Alpental's Snow Lake
Snow Lake, at Snoqualmie Pass, is the one of most beautiful places you can see in an afternoon. The last time I'd been there was over ten years ago -- I had hiked to it before I got the fishing bug. Why hadn't I been back there in 10 years? Three reasons: One, its never been known as a good fishing lake. Two, due to its southern flank it stays frozen well into June (July, this year). And three, because of its moderate difficultly, the Snow Lake trail is extremely popular. Its still well worth the visit, just go on a weekday and avoid the worst of the crowds if you can.
Casey and I arrived at the parking lot at Alpental and started hiking at 11am on a Friday. I made a mistake and didn't bring proper footgear for Casey; he started out the hike in some old sketchers sandals. We had to apply band-aids to the blisters on his heels at the two mile mark; just when the trail starts climbing the Northern wall. The climb up the wall is quite easy, to our delight.
As we topped the crest we were greeted by the beautiful sight of the largest alpine lake at the pass: Snow Lake. By now the old sandals had eaten through all four of the band-aids in my first aid kit and Casey elected to go barefoot the last mile to the lake. The descent takes longer than you'd think. We ate "Strawberry D" sandwiches (Grandpa Al's jam and peanut butter) on the lake shore. Casey chased a big frog while I threw flies at rising fish. A good sized trout (12") cruised up right in front me. I tossed my fly out to it and it rose up but then refused at the last second.
a trout passes by us
Around the shore from us, a dozen young people were frolicking in the water. Some of the girls were in bikinis and the others were just in their underwear. You don't see THAT at every alpine lake you go to! I'll take that over bears and dudes with guns any day!
I caught a 6" trout from shore and I waded out to my waist trying to catch another but didn't get one. There was an honest-to-goodness bikini model posing in the water nearby and a photographer with a DSLR was snapping away. I later got my own picture (above); its from far away and its grainy but it proves what I was saying for the disbelievers.
Casey walked back to the trailhead ALL FOUR MILES in bare feet. Everyone we passed commented about how tough he was and he ate it up. I was proud of the guy and I've been telling him so ever since. This 8 miles hike is his longest so far, and 5 miles of that with no shoes! When we got home he had to take a bath and his blisters hurt so bad he cried. Poor guy.
If you've never been to Snow Lake, definitely DO go, don't miss this true gem. I recommend going on a weekday in September. The crowds will have thinned significantly, and the cooler weather will keep the aggressive deer flies at bay.
Take exit 52 and go north into Alpental. Park at the large parking lot at the end of the road. Be sure that you have your North West Forest Pass, which you can get at any ranger station for $30.
I plan to go back, so maybe I'll see you on the trail!