This was the ideal cloudy day hike. Since I’m spoiled by amazing views already (I’ve only been out here for two months, seriously) I have trouble getting motivated on days with mediocre weather. I can’t even call it lousy weather because temperatures were normal and it wasn’t raining! I left the apartment convinced I would do Mirror Lake, which is like 2 miles round trip. Unfortunately I spent half an hour doing awkward U-turns on crappy rutted gravel roads, completely incapable of finding Mirror Lake. While it was sunny. What a waste of sunny hours. I’ll be back though, after asking around I know exactly where I went wrong. The WTA claims the last half mile of the road is suitable only for high clearance vehicles, but it didn’t look like it was suitable for any vehicle. So overgrown I wasn’t even sure if it was a trail for hikers or an abandoned logging road leading to nowhere.
Anyway, I left the alleged road to Mirror Lake in sheer defeat, swearing to myself I’d hike Melakwa (back up plan) because I didn’t drive two hours (if you include my stupid mountain loops) just to turn around and drive home. Luckily, Melakwa was one of the easiest trailheads to find since it’s just past a big campground.
- Distance: 8.5 miles round trip
- Elevation: 2500ft gain
- Weather: 50’s and cloudy
- Commute from Seattle: just over an hour
- Did I Trip: Nope
The trail starts off along Denny Creek. It crosses underneath I-90 (yes you read that right, you hike beneath a highway) about a half mile in, which was bizarre but you start between the two directions of I-90 so I suppose you had to cross at some point. About a mile in you cross Denny Creek, which is coming down slick rocks and creating a waterslide. Apparently you can actually slide down it when it’s warm out. I didn’t test it, but it looked like little kids would have a blast playing around it. That first mile of the trail is very well taken care of, probably because it’s so popular.
The last bits of fall foliage were still hanging out on the way up. I passed a couple nice waterfalls as well. The first mile of the trail was runnable, but eventually you come to some boulder fields, and while there’s still a path, the footwork was a little tricky for me. Not too steep though, and you get a decent view of the valley you’re hiking through the farther you go.
Since it was cloudy, I’m sure the views were not at their best, but you could still see some of the lesser peaks.
I passed another hiker on the way up, who was the only person I saw. No cars in the parking lot, so I was pretty surprised. I told him I was planning another hike but when the weather wasn’t cooperating I chose Melakwa, and he had the same issue. But he reassured me it was the perfect cloudy/rainy day hike, and damn, he was completely right. Once I got to the lake, it was completely worth it. I’m very goal oriented, I seem to need an actual destination. I can’t just hike though woods and enjoy it without something to attain.
First, some more fall foliage. Then we’ll talk lake. The trail wasn’t half bad – as soon as it was out of the forest, I had fields, boulders, and views. And the knowledge that I had a goal to obtain:e lake. And I had to make it to the lake within a certain time or else I’d be hiking back in the dark, so I had to be quick. Once you reach the top of hte pass, you lose about a hundred feet in altitude to get down to Melakwa, which I didn’t expect. Coming around a bend in the trail, I saw a lake down below (WAY down below) and thought damn, that’s gotta be another mile or two. Luckiy it was another lake (something starting with an H) and not Melakwa! Melakwa was on the other side of the pass, hidden from the trail.
Melakwa was beautifully clear, another turquoise alpine lake. Man, now I’m even getting spoiled with lakes. The other hiker was totally right, it was a great cloudy day hike, because the color still stood out, and with some fall colors along the bank for contrast, it was a great destination. What I didn’t realize is that there are actually two lakes! This is the lower lake. I didn’t make it to the upper lake, since I didn’t know it existed. There’s also a pass to a ridge behind them that you can climb easily (so they say), so next time I go back, I’ll have to make it up to the ridge. The views are probably wonderful. And it’ll look even better if those peaks in the back are capped in snow.
The only downside to this hike was the hike back. I’ve never been a fan of the return hike, but obviously it’s a necessity. Since I can’t paraglide back to the trailhead like these guys did from Mt. Everest. The closest I’ve ever been was glissading down Mt. Rainier (between Camp Muir and Paradise Inn) on my way down from the summit. That was way more exciting than the hike back from Melakwa. I was totally bored. Bored out of my mind. Usually I can occupy myself with my thoughts or the trail or the views, but none of the above were working. Luckily it wasn’t too long of a hike, and I was back to the trail head quickly, and I beat sunset, which was most important. Anyway, would definitely recommend this as a cloudy/rainy day hike. It won’t disappoint. Today I tried to go on a rainy day hike that didn’t have lakes or waterfalls or views, and it was… let’s just say I’m not even going to blog about it. Stick with the lakes for rainy days, or even views if you know you’ll be back someday.
Pingback: Pratt Lake Basin | Have Tent, Will Travel