Scatter Lake – July 3-6, 2019
Pasayten and I decided to take a little stroll up to Scatter Lake. My wife, Marjory, and I remember the trail after our first trip up it a quarter-of-a-century ago as short and steep. Well, “steep,” all by itself, doesn’t quite convey the effort needed to hike, climb, scramble, and sweat to get up that trail back then. Unrelentingly steep perhaps gets the point across. Elevation gain for USFS Trail No. 427 (W) from the trailhead to the lake was listed back in the day (BITD) as 3.847′, and the distance as 4.2 miles. We both remember the trail as one extensive switchback just above the trailhead and then basically shooting up the hill paralleling the rushing, tumbling creek up to the first upper basin, but seldom close enough to get to the water.
What a difference twenty years or more makes! The trail is now longer, almost twice as long or even a bit more than double – depending whose figures one accepts. There is also a disparity in the total elevation gained between two hikers’ totals – both based on their GPS data. One claim is 3,917′ over 7.3 miles of trail. The other claims 4,000′ up and 8.8 miles long. Whichever.
All I know for sure is that the trail is much longer and still goes up in places quite steeply. Seemingly an easier hike effort-wise, and the dayhiking young(er) trail runners think so. The Old Guys question whether doubling the length +/- eases the “up” enough to validate the term “easier.”
Despite the sections of the trail that pass through areas the Crescent Fire of 2018 burned, and the need to crawl under, climb over, or scramble around some pretty huge charred fallen trees, we made it to the lake in good time. OGHC time, for sure, and good when factored relative to the 8.8 mile distance and 4,000′ gain which we decided to accept. Also ignoring the uncounted breathers, pauses, sit-down rest stops, and naps taken by one or the other of the OGHC members making this trip. (Note: OGHC can proudly state that the Scatter Lake trip was successfully taken by the entire company of official members. We are still waiting I think, to learn if the young(er) “Kid Fish” wants to join our geezer ranks)
Scatter Lake basin is a delightful place. There are many great spots to camp, some with rock fire rings and almost all within a reasonable distance to the lake. We camped on a grassy plateau just above the lake. I opted again to use my latest bought shelter – the 3-lb, $30 tarp tent which Pasayten insists on calling The Hobbit Tent. I, being The Gnome, have officially christened all my shelters as GnomeCastles, each appropriately numbered by their seniority on the shelter shelf. Renumbering is being undertaken after gifting a number of shelters to family and friends who either needed them or were willing to accept them, needed or not. The gifting was actually undertaken to lighten the load – on the shelf, and to provide room for possible future acquisitions. Pasayten opted for his usual shelter – I guess he feels it’s hard to beat that REI Quarter Dome 2P or whichever it is called. Seems kinda boring to me – isn’t testing new stuff and different configurations part of the criteria for an adventure? I guess only for gearheads, or gear junkies, or gnomes.
During our stay we saw a number of dayhikers and trailrunners arrive and leave. One other camper arrived the second day of our stay and opted to camp at the far upper end of the basin. We saw him occasionally at that end of the lake and only had contact with him on his walk around-the-lake. A couple with a dog arrived the afternoon before we packed out and also opted to camp on the other side of the basin. Maybe we need to be more welcoming?
We were almost constantly visited by Willy, Billy, and Nan, a trio of mountain goat probably imported from the Olympic National Park as they were definitively addicted to salt, read “urine.” Their interactions were entertaining until Billy’s bullying got almost as irritating as Willy’s wishy-washiness, and Nan’s bleating about being chased away from wherever we chose to relieve ourselves. When the goat show got old, we had a Bald Eagle to watch circling the lake and trying for a trout lunch.
Both Pasayten and I did some fishing. I chose to use a fly behind a bubble and he chose to toss Bangtails at the trout. Most of our caught-and-released Rainbow Trout were 9′ long or less, but a bigger, gaudier fly finally tempted a couple in the 12-to-13-inch range. My grandpa always claimed it takes a big fly to catch big fish. Although I kinda disproved that by once catching a 7+-pound Brown Trout on a size 22 Black Gnat, his rule proved true this time as well as many other previously. Unknown why any high-lake Rainbow would go for a huge Flashabou Wooly Bugger fly with a gold bead head, but they did.