Ambling to Annette, or Spring Hiking on I-90

Annette Lake
Annette Lake

Alright, dear readers, I want to do some spring cleaning.  New seasons mean new ideas:  I’m hoping to write real trip reports/thoughts-on-trail after each trip to the great outdoors…the time writing is better spent crafting something fun and helpful versus me spending yet another hour getting tube-lost on the lists in Buzzfeed…

Set out on an unusually gorgeous April Sunday, sunny and golden, to walk in the Cascadian woods.  I chose Annette Lake because I had never been there before, and I hoped that it would be just far enough to escape the crazy crowds expected at Rattlesnake, Si, and others–in retrospect, excellent choice!

I followed the trail easily enough through second-growth forest up to a returning-to-nature decommissioned road.  The trail paralleled the road up and over the Iron Goat Trail, then ended abruptly in a powerline cut.  The cut provided great views of Granite Mountain, and the avy trails down the sides, and would have been a great place to lounge in the sun were it not for the buzz of the overhead lines.

Up into the forest!  After a few long switchbacks, the snow started–nothing major, but a

Humpback Creek
Humpback Creek

mix between hard and soft that was difficult to gauge.  Soon came to a wonderful log that had been converted to steps along the trail–I love hiking because of the little shards of awesome I never know I’ll see.  The snow continued until it took over the whole slope.  Sometimes post-holing, sometimes on the crust, I punched up the steeper switchbacks and arrived at the first avy chute.

This early in the morning, the snow held together well, and I crossed the chute with no problem…great views of Humpback Mountain to the west, and a good, long drop down to Humpback Creek for the unwary below.  The trail grew indistinct at this point, and I was mainly following old boot track.  Which is how I ended up nearly summiting Silver Peak!

At chute #4 (?), the trail really broke down, and I continued to follow the most prominent tracks that angled up slope.  They climbed and climbed, and my hiker’s sense (like Spider Sense, but piney-er) knew that I was no longer on the Annette Lake trail, but heading up Silver Peak.  However, who doesn’t love adventure?  The climbing was mainly in the trees on soft snow, and when the trail broke into short open sections, the snow remained crisp from the cloudless night before.  The going was steep, and I shortened poles for better stabbing.  The angle increased, and then broke out of the final trees into a wide sun-lit snowfield.  The snow was covered with the little balls and snow debris of previous avalanches, and I worried about the increasing sun on the exposed field.  Discretion being the better part of valor (mainly I thought of how foolish it would be to get buried in an avalanche on the first good spring hike on a 5,600 foot mountain!) I downclimbed to the mess where I had lost the trail.

Trail Footlog
Trail Footlog

After much smashing through snow, I picked up the trail, which consistently stayed to the right of any boot tracks leading towards Silver Peak.  I reached the lake–Epic.  The lake was still iced over by the thinnest of margins, snow blanket blindingly white evened across the surface.  Hulking Silver Peak rose to my left, the jagged wall of Abiel Peak to the south, and the rising ridge of Humpback angling off to the right.  I leaned back on a perfectly positioned rock to absorb some sun and dry out my shirt.  A waterfall cascaded into the lake, background music to this private lake.  Enough of a wind stirred up that I finally retreated to the logs at the lake’s outlet, sheltered in their depression.  There I lounged, smoked a pipe (or two!), almost napped, listened to birds and the waterfall and the flowing stream and the drips of snowmelt, for almost three hours in absolute solitude.  I didn’t expect many other hikers, but this, this was sublime.

Finally though, I had to leave–eventually, no matter how much you don’t wish it, you have to finish the book, right?  That’s what leaving the wonderful, wild places feels like for me–catharsis, but a sadness that the acts are over.  Even though I still had 4 miles to trek down!  I smashed my way through very squishy snow, and skittered across the chutes as fast as possible…it was getting pretty sloppy.  Ran into two other groups on the way out–some were equipped, some were not.  Warned them of the trail melange and the slopes…but ultimately, decisions are up to the hiker him-or-herself…(except in very specific circumstances!  Thinking Hedlee Pass and ‘Danger Kid.’)

It was an easy stroll down to the car–this time I left my traction devices on for most of

Hiking selfie, sans pipe
Hiking selfie, sans pipe

the way, but I honestly couldn’t tell too much of a difference in the really soft snow.  There is truly nothing quite like a spring hike–that first feeling that winter’s cold fingers are being pried back, one-by-one, from the mountains and lakes.  The smells of the forest come rushing back in, the wind soothing through pine needles that promises a cooling, not a freezing.  Rushing streams and soft snow. Empty, and often distinctly “not there,” trails.

Annette Lake is a wonderful 8 mile round trip.  The lake is gorgeous, and the sub-alpine bowl in which it sits is magnificent.  The trail is currently under snow for more than half the length.  I advise good route finding skills, confidence on steep slopes, and an understanding of avy danger for the chutes.  Till next time, keep those boots to the trail.

Link to trail here.

Granite Mountain
Granite Mountain

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