Way back in August, Gabe had a camping trip near Salmon La Sac with the teen group at our church. I was ferrying boys up there for one night, so I thought I’d take advantage of the weekend and explore a trail I hadn’t been on before. I asked around for people to come with me, but nobody was available. I figured there would be plenty of company on the Pete Lake Trail, so I wasn’t too worried about being solo.
We headed out early Saturday morning, and I was able to drop the kids off around 10am. I drove up the road to the parking area for the Pete Lake trail, and had my stuff together and was hiking by 11:30.
The heat was already making me feel like wilting. Thankfully, the trail is fairly even and wide, and any climbing is gentle. The trees are large and provide ample shade, with glints of sun.
The trail meanders within sight of the Cooper River for the first section, then angles away until the very end. Late-summer wildflowers brought spots of color to the understory.
Woodpecker holes showed signs of bird life. I saw a black-backed woodpecker on the way in and the way out. Ripe blueberries slowed me down the whole way.
I ran out of water due to the heat, and stopped at one of the many shallow stream crossings to filter some more. (Trail reports that I have read for the fall, after the rains have started, mention a few difficult crossings, but in the middle of a dry summer, the crossings are all easy.) While resting, I noticed what I think was a Cascades frog (Rana cascadae).
It didn’t seem too concerned with me, and I was able to observe it while I filtered my water. Lots of folks were out on the trail on this beautiful day, including several groups of horseback riders.
Finally I dragged my tired, hot, sweaty self to the lake. There is a nice open area to allow access to the water, and several campsites were already occupied in the forest at that end.
I found a semi-private spot to dump my pack, and went down to the water to rest. Lots of people were out wading, but I was turned off by the deep silt covering the bottom. I eventually changed into my spare shorts (which I had brought for sleeping) and found a semi-solid route out to a partially submerged rock to sit and cool off, washing the dust off as much as I could. The yellow jackets were super annoying, buzzing around and looking for food.
I spent the afternoon setting up camp, lounging around, reading and writing, and just watching people and the trees and sun. I was feeling really yucky from the heat, so I decided I didn’t want to explore to the farther end of the lake to see if I could find a more secluded campsite.
It looked very pretty up there, though, and I was sad I couldn’t muster the energy to go just a bit farther. For dinner I had some home-dehydrated dal and rice with a cheese stick melted on top.
I had forgotten to bring salt, and put too much water in the pot. I still have some work to do in figuring out my food for backpacking.
Almost everyone who was camped at the lake had started a campfire, even though there were fire restrictions in place. This annoyed me to no end. There were also piles of poop and TP around the lake, as it seems that many people don’t know to bring a shovel to bury their waste. I had heard there is supposed to be a toilet there, but I never found a sign for one.
I spent a quiet evening and turned in early. I was woken during the night by the hooting of a barred owl, “who cooks for you?” I was up early enough to watch the sunrise creep into the lake basin and illuminate the mountains at the other end. A deer snuck around the periphery of the water. I was fascinated by the reflection of the moon on the water. I packed up in a leisurely manner, and moseyed down the trail back to my car. Having a cooler with an ice-cold iced tea waiting was a fabulous reward. I made it back down to pick up the boys in plenty of time. It was a great trip.
If You Go: From Seattle, take I-90 east over Snoqualmie Pass. Take the exit for Roslyn/Salmon la Sac, and follow the signs toward Roslyn. Take Hwy 903 (Salmon La Sac Road) north out of Roslyn, past Salmon La Sac Lake. Turn left onto FR 4600/46, (just before Salmon La Sac Campground) cross the river, and follow the road for about 4.7 miles. Turn right on FR 4616, drive past Cooper Lake and to the parking area at the end of the road. A NW Forest Pass is required. There are outhouses at Cooper Lake and the parking lot.