Sunday, July 12, 2009

Chain Lakes 7.12-13.09

With the family away I thought I would take a rare opportunity to do an overnighter. Originally I had hoped to do a loop trip taking most of 4 days but with work again rearranging my schedule I was forced to change my plans. The upside I was going to leave a day earlier but the weather window looked like that would be a bad thing. I was very pessimistic of my chances for summitting the three Back Court peaks around Chain Lakes and one I haven't done around Steven's Pass on the way out. I felt like this was well within reach IF the weather was at least marginal. I left the house after getting home at 3am early Sunday morning. After topping off on coffee I was on my way. I felt pretty good until I was through Monroe and I started to fade fast. I pulled off just before Index and made my way a short ways up a logging road and pulled over and slept. I was able to sleep more or less for a couple hours. Feeling 100% better I was again under way. I pulled off HY 2 on the Mill Creek Road. I hadn't read any recent reports so I wasn't sure of the conditions of the road. It was just as remembered it from previous trips and soon I found myself at the shortcut trail that meets the PCT just before Lake Susan Jane. For those of you that are not familiar with this little known trail I did the best I could to show it on my map. There is a parking spot but it was taken so I had to park a little further up the road. I made some final adjustments and was off. I was happy that I was getting a fairly early start giving me plenty of time to achieve my goals. I was hit with a light rain shower just after passing Lake Susan Jane. I wasn't pleased with this knowing that further along my route the trail becomes brushy. I passed a solo hiker heading to Chain Lakes as well. I was surprised on the amount of snow above Lake Josephine. There was enough tread showing to make route finding a breeze. I passed another 3 at the Lake Josephine outlet who were looking for someplace drier to camp. I descended to the valley below and made my way along the soggy Icicle Creek Trail. Where there wasn't standing water there was a small creek to cross. After what seemed way too long I passed back to the East side of the creek and could start looking for the Chain Lakes trail. The trai is signed and I was thankful to start climbing. The trail is a reasonable grade and I was soon at the start of the long traverse. The sun had burned through and I was able to see to the South and by the time I made it to the first lake it was complete glorious sunshine! I was overjoyed. I hung out all my wet things and set up camp. Since it was just after Noon I felt like I had plenty of time to relax before the real work started. I wish I had set out right away I think I would have had some success. The area around Chain Lakes is scenic so I did my best to capture it. The last time I had been there it was so cloudy I couldn't see a thing.

As I made my way to Bulls Tooth I could see the clouds above me growing quickly and to the West I could see the clouds pushing through the gaps quickly

I didn't want to be out in the exposed with thundershowers and I hadn't covered all my gear so I had no choice to beat a hasty retreat. By the time I reached the camp it looked like this:

I quickly covered everything and turned my attention to fishing. There seems to be plenty of trout in the lakes and streams of the area. I had some fun catching these small ones. I grew weary of cold wet weather and turned in quite early. I was able to get some good sleep. I woke once and the I could see the stars. I was overjoyed to think I would have a second chance for the next day. I again awoke to lightning flashes but I couldn't hear any thunder making me think all hope was not lost. But as thing go sometimes the rain started and kept on for two hours. I was happy that my improptu shelter made of my tent's ground pad strung in the trees and on the other side staked to the ground kept me dry all night.

When light hit I couldn't see more than 30 feet so I went back to sleep with the hope that the sun would win it's battle with the clouds. At around nine I decided that things weren't going to change and I broke camp. I wasn't looking forward to the wet way home but I put my head down and trudged on. By the time I reached Lake Josephine the wind started howling and I was very thankful that I really didn't have too much farther to go. I passed a lone camper at Lake Susan Jane who was huddled next to a tree covered with a tarp. I am guessing he had someone drop him off and was marooned until he was to be picked up. After a short conversation I am sure he was well passed miserable. I thankfully reached the car and switched into some nice dry clothes.

Approx 14 miles 4400' of climb 7 hours walking

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