Lake Edna was another fairly last minute idea. I was once again going cragging in the morning since I couldn’t convince anyone to get out in the alpine. You know how you have plan A, plan B, plan C….. well cragging in my brain is like plan K. But the weather was questionable and no one wanted to hike somewhere just to end up bailing and not climbing, so cragging it was. Simon agreed to meet me Saturday night (8/12) for a hike up to a campsite by Lake Edna, where we would have a lazy morning and hike out Sunday. This hike had been on my list for a while since I had been turned around on this hike back in 2015, when I was a shy newbie. I was hiking solo, I had no buddy system, I was tired, mosquitos were swarming, and eventually I heard thunder and said you know what I’m lazy and this isn’t fun. So I went back to the car, and lamented the fact I had driven like 5hrs round trip for a ~4mi bail hike. Lake Edna: 1, Eve: 0.
- Distance: 12.5 miles round trip (feels like more)
- Elevation: 4500ft gain (also feels like more)
- Weather: 50’s and foggy, 50’s and sunny
- Commute from Seattle: 2:30 (or 6:20)
- Did I Trip: Actually no. I’ve gotten too good at walking.
We got burgers and beer in Leavenworth, drove out to Icicle Creek Road, and joined 3 cars at the Lake Edna/Chatter Creek trailhead. We started hiking up around 8:30, knowing we didn’t have much time before sunset. I was already out of water since I drank half of it at Index, so I stopped at the first stream to fill up my camelback. And thank you to Simon for reminding me how destroyed I was starting out this hike. I had strugglebussed up Godzilla thinking the 5.10b variation looked easier than the 5.9 layback and I can now attest to the fact that 5.10b is not easier than 5.9, in case anyone was wondering. Also, I learned I have no idea how to climb offwidths, I wish I had bigger hands (said no one ever, except me that one time), and despite all of the struggling, I at least got complimented on my forearm veins as Robert (my belay bitch, thank you for putting up with my struggles) lowered my sorry ass down after I finally topped out.
We passed a campsite with three tents and a hammock (I was jealous until it rained) and they informed us that there was no one else up there. Damn I have good taste in hikes. The best part of this hike is that it’s the entrance to the Mormon Ladies Lakes. Here’s a sampling of names: Edna, Flore, Mary, Grace, Brigham, and Charles. One of these things is not like the others. I’ll let you make your own theories, given the names.
I was hoping we’d break above treeline before sunset, but I swear we were in the trees forever. This was likely due to my dragging pace. I was full-body-fried from cragging, and had been hoping for an easy stroll, not mind numbing switchbacks that seemingly take you nowhere in the dark. The trail takes you up through open pines that smell wonderful to a forest in a valley below Grindstone, where you switchback up to a small pass around 6,400ft. This threw us off, because we knew the trail was supposed to intersect with the Icicle Creek Ridge trail around 6,400ft, and from there it would only be another quarter mile to the lake. But in the dark, we didn’t realize that we were at the saddle and not at the intersection. Apparently I had also lost the ability to read a topo map. I couldn’t figure out why we hadn’t met the intersection, why we were suddenly dropping elevation, where the hell the lake was. I finally pulled out the map again and realized how much farther we had to go. Ah, shit. It was only a mile and a half, which sounds like a piece of cake, but I was tired. Even at my worst I’m usually moving 2mi/hr. We definitely passed through the twilight zone on the way up.
We hit a small talus field and lost the trail near the sweet rock pictured above (twilight zone guys). It reminds me of the cheap concrete that has small stones in it. I (scientifically) asked my friend Emma “what is going on with this rock?” and realized she’s backpacking for like 3 weeks. So I posted the question in WHC, and here are the responses I have received:
- Conglomerate (possible)
- Aliens (…can’t rule it out)
- Breccia (also possible)
- Concrete (manmade so no)
- igneous, metamorphic, conglomerate, sedimentary if you have an elementary school education (apparently I didn’t)
- Sedimentary breccia (I like this one)
Conglomerate has the most votes so I’ll start with that. I don’t think that’s what it is. It often forms where there’s high running water (or glaciers!), and clay/sand sinks into the interstitial space between rocks and packs them all into one big rock. That’s all plausible. However, conglomerate is characterized by rounded fragments within the rock, whereas this appears jagged, meaning it’s probably sedimentary breccia! Breccia is formed wherever broken pieces of rock stack up. Could be a river, could be rockfall from an outcrop, all we know is the fragments didn’t travel far, because they’re jagged and not rounded. Either could be true in this case. I will await Emma’s expertise.
There were cairns everywhere, which we started following, but they seemed to only be leading us further away from where we knew the trail should be (like I said, TWILIGHT ZONE). In hindsight I could have pulled out the gpx track but my phone and inreach were too buried and I was grumpy. After following pointless cairns for 15 minutes, we had definitely gone in a spiral. I declared that this is stupid, and we’re wasting time, and I bet once it’s light it’ll be an “oh, duh, it’s right there” situation and we should just camp here. It’s a lake, it’s not like we’re racing time or need to wake up to alpine views. There were some wide open campsites with wind barriers already set up and everything, so we dropped our stuff and went to sleep. Lake Edna: 2, Eve: still 0. You sly fox.
Turns out we set up camp just in time, because
an hour later okay Simon TWO hours later our nice starry skies covered with clouds, the wind picked up, and the rain started. I hate wind. I had only guyed out three corners of my tent because I’m lazy. Obviously it’s not going anywhere with me inside of it and several large rocks holding it down, but I still dislike the flapping. And the noise. And camping in the woods. Every creak in the woods is something evil. There was a mouse or some small rodent sniffling around my tent. I woke up to move the hot chocolate to a hanging pouch. If that ass chews through my tent I’ll cook it over a jet boil and eat it for breakfast. Suddenly I heard rocks fall over. And footsteps. Not two feet. Four feet. Hooves. Oh shit. Goat. I turned on my headlamp and stuck my head out the door. Do I wake up Simon? No he’s snoring away happily. I stared the goat down. Make a move, I dare you. Have you ever read the horror story “goat man?” What if Simon isn’t Simon?! We’re still in the twilight zone!! GET YOUR HEART RATE BELOW 105 EVE. Yeah, don’t read it. Forests are the worst.
I finally relaxed and fell asleep around 3:30am and slept soundly until 7, when I woke up to thick fog. Oh, yay. Worse than expected. I left hte tent to explore, and as predicted, we camped like 5ft from the trail before where we had left it (so we had gone in a spiral), and it was quite obvious where the trail went. We had lazy breakfast and started towards the lake, enjoying the rolling hills and green meadows after our “duh, there it is” moment. Don’t follow the cairns. They’re misleading. We meant to knock them over on the way down but completely forgot.
We packed up camp slowly and headed back over the saddle. Grindstone looks like a nice talus-fieldy walk up this time of year, though the tippy top was hidden in clouds and I hear it’s more of a loose mess of scrambling that’s better saved for spring and snow cover. There is a cluster of flattened, dead trees just below the west face of Grindstone, memories of an avalanche long past given the new growth popping up between downed logs. It’s somewhat sobering picturing an avalanche on that scale, large enough to rip up century old trees and sweep them into a pile of pick-up-stiks whenver it comes to a rest.
Shortly past the saddle, we realized what we had missed the night before. Blueberries. Blueberries EVERYWHERE. Our pace slowed from 3mi/hour (okay, 2mi/hr) to like 1mi/day as we stopped at every patch to grab handfuls of berries. Every cluster tastes different so you have to try them all and take advantage of the good ones. I have no idea how anyone collects these to take home for pies, because it’s tedious work and I’m way too impatient to bag them when I could just eat them. We also found salmonberries and thimbleberries and where were all the bears?? We must have scared them away from their heaven. We estimated 2 hours back to the car. I laughed. That hadn’t accounted for the number of pictures I was going to take or the number of berries Simon was going to eat.
We hiked through patches of late blooming wildflowers (I thought the season was over!) that I had to photograph. Wildflowers are like rainbows on the ground, aka my third favorite thing after rainbows in the sky and steaks. Back in the open forest I savored the crisp smell of pines and dappled sunlight. Afternoon is the best time of day for pine tree hikes. We stopped one last time for water, and soon enough were back at the car. It’s a weird weekend when I’m back at a reasonable hour on a Sunday.
Edit: I forgot to mention that I wanted to puke up that damn burger for the first few hours. That’s what you get for enjoying a meal. Maybe digest first, or don’t eat until you feel sick in the first place. Rookie mistake.