Snow Lk > Gem Lk > Wright Mtn (Jul 26-27, 2014)

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wright_mtn_coverConditions: backpack
Gear: overnight gear
Map: USGS Snoqualmie Pass
Area: Snoqualmie Pass
Reference: Day Hiking Snoqualmie Pass
Stats: 11.73mi, 3630' gain (round trip)

I sent an email out seeing if anyone wanted to head out this weekend. Many already had plans. Stefan said he was available. I tossed out some ideas, he tossed some out...all were day trips. In the end, Stefan suggested Snow Lake > Gem Lake > Wright Mtn as an overnight, camping up by Gem Lake. Wright Mtn was one of those minor little peaks that was always on my list but I never got around to doing it. I'd finally get a chance to cross it off my list.

I got a late message from Stefan that he and Josh would be getting a late start, 1 or 2pm from the Alpental parking area. I didn't mind heading in early, solo. I'd miss the heat of the day on the open slopes up to Snow Lake. It was also a nice weekend...and I figured someone should go in early to lay claim to a campsite. I didn't exactly get a super early start. The hike into Gem Lake is just under 5.5mi. I reached the Alpental parking lot (3113') a bit about 10:30am and was on the move up the trail by about 10:45am. The lot looked like it would get full today. Lots and lots and lots of people headed up the Snow Lake trail.

The trail starts out with steps...I hate steps..but after an initial gain of about 200 feet the tail does a slowly rising traverse up the drainage. At about 1.9 (3839') the you reach a split in the trail. Switching back to the right is the main trail up to Snow Lake. Straight ahead is the old trail that heads out towards Source Lake. I stayed on the main trail which switches back several times before reaching the Snow Lake overlook at about 2.6mi (4387'). Then, it's a drop of about 200' before reaching the next junction in the trail at 3.06mi (4125'). Here the main trail heads straight, the trail that heads off closer to the SE side of Snow Lake makes a left. Staying straight the trail continues around to the north side of Snow Lake staying pretty close to the water's edge and then at 3.87mi (4020') the trail crosses the outlet to the lake which heads down into Rock Creek. After the outlet the trail starts a slow climb away from Snow Lake an up to Gem Lake. The crowds thinned considerably...thankfully.

At about 1:40pm (5.27mi and 4949') I reached Gem Lake and headed left to the south side of the lake to look for a campsite. The nicer spots were taken. I was thankfully pointed to a sight nearish the lake, I took a look and it looked like it could hold two tents. I dropped my pack, had a snack and walked around some. I figured if Stefan and Josh got started about 2pm, they would show up about 5pm. Sure enough, I headed back to the main trail and found a nice overlook where I could look for hikers heading up. I sat down and within about 5 minutes...I saw a hiker with a visor...classic Stefan. I waved and showed them the campsite site.

The plan was to hike up Wright Mtn for sunset (8:49pm) so we had a few hours to kill. Tents went up. Then a short walk down to southern tip of Gem where there was good access to the water. Stefan and Josh wanted to go for a swim. I warned them that I'd heard others go swimming...first the kerplunk of jumping in...then the gasps and the shock of the cold water hit. Sure enough...they both went in but...not for long. Probably about a minute each :)

None of us were really hungry yet so we decided to leave dinner for after the hike up Wright Mtn (5430'). About 7pm we headed back to the main trail, around the east side of Gem Lk, and looked for a boot path heading up Wright. The boot path is sometimes a creek, sometimes a gully, sometimes visible, sometimes faint, sometimes over snow, and often over steepish boulder fields. Even so, it was easy to follow a route to the top. I'd brought cupcakes, candles and margaritas for a birthday celebration at the summit for Franklin. Franklin was particular about tequila so I spent a small fortune on something good and mixed up some frozen raspberry margaritas in a Nalgene bottle. I'd kept it cold packed in snow back at camp but by the time I pulled it out at the top there was only a faint hint of slush in the mix. Candles were lit and I wished Franklin happy birthday. Then the three of us gobbled up the cupcakes. A nice summit treat. We watched the sunset to the west and as the sun dropped it cast a nice golden hue on the summit cairn. As the sun dropped behind a ridge it was time to head down. We were back at camp well before dark. The trip to the top of Wright was only about 1.25mi and 649' gain (round trip) from camp.

We topped of the evening with dinner and then watched as the light ebbed away and darkness set in. First a few stars appeared, I could spot the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia. Then...the entire night sky lit up with stars. It was clear enough that around 11pm the Milky Way was clearly visible. I looked up at the infinity of space and wondered if he was somewhere up there...out there... I hope there is something after life lived here... Would seem so wasteful of a human existence for it to just end and not continue in some other form.

We didn't get an early start in the morning but even with a late exit from the tents, we were still fueled up, packed up and out of camp around 8am. Then the hike back out the way we came. Oh the crowds. Lot and lots of people heading up the trail as we were on our way out. We were back at the cars by about 11am.

A really nice weekend. I'm thankful to have such wonderful friends. Stefan...thanks for joining me on the trip and suggesting this great destination. I learned life continues to be hard but that I need to take it one day at a time and to take it easy. I really appreciated the beautiful colorful sunset time up at the top of Wright. I can't say that I like bugs though... Mozies were out and biting a bit...but they aren't yet hungry and drilling with a vengeance. There were a few black flies around but those didn't seem to be biting yet.
Wright Mountain Slideshow


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