switch backing lazily through old growth fir, cedar, and hemlock.
I do like the east side forests, as they are not inundated with thick, clinging underbrush, allowing one to see through the trees for hundreds of feet. Back to the car, and then back to civilization, I’m left with the pictures and memories of a truly epic adventure, the best so far this year. It’s possible, that this place will need further exploring, and now that I know a good route in, I won’t waste time in backtracking to find my way there. If you decide to go there, and see for yourself, be sure to download the GPS track, this way, you can follow, and find the exact point for the way up to Warm Lake.