Molly’s Second Backpack Trip

North Lake, August 12 – 15, 2020

Oh, goody!  Another trip with Molly!  She will be bringing Pasayten along.  That’s really good – Molly needs someone to carry her chow, her leashes and her bed up to the camp,  And then she needs someone to feed her, keep her out of trouble, and provide her with a warm spot to sleep.  I will take care of playing with and petting her.

Pasayten and I  had been chatting about a shorter, or more reasonable, meander after our epic July jaunt to Stiletto Lake.  Several possibilities were discussed.  Initial destination selected was Louis Lake up South Creek.  We were also chatting about possible day-hikes from camp – rambles anyway because neither of us seemed to want to do any heroic ridge-running at this time.  Truthfully, neither of us want to do anything labeled ‘heroic’ anytime soon, but “rambles” gently taken do appeal.

I pulled up my images from the last visit to Louis Lake.  I was surprised to find that it had been eleven years since I’d been there!  Pasayten mentioned that even though he’d been riding and hiking around our part of the state for years, he had never visited Louis Lake.  So for me it would be a nice redux I guess and it would be a new place to explore and experience for him – and Molly.  Most places are new to Molly at this point, it seems she is happy to go wherever.

While we messaged back and forth about where to camp at Louis and what possible dayhikes there are, I realized that the canyon Louis lies in really does not lend itself to rambling around.  It’s not that there’s no place to go – I have explored the entire canyon above the lake.  Followed a bear up there once upon a time – but that’s another tale. Anyway, in the course of our back-and-forth, I began to think about places that have some rambling options and North Lake seemed to fit our criteria for this trip.

North Lake offers a reasonable trail length, elevation gain, and usually has a good tread with major obstacles cleared – it is a very popular weekend destination for both day hikers and overnighters.  Since we would be hiking in early in the week and exiting before the weekend, we hoped to avoid most of the crowd.  Dayhikes into the upper basin with old mines to explore and a trail connecting to Abernathy Pass also made North more desirable to me.  The final plus in North Lake’s favor is the meadow campsites close by the lake – the only negative I could come up with is the enclosure of the lake basin by substantial ridges that limit the amount of sunshine.  My last visit was later in autumn and I recall we got about three hours of sunshine.  It was a chilly fall camping trip.

So, we decided to go to North Lake. Our schedules evolved to the point where we could not hike in until Wednesday morning and out on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Alan, Kid Fish/Goat Whisperer, and Neil, the Stiletto Moskie-Magnet, decided they would join us on Thursday and we were promised a fresh Cinnamon Twisp treat by Dale Sekijima’s First-Class Delivery Service on Thursday.  Sounds like a party in the works!

Pasayten picked me up early Wednesday morning,  Climbing into the truck, I was gleefully greeted by Molly – that always includes a face washing to battle through.  All settled away we go up the Twisp River Road – all the way to Road’s End again.  Hopefully we will be able to park at the trailhead proper this time, rather than down in the campground which has now been closed because of dangerous burned snags from the Crescent Fire.

And so it was.  We parked at the regular trailhead with one other rig – that’s a good indication we will not be hiking into a crowd.  After sorting out a couple of unsigned trail junctions, we head up into North Creek valley through some badly burned sections and back into lush forest and wildflowers.  In my mind, Pasayten and I are actually moving along quite well this morning.  It seems as though we are clocking miles at a faster than OGHC normal rate.  Molly begins getting a workout as soon as she is unleashed.  Dashing abck and forth between Pasayten and I she does raise a bit of dust from this well-used trail.

Even crossing the main creek where the bridge is washed out is a breeze at this time of year and we soon arrive at North Lake.  The first campsite we spot is occupied by an ultralightweight chair and there are a few other camping essentials scattered about.  Although this is a well-establihed spot with a large fireplace and logs set up to sit on around it, it is also carpeted with dirt.  Eleven years ago, Seth & I had camped here.  Back then it had a smaller fireplace and one log to sit on.  Some campers have doena lot of work to set this spot up as it is now.

Although the chair dominating the site looks familiar, neither Pasayten nor I relate it to anyone we know and move on into the  meadows towards the upper part of the lake basin. After a couple of trial walkarounds, we select our spot.  There is a nice fireplace and a great flat rock to cook on if  we care to use them.  There is also a musical cascade and a nice stream flowing down into the smaller lake section at the end of the basin.  Molly approves of our selection.

As the day progresses, we toil over setting up camp while Molly explores the creek, the pond, the muddy flats, the many critter holes in the long meadow grass and the rocky margins which seem to be chipmunk territory.

Neil appears after he and Alan return from an exploratory bushwhack into the upper basin. It is Alan’s chair that we saw, but didn’t relate to him.  Because of their schedules or whatever they actually arrived the day before – we were expecting them tomorrow, or maybe later today – one or the other. And maybe those treats from Cinnamon Twisp will be arriving Friday morning rather than Thursday.  I have my own schedules to try to keep straight.

We do have a great trip even though neither Pasayten nor I do any of the dayhiking rambles we had chatted about.  I did an exploratory along the far side of the lake down around and back up on our side -the meadow side.  Along that steep side, I found the flat-looking spots I spotted were not flat and a couple were simply level spots in rock slides.  After clambering over a number of huge downed trees, I arrived at the lower end of the lake.  My goal was to see if there were camping spots down there where it seemed to get more sunshine.  I found one well-established spot with fireplace and log seats and a couple of spots that could be used at this time of the year.  Looking at them I had the feeling that earlier they had been somewhat damp, perhaps even marshy.  This lower lake area seemed even more mosquito heaven than where we were camped.

Alan and Neil spent more time in the upper basin scoping out old mines.  This time they used the trail that leads into that area rather than bushwhacking.  Neil decided he wanted to add Mt Gilbert to his list of summits, so he headed up along the ridge above the upper basin. That route looked to me like the long way around with a lot of ridge to cover to bet to the summit of Mt. Gilbert.  He was unsuccesfull – ran out of time before dark with too far to go.

Alan and I did fish some – he was flycasting, I did my usual high lake routine of tossing a paritally-water-filled-bubble with a fly trailer.  I was covering a lot more water and reaching spots Alan could not.  The Cutthroat Trout here are small – 9’ is big.  Any larger is a lunker, relatively speaking.  I do catch a number of trout with Molly’s help.  She needs to learn the right way to release the fish unharmed, but it seems they all survive.  This is fun fishing with action on virtually every retrieve. I don’t land them all.  A bit of a tussle and they throw the small barbless hook the fly is tied on. Thinking if I added all those small Cutts I released into one fish, it was a lunker for sure.

We did get our treats from Cinnamon Twisp delivered.  Thank you once again, Mr Dale!  Makes a nice brunch along with Via coffee from Pasayten.

Had a few dayhikers visit and a few other campers showed up, but the area is large enough and has enough private spots that we hardly saw the other campers.  Mostly we had the basin to ourselves after Neil and Alan left on Friday until another group took over that spot.  As I said, North Lake is popular and the weekend is upon us.

We hiked out early on Saturday.  Got down and through the section really exposed to sunshine before the temperature got very high.  Made it out in good time – I claimed a 7-minute faster time Pasayten commented that was bull roar.  Arriving at the parking lot – which is full now or nearly so – I am asked by a member of  a fairly large group gathered around their leader if I’d been camping and if I’d seen any bears.  Yes to the camping, no on the bear sighting.

Driving down the road, we encounter a virtual parade of vehicles headed the other way – many SUV’s all going way too fast as far as I’m concerned and all raising a humungus amount of dust.  Nice to get back onto pavement and soon I am dropped off at home.  Another great trip with a sweet parting  – it’s always hard to say goodbye to Molly – – –