Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Back Door to Lake Lillian, Rampart Lake #1

Years ago, while studying the amazing "Friends of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness" map, I spied a pair of lakes, Laura and Lillian, that looked very easy to get to, provided that one take the "back door," an ill-maintained, dangerous dirt road going within a mile of the lower lake.  

Steep "Cheaters Trail"

The lakes appear to be easy to get to, but the trail to them is quite steep.  A fit person can ascend to the larger, more interesting, Lake Lillian, in about an hour.  Lillian is larger than it first looks.  A trail rings the lake and would provide a great place for some family time.  There's a small, beautiful campsite on the far shore.

Yours Truly at Lake Lillian - still snow here!
Today, small fish were sipping flies from the surface.  I inflated my Trail Boat and hunted the trout but they were too smart for me.  A young man stopped by and said that the Rampart Lakes, just a mile or so away always fished better than Lillian.   Being still early in the day, I packed up, hiked to the top of the ridge, and then down to a beautiful little spot that overlooked both the popular Rachel Lake and the Rampart Lakes.  Here's a panorama.

Ramparts on the left, Rachel on the Right
A trail descends to the lake through giant granite "Ramparts".  The first lake (of many) is the largest (though smaller than Lillian and Rachel).

Rampart #1
If you've seen pictures of the Ramparts you know they are elegant with rocky shores that are uncommon to this area.  The lakes are very popular, today there were perhaps two dozen visitors while I puttered around in my boat.  Many of them came from nearby Rachel Lake.

On this day, Rampart #1 was filled with hungry Westslope Cutthroat trout.  They were not picky about fly or presentation, and I hooked and lost many.   Four of them came to the net, the largest was 11", though I lost a few that felt heavier.

Pano of ridge view East
After a few hours it was time to head back.  The hike back up to the ridge and then across and down was punishing to the knees!   Two hours later, I found myself at the truck on shaky legs, tired, but happy to have finally caught some fish after the last trip's skunking.  Lillian was on "my list" and I can cross it off now.  The Ramparts were a lucky chance; one I was fortunate enough to experience on this beautiful day.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Thompson Lake

If you look on a map, just east of North Bend is mighty Mailbox Peak.  Just on the other side lie a series of lakes.  Two Granite lakes and then, over a "hump", Thompson Lake.

None of these lakes are known as fine fishing lakes, but they are SO DANG CLOSE to North Bend that its worth making a trip, just to say you did.  And, they are beautiful, quiet and accessible.

Looking back the way you came
You park at the very crowded Mailbox Peak trail-head, where the Middle Fork road pavement ends. Ride your mountain bike about a quarter mile down the Middle Fork road and turn right onto the first dirt road - this is the Granite Lakes Road.  It used to be open, but now it is gated, meaning that there are 5.5 non-motorized miles between you and the Granite Lakes. 

Neat campsite at the end of Granite Lakes Road
Push your mountain bike three or four miles up the road and then hide it in the bushes.  Continue walking until the road forks.  Take a right toward the Granite Lakes.  At the end of the road is a neat little campsite if you decide to stay overnight.

There's a nice little trail a few hundred feed down to Upper Granite Lake.  A shallow creek connects the two lakes.  In the summer of 2011 there aren't any fish in the Upper Granite, so you rest a while, and then walk back up the road to fork, on your way to Thompson Lake.

Thompson Lake Trail
Up, Up, Up you go on more dirt roads until you reach 4000 feet (you started at 800 feet).  Now you leave the dirt roads and head on to a true forest trail, the well-marked Thompson Lake trail.  The trail tops a ridge and then plunges down to Thompson Lake.

As you descend, you see that there are several islands in lake.  You unpack your trail boat and fish the rest of the afternoon.  You might catch a 14" trout!  There are several campsites at Thompson, but you are bold, and you decide to set up camp on the main Island itself!

Camping on the main Island

To your delight, you are the only person at the lake.  You haven't seen anyone since you left the middle fork!  Sure you had to go 8 miles to get here but that just means you're going to sleep well tonight.  In the morning you fish a little bit and then pack up for the trip back.

The Road Back
The trip back is easy and gives you plenty of time to consider how lucky you are that you live so close the awesome Snoqualmie Valley.  You arrive to where you stashed your bike.  Put two hands on the brakes and hold on, you'll be back at your car in 15 minutes!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Where to Stay in Snoqualmie Valley: The Roaring River B&B

I get asked this every now and then.  "If I come to Snoqualmie, where should I stay?"  First of all, there's no place to stay in Snoqualmie Proper.  No motels, no hotels, no B&Bs that I know of anyway.  The town of North Bend has a set of hotels ranging from "rustic" to "rusty". 

However, there is one diamond in the rough that you need to know about, and that's "the Roaring River" Bed & Breakfast run by Herschel and Peggy Backus.   

There are five rooms to choose from, each with its own theme.   One of the rooms is built around a giant boulder!  I haven't stayed in that room but I hear its quite interesting!

Price is roughly double the ratty motels in town but the homey atmosphere and woody surroundings more than make up for it. And, after you factor in the fantastic breakfast (brought to you by Herschel in an apron no less) you realize that you paid a great price for a great experience.

If you are coming to the Snoqualmie Valley, and especially if you are bringing a lady-friend, take her to the Roaring River B&B.  After you check in, go back into town and maybe hit the Snoqualmie Casino for drinks, dancing and buffet, then retire to your intimate room at the Roaring River for the night.  Spend the next day fishing the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River or hiking up into the Alpine Lake Wilderness a mere 20 minutes away!