July 21, 2007

Glacier Lake Trail

The main event for the day was hiking the Glacier Lake Trail. Here's the trip report I posted at NWHikers:

Glacier Creek is rather photogenic downstream where it meets Johnson Creek, so when I saw a trail seemingly following it upstream to its headwaters in Glacier Lake, I put it on the top of my list. I had hoped this would be a trial along a creek, rather it is a trail to a lake. In fact, there is only one point along the trail where the creek is accessible at all and in the second half you are far enough away you can't even hear it.

The trail starts on an offshoot of Johnson Creek Road (FS-21) in Gifford Pinchot National Forest, south of Packwood. According to the map, it's only a net 700' elevation gain in 2 miles, but that is rather deceptive. From the trailhead, it immediately plunges downhill to Glacier Creek (the steepest part of the hike is climbing back up this part) then undulates with the terrain. About half way to the lake, it crosses into the Goat Rocks Wilderness and climbs steadily upward to the lake.

Almost the entire hike is in a lush mossy forest, and there is much evidence of damage from the winter windstorm. There are a large number of down trees, but thankfully the trail has been cleared and is easily passable in all but one or two spots. It was very humid, which kept me from cooling off for most of the hike, and while the mosquitoes weren't bad, they were persistent -- always two or three every time I stopped to rest.

The coolest part of the hike is just before the lake where, according to the Forest Service website, a rockslide about 600 years ago created a large boulder field that dammed the creek and created the lake. The trail passes through this boulder field, which is now covered in thick moss. There's lots of exploring to be had here if you are so inclined. I climbed around a bit, but ultimately headed to the lake, There are more boulders at the lake, but the most noticeable features there are the massive number of vine maples. That place must be fantastic in the fall.

The lake itself was rather uninspiring. I tried once to push through the brush to the shore but got into some nettle and decided it wasn't worth it. Rather, I found a flat mossy boulder and splayed out for a while. The breeze was blowing enough to keep the mosquitoes at bay, and a light drizzle finally cooled me off. I had the entire place to myself, so I just laid there and enjoyed the solitude and silence. I even dozed off for a short nap. That was the best part of the trip by far.

I only stopped for photos in one place, just inside the wilderness boundary, where the trees and moss caught my eye.

Tree and Fern in Moss

I kept my camera out on the way back down so I could take some snapshots.

Glacier Lake Nice Resting Spot
Trail Through Boulder Field Trail Through Boulder Field Vine Maple Arch Over Trail Wilderness Sign Tree Oddity

Afterward, I wasn't quite ready to call it a day, so I spent some time exploring FS-48 along Hall Ridge, since it promised potential views of Glacier Lake from above. This turned out not to be the case, however, as the road became impassable and the forest too thick before I reached any viewpoints.

Packwood Lake From Snyder Mountain

I took some other side roads just for exploration's sake, and spent a few minutes at Hager Lake on FS-4830. I considered following the road on to where it connects to FS-1260 and loops back to Packwood, but instead I decided to drive FS-48 to its end on top of Snyder Mountain to see if it offered any views of Rainier. Unfortunately, it didn't. But it did offer a nice view of Packwood Lake in the Goat Rocks Wilderness.

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