Mount Pilchuck, and Lake Wenatchee
May 22, 2015 by Megan
Grabbing a few hours of sleep at a primitive but awesome campsite in the Mt. Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest, we woke early to cold temperatures and the sounds of the Stillaguamish River. Without fanfare (but for a couple quick shots of Dane), we embarked on the short drive to our first destination.
Mount Pilchuck. Oh, what a way to start the day. In true team fashion, our Winnie Warrior had to carry the first leg, making the climb up six miles of the most horrendously pot-holed road that I’ve traversed since visiting Ghana! We bounced along, trying to keep cabinets closed and gear secure, laughing and being thankful that it was an abnormal year… normally, there would still be snow to contend with!
This would be another hike done solo, as the parking lot proclaimed high occurrences of property theft (not worth the risk for us) and the long trek seemed a bit ambitious with Dane in his backpack. Throwing on running shoes, I prepared camera and pack for the 3-mile/2,224-ft elevation gain climb to the summit.
Now, I am not a seasoned hiker. I will happily admit that I pushed my limits and felt pretty proud to complete this one. Drenched in sweat and fighting bugs every time I stopped to take a picture and mark the GPS coordinates, the top couldn’t come soon enough. I started joking with hikers on their way down about how close we were and if it was worth it, and was without fail rewarded with a smile. It was wonderful to capture people enjoying the park, especially after yesterday’s quietness.
Finally, I made it to the top, and after a bit of clambering over large boulders and an ancient-looking ladder, I found myself in the old fire lookout tower. After guzzling some Gatorade, I chatted with my fellow visitors, and gained permission to include them in some of my images. What a view, stretching from the Cascades to the Olympics and the Puget Sound.
I even managed to swap portraits with someone so I could prove I made it…
It was a gorgeous view, but knowing we had another park to capture and the long bumpy ride down the mountain to look forward to, I didn’t linger long. I half-ran down the trail, catching up with a nice hiker who left shortly after I arrived in the tower, prompting him to comment that I “made good time coming down.” Aw, thanks! That is perhaps the bittersweetness of this project, that we are seeing so many amazing places, but the aggressive schedule means we aren’t enjoying it as we would if we were purely visiting. They call this work for a reason, I suppose, but it is a worthwhile concession and we will certainly be coming back for a more relaxing visit.
After a brief break midway down the mountain for the Winnie Warrior to let her fluid cool and regain brake pressure (just a little important), we were moving on to Lake Wenatchee State Park.
With moody skies and near- empty beaches, we enjoyed the dramatically beautiful vistas where the river meets the lake, said hello to some critters, admired some structures, and let our “King of the Forest” get some energy out in the playground.
On our way out from the main camping and day-use areas, we spotted a horse corral, and turned the RV around to go check it out. The timeless utility of a framed canvas tent told me there were seasonal residents here, and sure enough I had the chance to meet Dillon and Pops, and a few of their horses and mules.
Turns out that Lake Wenatchee is the last remaining State Park to offer horse rides within the park, and this outfit not only offered the short family-friendly ride experiences, but also serious multi-day backcountry camp packing. Their mule teams can set up a base camp for high country fishing and hiking, and return days later on schedule to pack you back out again. So cool. I was especially impressed with their care for their animals and pride in their service. No wonder they are still around where similar operations have died away… Lake Wenatchee is lucky to host them and be able to offer that experience to their visitors.
Add another destination to the list of places to bring Dane back to when he is older… hopefully these gems we’ve found will be well patronized and keep running strong in the meantime!