Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Thorp Lookout - 08.01-02.10

Jennifer's birthday getaway.

We had lofty ambitions to go hiking/camping in the North Cascades, but the 30% chance of thunderstorms scared us away. I was hoping for views, while Jennifer was hoping for lake swimming. In the end we found a combination that should work just fine; Thorp Lake and Thorp Mountain Lookout.

We got a leisurely start and drove up to the trail head arriving around 11am. Unfortunately, the signage is not ideal and we drove to what is listed in the book as the shortcut. This is a trail at the end of a logging road that leads to the lake. After we geared up and started up the trail we immediately noticed a sign stating it was not the trail. We opted to continue as the trail looked well used (and there was more than a half dozen cars at the "trail head.") However, a few hundred meters from the parking lot we made a right instead of a left. This put us in some open clear cuts and following some trails that looked like game trails. There was flagging tape, so we figured we were heading in the right direction.

After a while of not seeing tape, we stopped for lunch. I scouted ahead, and did not like what I saw. We decided to head back down to the parking lot and hopefully pick up the trail somewhere in between. It was difficult to retrace our steps, and the way down was more slippery than coming up. We slipped a bunch and had to bushwhack even more. After reaching the parking lot elevation, we traversed through some devils club and rejoined the trail. But not after a fair amount of suffering.

Fruits of our labor

This time we noticed the correct trail heading left and followed it. It was nice being on a real trail, and in no time, we were at the lake. Jennifer felt that the two hours of off trail travel was good because the actual trail to the lake was too short. (Mind you, this was the "shortcut" trail.)

Once arriving at the lake we noticed what we often do every time we go in the woods for Jennifer's birthday: the bugs. The mosquitoes at the lake were voracious. Fortunately, it wasn't that hot and we were able to put on jackets and pants to keep ourselves somewhat protected. On the flipside, it did not make us determined to do anything outside, so we hung out in the tent a bit to escape.

Home sweet home

After a bit of relaxing in the tent we got out and scouted the route to the top of the mountain for the next morning. We also took a path part way around the lake to a boulder field and watched the pikas who were apparently watching us. When we returned to the camp, we made dinner.

After dinner, we did a bit more local exploring before retiring to the tent. (The mosquitoes were driving us crazy and we had no repellent.) It was early, but Jennifer felt she could use the sleep.

When we awoke in the morning, the mosquitoes were not as bad. But as we ate breakfast, they became worse. We figured we had to move quickly once done and hopefully the higher we went, the better off we would be.

We started the hike to the lookout and kept moving because stopping made you a target. It was fairly humid, and for the most part going higher did not result in more breeze. It was warm, but I opted to keep my pant legs on to keep the bugs off. There were a few trail intersections, including the one for the real trail to the lake. For the most part the trail switchbacked through subalpine meadows below cliffs.


In what seemed like a very short time we were at the lookout, greeted by the lookout, Lori, and her dog Grace. We took in the views and ate snacks, then chatted with Lori for a while before signing the register and heading back down. The lookout had told us the view was better than the previous day, so we were fairly happy that we waited until the morning to come up to the lookout. Rainier was under the clouds, but the Snoqualmie peaks to Dutch Miller Gap were visible as well as Hinman and Daniel. Mount Stuart was just a shadow in the haze.

The hike back down to camp was warm and uneventful. When we arrived back at the lake, we considered swimming, but we cooled off fairly well with the breeze off the lake. We also weren't sure about subjecting more skin to the swarms of mosquitoes. So we packed up and hiked out. While trying to find the trail out, we stumbled upon the toilet. We passed the not so obvious real trail head on the drive out.

I think this is a nice trip for families, but if you needed to do more and just a day trip, there is a nice loop that can be done incorporating Little Joe Thorp Lake as well. It seems to me the ridge trails there would also be nice options, but we didn't consider them at the time.

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