Saturday, July 24, 2010

Rough Day at Swan Lake

From 2010 Fishing

On my two previous hikes, Mean Marten Lake Trail and Kendall Peak Lakes I put in 23+ miles, which is a lot, for me. Since then my knee's been acting up so this morning I decided to try an easy hike. I chose Swan Lake near Snoqualmie Pass. I'd never been there but I've heard the fishing was good and you could drive fairly close. I know the area a little bit (reconnaissance last year) and knew that I probably wouldn't see too much company.

View Larger Map

I have a NEW theory on hikes that start on dirt roads. I think there are two "classes" of hikes: a safe set for sandaled suburbanites and their dogs and then a rough set for camouflaged gunslingers and their bears. The latter set, is defined of course, by those dirt roads I was so proud of frequenting. If you want some solitude on a sunny weekend day, you may find them on the dirt roads, like I did at Kendall Peak Lakes last weekend. Or maybe NOT.

Dirt Road Again

Swan Lake is near Rachel Lake, which is one of the most popular hikes in the I-90 corridor. If you have a recreational gazette or you are good with Google Maps you can find your way pretty close. Use a GPS to get the rest of the way there. I parked about a mile away from the lake, just where the road gets really rough. About 5 minutes into my "hike" something emerged from the trees just as I was walking by; a bear stepped out into the sunlight only about 15 feet away from me. We stared at each other. He was about my size, had brown fur and a youthful look about him; probably a juvenile. He bolted back through the trees and was gone.

From 2010 Fishing

Unlike last summer's bear encounter, this one didn't unnerve me, so I just kept walking. Before too long, I had topped a ridge and dropped down to the shallow, 5 acre lake. A beautiful campsite was set there. I stood, looking out at the water, slapping mosquitoes, when the camper approached with his dog. He was man in his late 20's, dressed in camouflage, sweating profusely. He had just hiked up to Stonesthrow lake and back down again because the mosquitoes were too fierce and he'd forgotten to bring his DEET. He took off his coat and he was wearing a pistol on his hip. Given the bear activity up there, maybe that's a good idea. However, something about him and the firearm unnerved me. Or maybe I was having a delayed reaction to the bear. I geared up and got out on the lake, always keeping one eye on the guy as he decamped. I felt some relief when he left.

Swan Lake Rainbow

The fishing itself turned out to be pretty good. Mayflies were hatching everywhere and fish were rising all around the lake. I hooked a few small fish before finding the area where the bigger fish hung out. I was surprised to land this 12" fish in such a small, shallow lake. An underwater spring helps the fish survive the winter. At one moment there was a sound like the sky tearing in half. What could it be? An avalanche? A jet fighter blasted overhead at only about 60 feet. Scared me to death! I was getting tired of that feeling!

From 2010 Fishing

Throughout the valley I started hearing the pop-pop of gun fire. It continued as I fished for a couple of hours, picking up a sharp sunburn for my trouble. Even though the fishing was still going strong, I had explored Swan Lake to my satisfaction so decamped myself in the mid-afternoon. As I walked down to my truck, the pop-pop turned into the downright rat-tat-tat-tat of automatic gunfire. I could hear a vehicle coming down the road behind me. I stepped off the road behind a bush. An old jeep rumbled by with a couple of grizzled camo dudes and their rifles. If you go, bring a piece, I guess!