A Week in the Cascades
Now we contour around a knob to drop to nearby Deception Creek, a small stream in a deep and eroding drainage. This gully is cutting along the Straight Creek fault, a major crustal weakness traceable from near Yakima well into British Columbia. In the past, land to its west was shifted north, displaced 100-200 miles over the millenia. We continue out of the gully on a level track, getting a glimpse back to the glimmering heights of Mt. Daniel and its massive Lynch Glacier. Next we round a ridge and jump one stream and then, near a campsite, we jump another as we continue through cedar and fir forest. The PCT starts a long, gradually rising traverse above the valley of Deception Creek, passing through the skeletons of an old forest fire, and eventually rounding a ridge to meet Deception Creek Trail 1059A, which drops west. About 0. 1 mile east of this junction we cross the outlet of Deception Lakes and then follow the west shoreline of the narrow lower lake. Although these lakes offer fine swimming and a pleasant rest, their accessibility has lured hordes who have beaten their campsites and much of their shorelines to dust.
Just as it nears the large upper lake, the PCT climbs northwest and enters a draw, at the end of which an unsigned and unmaintained trail drops off to the west. We, on the other hand, angle northwest uphill and around a ridge to resume the ascending traverse high above Deception Creek. Now, however, we can see northwest beyond a checkerboard of clearcuts to the jagged teeth of Mt. Index, Mt. Baring and Three Fingers, as well as across the valley, where Lake Clarice nestles against Terrace Mountain. We turn up a steep slope and with a few switchbacks surmount it at Pieper Pass. From here the abandoned Cascade Crest Trail follows the ridgecrest north, but we turn east toward inviting Glacier Lake, and then drop off the pass for a braking descent.
Steep switchbacks take us down to a small bench with a tarn and a view of distant Glacier Peak, and then we wind among the granite boulders of a lower bench before descending a talus slope to the cirque floor. From here we descend into the forest past a campsite that is above the southeast shore of Glacier Lake. Beyond this we cross a creek and hike around the bottom of a talus slope as we parallel Glacier Lake's glistening east shore 50-100 feet above it. We then continue away from the lake past a narrow pond, with another campsite, and shortly meet Surprise Lake Trail 1060, which heads north for about four miles to meet Highway 2 eight miles east of Skykomish. At the junction the route pivots southeast to arc around the head of a ravine and start a rising traverse north.
This traverse takes us through forests and rocky fields, ever higher above Surprise Lake, ever closer to gnarly crags atop the crest. It ends where we join Trap Pass Trail 1060A, in the middle of a bank of steep switchbacks, and we grind up the rest of these to the Cascade divide at Trap Pass. With the blue disc of Trap Lake seemingly a straight drop below us, we switchback and traverse down and across its steep cirque wall to a sharply descending access trail to the lake. After leaving the lake's bowl, the PCT keeps to flowery avalanche slopes and shady forested slopes high above Trapper Creek. At a small bench it passes a campsite beside a seasonal creek, and then climbs briefly to a notch. From here we slant and switchback down through steep forest and across another bench, dropping before long to a gentle terrain at overused Hope Lake. From here, at a curiously low spot in the Cascade crest, Tunnel Creek Trail 1061 drops 1.4 miles northwest to Road 6095, which descends 1.2 miles to Highway 2.
North from the turbid waters of Hope Lake we climb through fir-and-hemlock forest onto a somewhat swampy parkland plateau, on which we turn east to the north end of Mig Lake. By midsummer this shallow lake warms to a pleasant swimming temperature. East from it, we drop to a crest saddle, round a knob, and curve around a swampy pond. Onward, we climb around a forested ridge, and confront steeper climbing beneath cliffbands, topping out at an unnamed crest saddle. Here a slice of Swimming Deer Lake tempts one to drop 300 feet through very steep forest, but more accessible water is just down the trail, which contours east to a spur ridge, beyond which it drops along a rill in a grassy swale to the rim of Josephine Lake's cirque. From here Icicle Trail 1551 descends around the cirque to the turquoise lake's outlet.
From the Icicle Trail junction the PCT proceeds northwest down a ravine, then down a talus slope to the north shore of Lake Susan Jane. With powerlines and the crest of Stevens Pass Ski Area in sight, and probably a number of overnighters at this pretty and accessible lake, a wilderness-accustomed PCT hiker strongly senses re-entry into civilization. Next the trail traverses west under steep but well-flowered bluffs, where snow lingers across the track into August. Soon after crossing a tumbling stream it passes a campsite near the edge of the swath cut for the immense powerlines overhead. These buzzing cables carry hydroelectricity from the rural Columbia basin east of the Cascades to the cities of the coast. A couple of rough roads run through the logged swath, and we depend on trail signs to follow our climbing, switchbacking path across the eroding roadbeds.
North of the powerlines our trail continue., climbing, taking long, meadowy switchbacks up to the Cascade crest at a saddle near the top of a chairlift. Steeper, tighter switchbacks then take us down beneath this and other chairlifts to lower-angled slopes, from which we make a long descending traverse north, crossing a creek on our way to four-lane Highway 2. The trail empties onto a parking area a couple hundred yards northeast of the Stevens Pass Ski Area village.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication