Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mason Lake, Alpine Lake Wilderness

This is it. This is what I've been waiting for all year. A day when I can get away and push myself beyond my comfort zone. This is the day that I'll think about all winter long.

Mason Lake

Mason Lake is about 30-acres: its round, its pretty and has good fish. The hike is ambitious: 2000 vertical feet of gain over three miles with a 20 pound pack.

ira spring  trailhead
Trailhead, almost empty

On a weekend this parking lot will be jam packed. But on a Tuesday morning, you might be the only person on the trail for hours. The first mile follows an old logging road that is dwindling to a trail.

ira spring trail damage
Trail Damage

Check out the damage to the trail. Everywhere I go this year I see the destruction from last winter. The little dog is Dudley (or something) that Casey gave me to take with me on the hike. An 80 year old man in an NOAA hat passed me on a steep section of the trail. I tried to catch up to him but the wily octogenarian had TWO trekking poles and I only had one.

alpine lake wilderness
Looking down to views of Snoqualmie

As you gain in elevation, the views of the south fork of the Snoqualmie get better and better. That pointy thing is McLelland Butte, which I hope to climb with Casey someday. As you near the ridge you can start to see over the mountains opposite to views of mount Rainier.

Myself and the little dog
With Dudley the Dog and GPS in pocket

I arrived at the lake at 2:00pm. A young couple, gosh they couldn't have been more than 22, had set up camp there. Nice kids. Good-lookin' too. They said the octogenarian had been by an hour earlier. Sheesh! :)

mason lake,alpine lake wilderness
Mason Lake

I inflated my boat, changed my boots for sandals, and lazily floated around the lake. Aside from the occasional airliner, the only sounds were birds chirping, fish rising and that college girl laughing in the distance. There was no breeze and the sun was hot. A couple of fish took pity on me and hooked themselves on my fly. Nothing special: 11" rainbows. Here's one with a gold-ribbed hare's ear in its mouth.

rainbow trout
Rainbow

Though I fished hard I was never able to hook up again. No matter, this trip wasn't really about the fish. Changing sandals back to boots (fresh socks, that's thinking ahead), I loaded all the gear back into the pack.


Local Wildlife

As I put my boots on and munched some trail mix one of those birds (camp robber? gray jay?) came and looked me right in the eye. On a hunch I grabbed my video camera and took this little video.

little mason lake,alpine lake wilderness
Little Mason Lake

Little Mason Lake is just a 1/3 of a mile away on an unsigned trail. I made the quick trip to take a look. The small fish jumping there will be pan-sized in 2011 :) On my way back past Mason I said goodnight to the young couple who were then kicking back in a hammock with their heads close and their legs all tangled together.

ira spring trail,alpine lake wilderness
Mount Raininer the Distance

The descent back to the car from Little Mason is 4 miles. Took just about 2 hours -- plenty of time to reflect on what a great idea it was to move right next to the beautiful Alpine Lake Wilderness. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

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