Friday, August 28, 2009

Backpacking to Mirror Lake

mirror lake
Cool Kid at Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake is a gem. It's an easy mile from the trailhead on a beautiful trail. As a result, it can get very, very busy, and as a rule you don't want to be there on a summer weekend. So I took another day-cation last week and Casey and I set out for the promised end-of-summer backpacking overnighter that I'd promised him.

mirror lake
Ready to go!

We took the truck so that we could drive the last half-mile, which is definitely for 4WD, high-clearance vehicles. Casey's pack was 10 pounds and mine, 32.

cottonwood lake
Cottonwood Lake, on the way

Cottonwood Lake is halfway to Mirror Lake. It has good fishing and a great campsite so of course it was difficult to explain to Casey that we were going to put those heavy back packs on and keep going. Casey spotted the head of what looks like a 14" trout in the water.


Arriving at Mirror Lake, we talked with this young man who had the unwashed, spacey look of the long-time-out backpacker. When asked where he had come from, he replied "Lake Tahoe." He was walking the amazing Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches from Canada to Mexico. His final destination? Snoqualmie pass. "Do you realize you are only 5 miles away!? You'll be there tonight! There's a pizza place right there!" I told him. It was inspiring to bump into this guy right at the tail end of his trip.

mirror lake
The shore of our campsite

Casey and I chose a nice corner campsite, tucked right up against the mountain. You can see the new $25 Wenzel Starlite solo tent (3 lbs) that my friend Vlad had recommended.

Wenzel Starlite Tent
Our Campsite

Dinner was Satarain's Red Beans and Rice. It took a long time to make, and but when it was done, we both wolfed it down. "This is best soup ever!" Casey said. He fell asleep quickly in the tent -- we didn't even have time to play cards -- and I lay awake for a long time, happy at how things had turned out so far.

mirror lake,pond
View down the adjacent valley

The following morning, we dressed and started a morning adventure: bushwack around the lake. It took an hour, but it was a manly way to get the heart pumping. After breakfast I inflated the trail boat and let Casey try to paddle it around. He's too small still, so I got in with him and we fished together for a while (unsuccessfully).


I let Casey swim ashore (in his lifejacket) to pursue a frog, while I kept fishing. An errant cast across my body caused my flyline to hook my sunglasses behind my ear and flip them into the water. I watched my prescription aviators sinking slowly in the crystal clear water and decided I was going to go get them. I could still see them in what looked to be five feet of water. I pulled off my hat, sandals and lanyard and slipped over the side of the boat. The water was FREEZING. I opened my eyes underwater and the true lake looked nothing like it did above! First, it wasn't five feet deep, it was ten. I looked forward and saw a whole underwater cathedral stretching out in front of me. I swam down, retrieved the glasses and shot back to the surface.

On our way out, a group of forty Russian teenagers was coming in. They were quite lively and friendly. To their credit, the teens had hiked the long way in (5 miles) with giant packs. They were a church group (Salvation something) and I hope they had a good time, but I'm so glad that we had chosen the previous, quiet night for our backpacking trip. Casey and I stopped in at the general store in Easton and ate cheeseburgers, while a visitor came in with a giant gerbil that was licking a lollipop.

I don't know if Casey will remember our first backpacking trip, but I think I always will. It was good trip and went off without a hitch.

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