Ross Lake Rambles (July 21-22, 2012)

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ross_lk_rambles_coverConditions: overnight backpack
Map: USGS Ross Dam, USGS Pumpkin Mountain, USGS Hozomeen Mountain
Area: Ross Lake
Reference: 100 Hikes in Washington's North Cascades National Park Region
Stats: 14mi, 3434' gain (both days combined)

I've been on bits of the West Bank Trail before, on a previous visit to Ross Lake Resort. I've never hiked too much of it though, we weather and the cold...the warm of the wood stove in the cabin beckoning me back...

Deb mentioned a group was hiking into Little Beaver camp from the dam and asked if I was interested. They be sending Beth, Eileen, and Fay off on a week long trip into the Pickets. I was interested, really interested so the packing began.

We started from the Ross Dam parking area on not so early-ish on Saturday morning. Down, down, down we went on the mixed combination of roads and trails. We were headed down to the dam itself. No shortcut (water taxi) for the trip into Little Beaver camp. It's an easy enough trip. We reached the south end of the dam, walked across, then walked the West Bank Trail past Ross Lake Resort, past the junction down to Green Point, past the Pierce Mtn junction, then over and down to Little Beaver Creek (crossing the really nice suspension bridge) and then over a short way to Little Beaver Campground. The trail is really nice the whole way. Really flat (OK, nearly flat) the entire way. The grade is nice. The views down to the lake and over towards Jack Mtn are gorgeous. We (Deb, Steve, Maura, and me) reached Little Beaver CG and spotted out a nice group campsite. We dropped the packed and headed over to the dock to soak our feet and more. It was warm and the cool water was a relief. Jim, Eileen & her son, Fay, and Beth were arriving later that evening. Some with heavy climbing packs as they were continuing on into the Pickett the next day. Others just bringing heavy camping gear and since they weren't hiking in, weight wasn't an issue. We wondered at first if a ranger would stop by and ask to see our permit. Jim was had the permit with him (arriving later on the boat) and thankfully, no ranger stopped by before then.

The second contingent arrived and the combined group made haste setting up camp and starting dinner. One thing became apparent pretty fast, we all liked wieners of some sort. The number and variety of wieners on the grill was amazing!

We hung around that night catching up on stories and roasting smores over the campfire. It felt good for me to be back out with the gang.

In the morning it was interesting watching Fay, Eileen and Beth pack up and weight their gear. They were headed into the Pickets for a week long trip. I was eager to hear their plan but honestly, I was glad it wasn't me headed in. Looking at the size and weight of their packs made my legs hurt. We sent them off and then we were off heading across the lake via water taxi, towards Desolation. The plan was to drop most of the gear at the landing and day hike up the over 4000' gain to the Desolation Lookout. It was a tight schedule though, we needed to be back at the dock at a set time early evening to catch the water taxi back to the far end of Ross Lake. It would be a pace I didn't think I could keep up with so I waved goodbye to the rest of the group heading up Desolation and then I took a leisurely hike down to Lightning Creek and back. I got back in time to lounge around at the dock and was there when the Desolation group arrived. Not too long afterwards, the water taxi arrived to pick us up to ferry us to the dock at the bottom end of the lack (south end of the dam). It's quite the ride back to the dock, I was thinking the whole time that I was glad I wasn't hiking back. After sorting a bit of gear we started the one mile hike back up to the cars.

The trails along the banks of Ross Lake are real gems. I've never seen them crowded. Most people I talk to puzzle over the fact there are even trails there, and ask where they go. Desolation Peak is still on my to-do list. One of these days I'll be back when I'm in no real rush to get back to the TH.
Ross Lake Rambles Slideshow

(click on map to view a larger version)

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