Alpine Lakes Traverse: Part III

37 lakes in 9 days by jason hummel


Josh overlooking valley's to the east of Granite Mountain.

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DAY EIGHT: Bob and Klonaqua Lakes

For Josh and I, going out Klonaqua Lakes was the primary catalyst for doing this traverse at all. We had always wondered as kids what lay yonder way. This curiosity, lasting until present, was about to be satisfied and our eighth day would live up to all expectations. It would stand out as the best day of the entire trip.

That night the moons intensity was incredible, and its reflection on the lakes nirvana. That morning still carried that air of wonder. We packed with its memory still vivid. Ahead of us more wonder to come.

As planned, we woke up and started out early. We climbed back toward the Robins and traversed cross country to the shoulder of Granite Mountain. The walk here was very pleasant, the meadows and ponds unsullied by man, and the way was as expected, very scenic. Boulder fields followed and were scrambled down before reaching the key pass above Phoebe Lakes. The crystal waters of No Name Lake were intense, and our first views of the Klonaqua's were magical.

Josh and Jessy arrived at the pass just before I did and decided to scout ahead. I could see that our path directly over the pass was a no go, and I was worried that we were in for a return journey, which would cost us 4-5 hours extra. My anticipation flared when I hear them returning along the ridge, whereupon they see me and holler quite convincingly, "There's no way down, anywhere man!!!" Despite their act, I was convinced that they must be wrong. Making as if to go look for myself, they give up and laugh, "There's a way, just up over this hill." When Christy showed they pulled the same ruse on her. I, of course, joined, and we held out longer this time before finaly spilling out the truth.

From the ridgeline are steep alpine slopes, and a tiny bit of easy rock. Below there, the terrain gets more complex, and there are only a few ways down. Most are steep rock cliffs or slanted granite, too slippery to walk down. We took it slow and scouted for the best route. There are basically 3 stages of cliffs and each need to be negotiated if you plan on taking this particular route. We climbed the most difficult of sections by climbing next to a spectacular waterfall, whose vestige we had scouted from atop minutes before. There were a few exposed sections here to be careful on. To lessen the risk we passed packs down so we could branch rappel to a safer spot. This led to a ledge directly beneath the falls, whose path eventually brought us further beneath the falls, to freedom. Flowers sprung up there from wet stone and clumps of grass. While the others stopped at a meadow below, I stayed and photographed.

We had a few more challenges left. I don’t know if we took the best way, but I climbed down steep granite to a ledge or two before finding easier terrain. Again, there were beautiful falls above us, and more purple Monkey Flowers below. The others eventually joined with directions from me and more boulder hoping followed soon after. This led to the shore of Upper Klonaqua Lake, whose golden yellow grass heralded us from above. To finally be there was thrilling.

There are no trails from Granite Potholes until the middle of Kalonqua Lakes and the left shore of the upper lake isn’t very pleasant. In an attempt to lessen the effort and since our feet needed to be soaked, we put on our slippers and hiked along the shore. Sometimes we were past our knees in water but not for long. Soon we were out of the water and fighting our way into the woods, working our way through forest until we reached the center of the two lakes and crossed the outlet. At this point, we traversed between the lakes over to the other side. There is a wonderful trail that winds through stunning meadows. It was so wondrous that in our delight we neglected to pay attention and passed Lower Klonaqua Lake altogether. As Bob Lake came into view we realized our slip of mind. This turned out for the best. While Bob Lake is an unimpressive name, the quit, charming nature of this place was't run of the mill at all.  

On one end of the lake we struck camp, scrounged through our food and ate everything we had left on the sunny shore. After which followed a long restful nap. Once that was over, we all went swimming. A small cliff caught Jessy's attention (of course) and he hiked around the lake to jump off of it and swim back. Later that day we went fishing at Lower Klonaqua. While we didn't catch anything, we realized that we were camping at the better place. Upon returning, we went to bed. Day eight, the best of the trip, was over.

Christy and Josh with Glacier Peak Behind.
Jessy with Mount Daniel behind.
Josh looking over a waterfall. Another view.
Beneath the waterfall. Upper Kalonqua Lake.
Jessy and a waterfall. Looking at the head of Kalonqua Lake.
Crossing the outlet from upper to lower Kalonqua. On the shore of Bob Lake.
Also on the shore of Bob Lake.  

DAY NINE: Hike out to Icicle Creek Road


Sometime in the middle of the night, animals woke us up. I was afraid it was a bear. Since we didn’t have any food laying around (none left), except ourselves, I wasn't too worried. Still, I rose from bed and shinned my light out the tent. The first thing I saw was a flying squirrel (didn’t think that they were in Washington). The next thing I noticed was a bigger animal, probably a deer or elk. It was hard to tell since all I saw was a mass moving quickly away. We weren't bothered much more that night. We were pretty certain later that we heard hoof prints. It would've been cool to see whatever it was, but it wasn't to be.

Morning arrived all the same, arms and legs attached to torso. No dinner tonight for hungry bears, only the chill morning to prod us up and awake enough to pack up fast. We had 9 miles ahead and a schedule to stick too. We had to be out by 11am to 12pm.

Portions of the trail are overgrown, much like a rose garden’s entrance, once you begin paralleling French Creek. This comes after dropping a few thousand feet to the valley bottom. Several more miles and French Creek meets the Icicle Valley and Creek where the trail becomes a certified road. Not much further ahead, John and Candace would appear a mile or so from their car and the trailhead. They told us ice cream and fruit would be waiting for us and sure enough, it was. We consumed it like animals. After 9 days we were mutating somewhat. I'd like to stay out much longer, but I have a job, so I have to balace desire with available time.

A full week , nearly 40 lakes, and memories to last a lifetime, are reminders why escape is important. How more relaxed endeavors such as fishing and swimming can add to the flavour and satisfaction. Maybe for us, it was so good that it may become an annual event, much like Christmas is. Like Jessy said, "You wouldn't skip Christmas, would you? Well, you can't skip an annual tradition either."  Next year I think 9 days in the Olympic National Park would make for a splendid 2nd annual trip. Until then, I hope everyone who reads this gets out and has as much fun as we did.

Bob Lake.
French Cr. Trail had a bit of brush.  
Good trip. Good times. Thanks for coming everyone.
The end of the road.

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