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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Adventure Report: Mt. Daniel, Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Posted by: Drew Collins

Ah, the joys of a weekend backpack! Three of my friends and I packed up and headed to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness for a hike to Peggy’s Pond with a climb of Mt. Daniel planned.

We left civilization in historic Roslyn (from Northern Exposure) and headed along Lake Cle Elum and deep into the Cle Elum River Valley. A long, winding, and bumpy gravel road led us to the trailhead at the wonderful time of 7:30, and we were off and hiking up into the low clouds at 8:00 PM Friday. We had hoped to get to Peggy’s Pond that night, but that was wishful thinking.

Taking the Cathedral Pass trail we reached the Trail Creek Trail junction and took out our lights. It was dark, misty, and we needed lights to avoid tripping. With half the hike to Peggy’s Pond ahead of us, the next flat spot would be our campsite for the night. We found the shores of Squaw Lake not a moment too soon and set up camp.

When we arrived at the lake, a friend of mine said, “Finally!” but we quickly hushed him since there was a faint outline of another tent close to the lake. “SHHH! Let’s just be quiet and set up camp quickly!” It was about 9:30 by then, and we assumed that the campers were asleep. We gingerly set up camp, being careful not to make too much noise with the nylon tents, hung our food and slept. The next day we woke up to find that what we saw as a tent outline was a large boulder… DOH.

What we did find near the lakeshore were lots of yummy blueberries! I had never found many before when I hiked, so they were a real treat, sweet like candy.

After packing up, we followed the Cathedral Pass trail further until its junction with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) which was surrounded by a few buggy tarns. Views opened up of the surrounding peaks, and the monolith of Cathedral Rock straight ahead. We could see Mt. Stewart, Granite and Trico, the Citadel and down in the valley, the blue water and green meadows of Deep Lake.

Following the trail down a few switchbacks brings you to the trail to Peggy’s Pond, which is marked, but not that great. Some scrambly parts are on this trail which steeply clings to the side of Cathedral Rock. Take the lower trail to Peggy’s Cabin, or the higher trail to the pond once you reach a little drainage dip.

We set up camp by 11 AM Saturday morning, and my friend and I took off to Mt. Daniel. We followed the southeast ridge which comes right up to the Peggy’s Pond area and runs above the Hyas Creek Glacier.

Marked with cairns and multiple bootpaths, the path converged on a snow patches with old ice, remnants of a larger Hyas Creek Glacier. After crossing these patches of snow and ice, we rounded the saddle and crossed an exposed, slippery scree slope and then followed the easy bootpath and scramble to the summit at 7,960’. A marine layer was pushing at the crest, making for a dramatic cloud show. The barren ice and rock at the summit was beautiful and also indicative of the intense weather at that altitude.

Sunday was a day of rest, and then retreat back to the car. It was a great time in the mountains with friends, and an awesome summit of the highest peak in the Alpine Lakes wilderness.

Drew joined WWC in July of 2009 to provide telephone outreach to its members. He is a student at the University of Washington planning to double major in Community, Environment, and Planning (CEP) and Environmental Studies. Drew hopes to learn more about wilderness protection and environmental policy in Washington State. He has lived in the Seattle area all of his life, and enjoys being outside hiking, backpacking and snowshoeing with friends.

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