Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Trip to Lost Lake




Weekends are the busy days at the bike shop, so my virtual weekend is Monday and Tuesday. Since my days off don't mesh with the days most folks have for adventuring, I often take off on solo trips. But my pal Mark Vande Kamp managed to shake all of Monday and much of Tuesday free, so we plotted out our trip. As is our custom, we had a general, not a detailed plan and we were headed someplace neither of us had been.

In this case, it's Lost Lake. There are probably dozens of Lost Lakes in Washington, this particular one is south of Snoqualmie Pass, 3,000 feet up in the Cascades and just west of Tinkham Peak. Mark and I leave from my place in Issaquah at 8:20 AM and we ride a mix of trails, small roads, a bit of freeway shoulder and then Tinkham and Denny Creek roads to Snoqualmie Summit. We've both managed to pack enough riding into this summer that the climbing doesn't really slow our conversation which ranges from books to philosophy to economics to science. While I'd read the report from the Cyclos Montagnards ride, it's far better to get Mark's straight matter-of-fact recounting. "You know, at the end you wouldn't have bet I'd be the one in the ER. Sure I was throwing up in a trash can, but Ryan was the one on the ground twitching uncontrollably." Damn shame I missed that ride!

After a quick stop at the summit, we follow the frontage road toward Hyak. Mark turns right one turn before I usually do to connect with the John Wayne Trail but I say something stupid like, "This'll be fine, it has to intersect the trail." The little road goes west and up and gets smaller. Consulting the map, we figure out that we crossed over too close to the summit and we had in fact crossed the trail but it was the portion of the trail encased in the closed Snoqualmie tunnel. But this road will get us where we are going.

While the John Wayne Trail overlays the flat old rail bed along the western shore of Keechelus Lake, the tiny road we're on climbs the ridge and follows the power line. One of the things Mark and I had been talking about was the blog cliché of ride reports that have the "I was doing this thing and then this random song came up on my iPod and it fit perfectly!" and how that's more a function of the human brain finding patterns than anything else. Neither of us ride with an iPod but as the road gets higher and less like a road and more like a trail, I can't help but recall the line from the Dar Williams song The Easy Way that says "I never took the easy way, so why don't you take it a little easy on me now?"

Eventually the tiny road tops out with a spectacular view of Keechelus Lake and a look back at what Mark calls "just how stupid we were." Fortunately, the descent that connects us to Forest Road 5480 is mostly rideable and the climb up 5480 seems positively civilized.

At Lost Lake I comment that if a place is called "Lost Lake" it really shouldn't have a sign and porta-potties but this Lost Lake has both. It's an odd bit of federal land with no formal camp sites or fee boxes but not the pure back country experience either. From the looks of things it seems that the folks who bring guns and beer out into the woods aren't big on practicing no-trace camping. Mark and I find a pretty place on the northwest shore of the lake, a place that I think would be prettier without the beer cans and empty rifle cartridges, but the little cartridge Stonehenge is kind of interesting.

We have enough of the afternoon to do a hike around the lake, something that is just possible because the water level is low enough to expose a mostly clear perimeter. In the course of our orbit we encounter a bunch of neat rocks and drift wood, a fraternity of beer cans, one decidedly non-chatty fisherman, a family camping with loud, friendly curious dog, four unpaired socks, and a small raft of loons.

Back at camp Mark cooks up dinner on his beverage-can stove. Part of my Divide practice includes going faster and lighter in the gear department, so my dinner includes Fritos, bean dip and Spam on an English muffin. As I've often noted, I am not a nutritional role model.

Mark's latest bit of gear is what may be the niftiest sleeping bag ever, an Exped Wallcreeper. This compact sleeping bag can become kind of a long coat, letting Mark poke his arms and legs out. "I can get up and pee in the middle of the night without getting cold!" Mark explains gleefully. Damn clever. Mark's ultralight pillow is also clever, a recycled bladder from a box of wine.

In the morning, Mark makes oatmeal without needing to get out of his sleeping bag. I'm perfectly comfortable munching granola bars and wearing my puffy jacket, so I don't think I'll be buying an Exped anytime soon, but if I was building up a camping kit from scratch, I'd sure give the Exped serious consideration.

We're rolling at 7:30 AM, taking the faster roads and trails home. After stopping for a quick coffee at Snoqualmie Summit, we wind our way down Denny Creek Road, follow the freeway to Edgewick and then small roads and trails home. We're back in Issaquah by 12:30 PM.
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