Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Fisher, Ptarmigan and Upper Ptarmigan Lakes 7.14-15.14




  A recent dual family tragedy had left me alone to tend to the kids, household and work while my wife was in Colorado aiding her parents. I was happy to say that many friends and family made themselves and their homes available to help watch my kids when I had to work. It is always nice to see people step up to help those in need. I managed to get the kids everywhere they needed to go on time and still make it to work. While the circumstances why this needed to be weren't great the end result was that I got some great time with my kids which I am as always very grateful.  I had to take the kids to the airport on Monday morning in order to get them on a plane so they could reunite with my wife. Both girls had never flown by themselves but , just like everything else they took it in stride. My oldest had a emotional time boarding the plane, crying about missing me already. While I don't usually like to see my kids express all their emotions for the world to see, in this instance it gave me some bittersweet feelings. I am very happy that my kids will indeed miss me as I will dearly miss them.   Since I had to wait until the plane actually took off before leaving I was waiting around. A man approached me to give me some emotional support. He had incorrectly assumed that the kids were flying off to see there mother for the summer. When I told him that they were meeting my wife due to family emergency he seemed overjoyed. He was quick to say sorry about the family tragedy but I knew what he was happy to see a family still as one unit. It was a trivial encounter to some extent but it did give me some warm feelings when I thought about how complete my life is.


    Since I don't have anyone but the dog to answer to on the home front I decided a overnighter would be fun. Steve and I had planned on going next week since my family was scheduled to be in Colorado then. I thought it might be a good idea to shake the kinks out and go before next week. My packing was a bit behind since I had left the tent out to air not knowing it was going to rain so I had to wait until I returned from the airport and the tent had some time to dry out.  By the time I picked up Steve in Lake Stevens it was nearly 2. The plan was to drive to the end of The Tonga Ridge Road to use the Eastern Trailhead to access the fisherman's trail to Fisher Lake. By the time we reached the trailhead it was already past 4. The trail climbs 1400' on good tread to connect with the fisherman's trail.  There are a couple of options here. Coming from the East the first trail mainly traverses before descending to the lake. This trail is flagged and a bit marshy to start. The trail itself isn't hard to follow and it is the way I prefer to get to Fisher Lake. You can also bypass this trail and continue a bit further and there is the more used trail that climbs up and over two bumps befroe dropping to the Fisher Lake. This trail is mostly unpleasant with a lot of running water and generally unfavorable travel.


    Once we reached the lake I decided it best to camp at Fisher Lake instead of the goal of the great campsite between Upper and Lower Ptarmigan Lakes. We quickly set up shop and I was happy that the bugs were relatively benign for me. Steve on the other hand looked like he had been attacked by a swarm. Even his back was devastated with welts despite the fact that he was wearing a shirt.  I made dinner and Steve retired to the tent to gain a reprieve from the bugs. I stayed out until after sundown enjoying the light breeze and emerging stars.



I went to sleep quite early and had a restful night of sleep. The dog ran off something in the middle of the night waking me once and the moon shining on me like a spotlight woke me up another time but other than that it was a peaceful night.  We had a lazy morning before heading to the outlet where the trail to Ptarmigan Lakes starts. The trail was mostly easy to follow and soon it spit us out on the rockslide on the Western shore.



I could see that Steve was struggling with the rockslide and the very warm sun so decided that any climbing just wasn't in the cards. Thankfully we made it through the blazing hot rocks to reach the north shore and the continuation of the trail to the Upper Lake. We made our way to the primo camp site and dropped packs. We both tried a bit of fishing but I only have hardheartedly tried since the fish I did see where so small. I instead found a nice shady spot to take a nap. I could see that getting to the ridge West above me would be easy enough and I could see the heather gully granting access to Shroud Mt's East ridge all looked doable. There was still quite a bit of snow guarding the access gully but this would probably be helpful. I was a bit sad that I wouldn't be able to muster an attempt but I felt like it was the right thing to do given the circumstances.



After giving up fishing we decided to head back to camp. The way out was much faster despite the fact that we had to climb a couple hundred feet of elevation to get back to camp. Upon returning to camp we packed up and started heading out. For the return I decided to stick to the main fisherman's trail instead of the secondary one we used for our approach. I thought I remember a signed junction heading to Jewel Lake on a previous visit but I couldn't find a distinct path although large portions of the trail where still snow covered.




After cresting a bump we descended a short way to reach a nice flat meadowy area.  I  thought I remember a spur trail that continues straight instead of following the main path. I could see signs in the meadow so we continued on this lesser path. I started growing concerned when this path started heading more to the lake instead of heading out as I had hoped. I didn't want to find myself back at the lake so I decided to backtrack and rejoin the main path. Upon seeing my GPS track I wish I would have continued a bit further since we would have connected with the secondary path we had used to get to the lake. Instead we stayed on the main path for an unpleasant trail back to the main trail. Steve had several cramping episodes on the way out adding some time to the descent but we both were happy to make back to the car to enjoy some semi cold beers.



Approx 12 miles 2400' of climb 24:30 Car to car




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