Soda Peaks Lake… sort of.

We had been wanting to hit Soda Peaks Lake for some time, which was still snow-covered as recently as a few weeks ago. After seeing some reports that the lake was snow-free (hooray!) we headed there this past weekend. And yes, it’s now Friday and I’m just now getting this post up. It’s been a crazy week! The lake is situated between the eastern and western Soda Peaks, and has two trails coming in from either direction. We chose the western trail starting from Trapper Creek, which is an easier route (no, we didn’t wuss out… there is apparently a washed out bridge blocking the other trailhead).

Ready to go! Taken with my phone (and no makeup) πŸ™‚

This hike and the lake are absolutely, absurdly gorgeous, and provided the backdrop for a perfect weekend… with one colossal fail. I broke my camera. Yep… I was totally heartbroken. What happened, you ask? Well, when we arrived at camp, as per usual I set my camera down on top of one of the logs surrounding the fire pit. All was fine and good, until Buckley decided to start snacking on the end of said log, which of course caused the log to roll a bit, which of course dumped my camera off the side. Right into his water bowl. Totally my bad for setting it down right by the water bowl, so I guess I can only blame myself. But man, what a bummer! I did manage to take a few photos before this unfortunate incident, and took a few with my phone, so that’s what we’ve got to work with this time. The good news! I had already been saving up for an upgrade. The upgrade came a little sooner than I had planned, but all things happen for a reason right? I got my new camera earlier this week and cannot wait to hit the trail with it!

Soda Peaks Lake
Trapper Creek Wilderness, Gifford Pinchot National Forest (SW Washington)
Lake is at 3,770 feet
Total hike distance: 4.53 miles
Total elevation gain: 1,273 feet

Click map for full GPS data

Be warned! The mosquitos at the Soda Peaks Lake trailhead are vicious. They started swarming the moment we stepped out of the car. Even after dousing myself in bug spray, they still attacked. I think the key is just to move as quickly as possible. There were tons of the little buggers at the lake as well; not as bad as the trailhead, but still very annoying. I counted 23 bites when I got home, and that was with frequent re-ups of bug spray.

This is a pretty aggressive little hike in. Even though it’s short, it’s a climb. On a hot, sunny day it felt pretty intense… but it was over before I knew it. Once you reach the ridge, you then descend pretty rapidly down to the lake.

Toward the beginning of the trail

There were lots of wildflowers along the way, lots of the same ones from Devil’s Peak; Bunchberry, Columbia Windflower, Queen’s Cup, Foamflower, etc.

A blanket of green

Entering Trapper Creek Wildnerness area

The highest point of the hike is up on a ridge; once you reach that ridge, the views are amazing. You can see Adams, Goat Rocks, and Rainier, and you can also see down to our destination, Soda Peaks Lake.

Mt. Adams looming over Soda Peaks Lake

Looking down to Soda Peaks Lake, you can also see Goat Rocks at the far left of the horizon

Once we were on our way down to the lake, I was just delighted to see hundreds and hundreds of Avalanche Lilies! I haven’t seen these in person before, so naturally I was just tickled (literally squealing with every new bunch of them we spotted).

One Avalanche Lily standing alone

A whole bunch of Avalanche Lilies!

After descending about 600 feet or so, we were at the lake. It is just beautiful… my camera met its demise before I could take photos of the lake, so you’ll just have to trust me! When you first get to the lake, there is a very large campsite right where the trail meets the water. It is large and has a great view, but also… it’s right on the trail. We had bumped into a father and daughter earlier who recommended heading around the lake a bit to a more secluded site, which is what we did. We turned right off the main trail, on a much narrower trail that took us around the edge of the lake (you do have to climb over a few fallen trees along the way). The campsite was just perfect, right on the water but still felt secluded. We saw a family of four take the main campsite, but didn’t see any other people the whole time (very nice!).

Our campsite (taken with my phone)

Sometime during the evening, we heard a very loud BOOM! in the distance, which sounded an awful lot like a big tree falling. Trees fall, it happens, but it did make me a bit nervous about the trees around our site. One in particular was poised and ready to fall, but was leaning precariously against a neighboring tree (which happened to be right next to our fire and tent). We kept a close eye on that one!

Please don’t fall!

For a lake at 3,700 feet, the water was remarkably warm. Had it been just a tad warmer outside I would have jumped right in. I did wade in up to my knees to play fetch with Buckles though, and it was quite nice. I did manage to get a couple lake shots with my phone.

Looking across the lake at a rock slide

The sun shining on the lake

We had a delightful evening (despite the skeeters) beside a roaring fire, with lots of food and coffee and beer and wine. And of course, a very restful night’s sleep. We woke up early the next morning, made some breakfast and packed up. I was sad to leave… this is such a pretty little lake. I can’t wait to come back and take some proper photos. And do some swimming!

Backpacking on the Salmon River

First backpacking trip on the books!

Finally. We have been collecting gear for backpacking for the last year and a half… we’ve been “practicing” for it by carrying most of our gear with us on day hikes… we had even started cooking on the trail on our day hikes to test out our equipment. And we finally got to use all of it! I will admit, it was the purchase of my sleeping pad that held us up for so long. For some reason, I have had an irrational fear of actually camping out on our hikes. I’m not sure if it was the thought of carrying every single item I’d need on my back, or being that far from civilization without a vehicle, or maybe having to dig a hole to poop. I can’t say for sure, but I think subconsciously, I may have waited so long to buy that sleeping pad because I knew as long as I didn’t have it, we’d have to sleep at home in bed. πŸ™‚ Whatever the reason, it is now a distant memory that I can barely remember.

This weekend we headed out to Salmon River in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness area near Mt. Hood (still only about an hour drive from home). We had read this is a good beginner and early season backpacking route, so we decided to try it. This trip wasn’t really about the hike this time, as the one we chose was pretty short and pretty flat; this was more of a chance to test our setup out before relying on it when we’re 20 miles deep into the woods.

Salmon River
Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness
(I should note, we did not do the complete hike – just until we found a camp spot)
Total hike distance: 5-ish miles
Total elevation gain:Β  Haha! Maybe 500 feet.

We were camping right about here. GPS data is forthcoming… just wanted to get the post up.

While we spent a relatively short time on this trail, I am completely in love with it. First of all, talk about green. Everywhere, like whoa. The trail starts out pretty standard but then moves away from the river for a bit and into this crazy old-growth forest with gigantic trees soaring overhead and piles of colossal tree trunks that fell ages ago. It made me feel miniature, and it was so eerily quiet and still… a little surreal.

Away we go.

Enchanted forest.

Just love these mini-forests springing up on dead trees.

We hiked 2-3 miles in and started seeing campsites along the way. The further we got, it seemed that the sites were already taken… so we decided to backtrack to a nice spot we saw a mile or so back, before that was taken too. You have to see this site to believe it. Huge campsite right on the rushing river, nice and secluded with no other sites nearby, and lots of fallen trees around to serve as seating and tables.

Paul sawing some firewood for us at our site.

The tent finally gets to see the light of day.

Guard dog.

Buckley doing what he does best… barking at mommy and daddy.

No, this isn’t staged… I actually cut some firewood myself.

We had originally planned to set up camp and then hike further up the canyon with our lightened packs, but… we had gotten a bit of a late start that day, and by the time we finished setting up camp it was close to dinnertime. So, we decided to just chill and enjoy the scenery at our site for the evening. We had some more freeze dried goodness from Mountain House and Backpacker’s Pantry for dinner, and a couple Oskar Blues cans of brew which we enjoyed riverside.

TenFidy Imperial Stout

The gorgeous river, sans beer can.

Ghost Jenny

After a beer we headed back to camp to start a fire and relax.

Teepee style.

We were even able to accompany dinner with a bottle of wine, thanks to my birthday gift from Paul: two collapsible wine glasses and aΒ PlatyPreserve wine platypus that holds a full bottle. πŸ™‚ It was nice to enjoy a glass of wine or two next to the fire.

Post-sunset: once it got going, this was a badass fire.

After it got dark, I decided to see what would happen if I left the shutter on the camera open for like 30 seconds. Paul didn’t know that I was taking a photo and turned his headlamp on for the last few seconds, whomp whomp. I am regretting not taking this again sans headlamp.

I was pretty psyched to test out my sleeping bag and pad, thinking I would be super comfy and warm. Well, I was definitely warm… the tent and sleeping job did a stellar job of that. Unfortunately, we failed to notice the slight downward slope the tent was on, as well as the large tree root that stuck up right under my back. The bags were kind of slippery against the pads, and with Buckley flopping himself around all night, I kept getting shoved off the pad. Even so, falling asleep to the sound of the river is not a bad way to spend the night. I am confident that next time, on flat and even ground, I will sleep like a baby. Especially if it’s after a bottle of wine.

The next morning we were up by about 6am (thanks, Buckley). We hung around camp for a little while, cooked breakfast, made coffee, and started packing up. It was much easier to pack up on the way out, with more room in the packs after eating all the food and drinking all the beer and wine. πŸ™‚

Disassembling the tent.

Buckley seemed a little confused and upset that we were packing up. I think he wanted to stay.

Breakfast! Mountain House Breakfast Skillet + tortillas + Cholula.

And with that, we headed out. We only had the Zipcar out for a certain time so we didn’t have the extra time to hike up further. I was actually sad to leave the campsite and head back to reality.

Fully loaded.

Bye, Salmon River…

Super clear water.

Some pretty little trail wildflowers for good measure.

And wouldn’t you know it, I actually survived my first backpacking trip!Β It was indeed sad to return to the city, but we will most definitely come back here soon to see the rest of the trail and the canyon views. Now that my irrational fears are quelled we can do this more often. I am pretty certain that I think this about every hike/trail we see, but this really was some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen. There was a sign at the trailhead indicating that the US Forest Service was thinking about closing the area down to camping due to complaints about trash, trampled plants, cut trees, human waste, etc. If you camp here, PLEASE be responsible and clean up after yourself! It would be a shame to lose this privilege.