When I first visited the non-wilderness shores of Packwood Lake one midsummer long ago, and hiked into the Wilderness on the Packwood Lake Trail about two miles to Mosquito Lake, I thought the air contained more skeeters than oxygen. My first night I endured a survival-oriented mad rush to set up the tent and get inside.
Glaciation and erosion have worn away at the terrain here, leaving moderate summits on both sides of the crest of the Cascades. The deep east-west drainages below the ridges often open into parklike alpine meadows dotted with small lakes and even smaller ponds, all clouded over with mosquitoes in summer.
In winter, however, snow typically accumulates to more than 25 feet, not melting entirely until August and keeping the ponds and lakes full when it does give in to the sun. Pikas and marmots scurry about above timberline, while the more reserved deer and elk have been spotted lower down. Mountain goats frequently show up in the higher country, especially along Upper Lake Creek, which feeds Packwood Lake at the northwest boundary, and in Nannie Basin in the southern portion of the area.
Much of the 120-mile trail system stays on the ridges at or above timberline. The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail wanders north/south through the middle of the wilderness for 31.1 miles, past 7,930-foot Old Snowy Mountain, where glaciers persist. At least 14 other trails climb to eventually join the PCT.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication