Sunday, June 28, 2015

Backpacking at Lake of Angels

After several attempts to schedule a backbacking trip with one of our best pals, Chris, we finally found a weekend that worked!  Since he usually travels down to Seattle or the Cascades to adventure with us, we decided to play in his backyard this time around--the Olympic Mountains. Specifically, our eyes were set on the Lake of Angels, a destination that came highly recommended by friends and online hiking posts, via the Putvin Trail.

All of the group except for Karen (who would catch up with us later that night), met in the parking lot, packed up our gear, and headed up the mountain. The Putvin Trail, first laid out by climbers is short (4 miles each way), but brutally steep (3400 ft elevation gain) with little consideration for the easiest route for your legs. There were a couple of exposed stretches where scrambling and use of hands was required. Although a vertical and incredibly hot (like even your shins are sweating kind of hot) hike, I found it to be a fun and challenging evening. The plan was to only go a couple of miles in before setting up camp for the night, but we had to climb about 3.5 miles before finding somewhere flat enough for our tents. Because we got a late start, most of the climb in was also completed in the dark. Fortunately, we had a pretty good amount of moonlight, which created a beautiful effect on the overlapping mountain ridges around us. 

The boys of the group ready to set out!(Pablo, Chris, Craig)

Craig in his usual camouflage

The next morning, we continued the hike up the remaining steep trail to lake basin. The wildflowers were in full bloom for this portion of the hike, surrounding us with flecks of yellows, oranges, and purples .

So this is what it looks like in daylight. Not a bad place to camp for the first night.

Completing the morning ascent to Lake of Angels.

The final push...our crew are the tiny dots of non-green to the left

A sea of beargrass.

We reach the Lake of Angels basin!

Even at high elevations in the coastal range mountains, the temperatures were soaring. The lake, in addition to providing a reliable drinking water source, provided an oasis for swimming that made the trip much more enjoyable.  

Within minutes of arriving at the lake, we were greeted by a pack of mountain goats that were obviously accustomed to human traffic. The whole time we were there, they did laps around the lake, waiting for us to leave so they could raid our goods.

Chris finding sunken treasures in the lake.

 Mountain goats coming out to play...

Chris fishing, but keeping one eye on the mountain goat... 

Escaping the heat

Mountain goat babies! 

They're so cute as babies!

In addition to the mountain goats, we were welcomed by one of my favorite animals, the marmot! This one in particular had a very light blonde coating and sounded the alarm when the goats would get too close to his territory. What a loud whistle they have!

A blonde marmot sounding the alarm warning of intruders!

After swimming, some of us continued up the mountain toward the peak of Mt. Stone. Getting there proved to be a challenge with lots of scrambling involved. Due to the difficulty and time spent trying to reach the peak, most of us only made it to an un-named summit, which we affectionately declared Mt. Destroyer, just below Mt. Stone. Pablo, determined to not stop here, continued on to the Mt. Stone, while we sat watching under the only shade we could find. 

The views even from 'Mt. Destroyer' were fantastic. We could see several snow-capped peaks in the heart of the Olympics and many other summits beckoning for a visit.

Chris scaling a knife edge on the way to Mt. Destroyer and Mt. Stone.

Looking down at our camp site and Lake of Angels

Looking toward more of the Olympic Mountain peaks...some still with snow!

Selfie with the Olympic Mountains

Chris working an over the shoulder pose.

We watch as Pablo demonstrates how to quickly dominate Mt. Stone  (highest summit in the middle).

Lots of scree.

That evening we again found ourselves drawn the lake's waters and shoreline, swimming and trout fishing. When the sun began to sink below the mountain cirque, we climbed over a neighboring ridge to look down at the lights of Tacoma before retiring to our tents for the night.

Like the marmot, I sound the alarm that an intruder is in the perimeter.

Enjoying the sunset looking toward the city lights of Tacoma

While we had originally planned to squeeze in another summit the following morning, tired legs and storm clouds governed our decision to head back down the mountain early. Another weekend of mountains, wildlife, and good friends in the books. Success!

Mama and baby

Morning clouds and thunder roll in.

The group with our goat-fur flag.

Hiking down a hillside full of wildflowers

 Making our way down the very steep trail.