Ranking: 3/5 A great hike for beginning backpackers, as it was a moderately easy hike to get you into the back country. Also, if you plan on doing some fishing, this trek is perfect, as there are several, no, innumerable lakes to fish from! Taking the same loop we did on day 2 will get you to a high point, too, so that you can take in the entire region. Camping at Dumbbell lake is serene, as it is a pretty lake, bounded by volcanic boulders in the middle of deep forest, an unlikely body of water here in the Goat Rocks Wilderness.
Difficulty: 3/10 The hike itself is relatively easy, mostly flat well maintained and signed trail, especially the part that follows the PCT. This, and the fact that there is plenty of water and places to camp, make this a easy choice for first time backpackers. In fact, we actually talked to a couple of women backpackers that were on their first overnight backpack here at Dumbbell. To add difficulty to this easy hike, we included a second day loop, a 13.5 mile jaunt that took us over the high point in the area, Tumac Mt, a large cinder cone that used to have a fire lookout on top.
Getting there: From I-5, take exit #68 onto US-12E, and follow 12E 84.8 miles to just past the crest of White Pass. Look for NF-498, Leech Lake CG on the left. There will be parking here at the PCT trailhead.
Permits: Northwest Forest Pass to park at trailhead, or equivalent. And, will need to self register at trailhead.
Maps: Green Trails Map, White Pass #303
Dumbbell Lake/Twin Sisters Lake Loop Added 5/25/2014
A lengthy title, right? And, not even the hike that was really planned for this weekend, but…Sometimes; things happen that will spoil even the best laid plans. This is one of those instances that somehow, still worked out.Luckily, Greg and I started out early, and left my house at 5:00am. Still dark, and somewhat foggy, we were glad we were heading for the east side, where perhaps the weather was better. At least, the forecast called for sunny skies.
“…but hey, we’re going on my infallible memory, right? What’s not to trust???”
As we were driving up through Packwood, there was such a heavy mist, that you might call it rain, for the wipers never stopped until we neared White Pass. And, as soon as we dropped over the pass, it was blue skies! Great! We found the North Fork Tieton River road, drove up it to the point we needed to turn for the final leg, and…Not gonna happen. There were several trucks parked in the road, and a large sign that said the road was closed indefinitely….WHAT? I checked the website before we drove over, and did not see that the road had been closed! Now what? So, instead of driving home, we decided we would try and go on my memory, and try the Goat Rocks/Warm Lake hike that I had done the year before, from the Conrad Meadows Trailhead. Sure, we didn’t have the map, but hey, we’re going on my infallible memory, right? What’s not to trust??? Practically everything, since I had a little trouble remembering the right road to turn off of.
“…I can only hope the person in the truck wasn’t too badly traumatized…”
My memory did serve me correctly, though, as after a couple of false starts, we found the right road, just as I remembered it, with a Y intersection joining the main road. Great, we’ll get up to the Goat Rocks this way, then! We get to the next junction where we need to go straight, and BLAM! This road was blocked, too! There was a truck sitting here as well, in front of a deer fence, with red ribbon tied in it, blocking access to the road to Conrad Meadows…Man, what a depressing turn of events! Here we are, packed, ready to go, and it’s a big fat rejection…Well, since we’re here, I gotta go, so I jump out of the truck, unzip, and just as I’m ready to go, “HONK!” Oh, man…I didn’t think there was anyone in that truck!!! Sorry about that, I wasn’t trying to flash you or anything! Everything properly stowed, I sheepishly jump back in the truck, and we find a spot that we don’t have to worry about a viewing…I can only hope the person in the truck wasn’t too badly traumatized…
We decide to try our luck elsewhere, since it’s obvious we’re not going into the east side of the Goat Rocks, so we drive back to White Pass, and the small convenience store we saw earlier, in hopes of finding some Green Trails Maps. Thankfully, they were open, and they stocked Green Trails Maps! Things were looking up!
Earlier in the year, I remember scouting potential hikes, and this area north of White Pass had intrigued me with its numerous lakes and trails, so…Looks like its going to get moved to the top of the list today!We park on the south side of the highway, in the PCT parking lot, and after crossing the road, realize there was lots of parking on the White Pass campground side. Oh, well, we’re on the trail now…
8 miles, 1573ft gain/845ft loss.
We’ve never started a hike like this before, just stopping in a store, picking up a map, and pointing to a location on it, and saying, “that’s where we’re going!” There’s usually a lot more planning involved. This feels a bit like being blindfolded and throwing a dart at a map to make our choice…
“…we decide on Dumbbell Lake for our first night. How fitting a name, as that’s kind of how I feel right now…”
After a few minutes of quick discussion, we decide on Dumbbell Lake for our first night. How fitting a name, as that’s kind of how I feel right now, having missed the fact that the road we needed was closed. We assume it was from the big rain a few weeks ago, that dumped so much rain on our side of the mountain, along with thunder and lightning.
The trail begins on the PCT, and it’s a wide, well maintained path, nice and flat, and it heads gradually uphill through typical east side timber, lots of firs widely spaced, and little undergrowth, so you can see quite a distance through the trees. There are low-growing huckleberries everywhere, and we’re starting to see a lot of mushrooms, no doubt encouraged to spring up by the rains of last week. I’m seeing a lot of King Boletus, a real taste treat that we jealously guard the location of when I was growing up as a kid on the Oregon coast. Here, there’s more already than I could eat in a month! Amazing!
The miles drift away quickly, as the wide, smooth path allows us to cover ground quickly. Good thing, too, as hiking through the forest has a tendency to bore me quickly, another reason I like hikes that do most of their travelling above tree line. The monotony is occasionally broken up by small lake and tarn sightings, and it’s that we focus our camera lens upon. Only 2.5 miles from the trailhead the first lake we pass is Deer Lake, and then shortly after that, aptly named Sand Lake. In Deer Lake, there were fish jumping, and a few spots to camp in the trees. Sand Lake, on the other hand, seemed no more than a deep depression in a grassy meadow, and as the waters receded from the shores, left a large white outline, composed of sand. Even the bottom that you could see was sandy. It didn’t appear that fish favored this lake.
Back in the trees, we continued our rapid pace along unremarkable forest, broken up by the continued sighting of an occasional small pond, and several small meadows. I cannot recall a hike where we passed so many small bodies of water. Most of the smaller ones, though were brackish, and covered with algae, not at all attractive.
At the 4.5 mile mark, the gradual uphill gives way to downhill now, even though we’re still firmly entrenched in forest, and we continue our gradual downhill now to Beusch Lake, 6.2 miles in, a larger lake near our final destination at Dumbbell lake.
Needless to say, we are disappointed, for the banks of the lake are marshy, and the main body of water is being encroached upon with swamp grass. Only here at the outlet, where the trail crosses, is the water reachable without having to stomp through the high grass.
“…The ducks seem to like it, though. They’re welcome to it…”
“Wow…If Dumbbell lake is like this, I don’t know if I want to stay”, Greg mutters. I have to agree. And, in fact, it appears that so does everyone else, for I do not recall a good campsite. The ducks seem to like it, though. They’re welcome to it, and we move on to our next lake, in hopes that it is much nicer. Knowing that we’ve walked in over 7 miles, we’re hoping that this hasn’t just become another death march, for we’ll be walking right back out again, if the next lake isn’t better.
As we near Dumbbell, we enter a previous burn, and there is a large stand of ghostly trees, white and bare pointing skyward. They border the northwest side of the lake, and we can see through them to a large lake, that looks very promising, bright blue waters rippled from the afternoon breeze, with banks of black rocks, and there appears to be no marshy areas in sight. There is a small spit of land jutting out into the middle of the lake, and it looks like that might be a good place to look for a tent site. Sure enough, there is a trail that leads down to it, and we meet our first residents, a couple with two dogs. We stop and chat for a bit, and learn that they are the only ones here. They tell us there are lots of campsites available, so we bid them farewell, and go to find our spot.
As you enter the campsites, the first few face the east side of the lake, and they are large, obviously having been used by people on horseback.The site we choose, at first, is nice, on the SW side facing the lake. Nice and flat here under the firs, but open enough that we can see everywhere, and there is a fire ring, and enough flat spots to accommodate at least 3 tents. There is a slight depression here on the NE side of the site, and as the water has mostly dried up, it’s covered in short cropped grass, creating a small manicured lawn, bordered by small clumps of huckleberries and small firs. It reminds you of a well maintained yard.
“…All I can do is stare blankly at the spot we should have left our packs at to claim…DOH!”
The couple had also told us of a one site at the end of a small isthmus on the east side of this outcropping, so since there is no one else around, we wander out to see it. In two places, people have piled rocks like small jetties to connect the land masses, and we use these to walk over the shallow waters to see what this site looks like. Sure enough, at the end of the tip of land, there is a small flat spot surrounded on all sides by water. Very pretty, but so far from firewood, that we decide to go back to our original spot, just in time to see a group of people on horseback claim it…All I can do is stare blankly at the spot we should have left our packs at to claim…DOH!
Sighing, we go pick one of the other spots that would have been far better for a group on horseback, and set up camp.
As we were collection firewood, Greg noticed that they were leaving, and he asked them if they were just here for the day. Since they were, we quickly picked up the tent, and carried it like bedding over to the site, and set up camp one more time. Perfect timing, too, for not 20 minutes later, two more hikers showed up!!!!
Finally settled in our first choice, we make our way down to our own little private beach, and strip down to our skivvies, and get in the lake. The bottom is mostly sand and mud, so it’s soft on the feet, and though it’s cold at first, it takes a little to get used to, and we enjoy cleaning the grime off, and getting clean. How refreshing!We sit on the black volcanic rocks that litter the shoreline, and let the sun dry us off. Aaaahhhh…Very relaxing.
Little by little we watch a few more people trickle in as we prepare dinner. Too bad we hadn’t brought a fishing pole, and some oil! Miracles of all miracles, we find a small patch of Chanterelles, so we pick just enough for dinner tonight, leaving enough for the following night.They really brightened up the noodles, I must say!
“…we’re serenaded by elk bugling in the distance, and a pack of coyotes lend their voices to the chorus as well…”
Dinner over and dishes cleaned, we start a fire and spend a few hours enjoying its company before turning in. All in all, a pretty easy day topped off by a refreshing dip in the lake, and a warm fire. At night, we’re serenaded by elk bugling in the distance, and a pack of coyotes lend their voices to the chorus as well.