We arrived at the trailhead at exactly 5:00 PM on Thursday after driving almost 2 hours and flushing out the work week as best as we could during the drive before we hit the trail. Maximizing our trail time meant getting a late start but I really enjoyed hiking as the sun fell below the mountains. That first night we hiked in 7 miles and put up along a make shift camp parallel to the Waptus River. The trail meandered through open woods that weaved in and out of canyons and at times provided granite peak views and raging water rushing through rock canyons. I noticed how dry the ground was and how dry and crackly some of the trees looked.
I spend a lot of time in the mountains on the west side of the Cascades and most everything is perennially damp. Finding an abundance of dry fire wood is akin to winning the outdoor lottery. in the northwest. This particular trail had unrelenting mosquitoes and spray only went so far so the next best line of defense was a campfire.
Although this spot provided very little in the way of privacy from the trail it more than made up for in surroundings. The tranquillity of the river and the constant sound of rushing water is the best medicine for the restless. For those whose nights don’t end when the darkness settles there is nothing quite as soothing as running water.
That being said I realize that this camping spot is not ideal and it’s far to close to the water. The spot we had been aiming to camp at had a very large group so we had to continue on and see what we could find. This was our best choice for the time frame that we had to work with. There was an existing fire ring so I knew we weren’t the first. The next morning on the way to the lake I noticed several more just off the trail unsanctioned sites and felt guilty for contributing.
The trail from Waptus Lake to Spade Lake was narrow and in parts overgrown and steep almost the entire way up with a few reprieves. The views along the ridge line were vast and incredible but they made you work for it. And oh they were so worth it! We decided to take a break on a massive boulder firmly planted in the side of the mountain for a while without realizing just how close we were to the lake. I sat happily and wondered about the peaks before my eyes. What are the names and who first discovered them? What are the stories of those who have traveled these parts before?
The original intention was to camp at Spade Lake but we didn’t make it far enough the first night to make this a feasible plan. Once we reached Waptus Lake on Friday mid morning and realized how full the sites were a brief wave of concern swept over Jenny and I. We continued about a mile from the that initial spot that had the heaviest concentration of camp sites and came along the last available site. This spot turned out to be one of the best sites on the entire lake with it’s own private beach.
The higher in the mountains I am the clearer my thinking becomes. The weight of the world is below you and your only concerns are the basic ones. The pressures of everyday life never reach me once I’m high in the mountains. It’s important that we do everything in our power to keep the wilderness as wild as it’s ever been and we must remember that humans take solace in the woods because that’s where we come from and that’s where we belong.