Saturday, Sunday and Monday – 17, 18, and 19-Aug-2019
Summiting Mt. Daniel in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington!
Duration: 3 days, 2 nights
Distance: 17.59 miles, as the GPS records
Elevation: 5,800 ft total
Elevation, Saturday: 2,000 ft
Elevation, Sunday: 3,800 ft
Elevation, Monday: -2,000 ft
Campsite: Peggy’s Pond
Backpack weight: ~38lbs
Four years ago, roughly, Sarah and I started dating.
It was on a weekend adventure, sitting in a room in Hood River, and we discussed what we each wanted from our relationship, what we wanted in general, and whether we wanted to pursue those things together. We’ve had a lot of adventures since then, but that day was the start of it all, and the 15th of August is enshrined in both our calendars forever more because of it.
Our last adventure was a simple and easy hike on Mt. Hood… but for a 4-year anniversary (which is, notably, the longest relationship either of us have been in) we needed something bigger. The last post talked about epic adventures not always being necessary, but in this case an epic trip was definitely called for.
We needed a summit.
We needed beauty, crystal clear water, crisp air, and stunning views.
We needed Mt. Daniel, in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, in central Washington State.
So we drove.
Just us, incidentally – While Ollie is an amazing hiking dog, the path out to Mt. Daniel is fairly steep, and extremely rocky… not good terrain for a pup, no matter how rough and tumble she is. Tumbling isn’t allowed on steep terrain. So off to camp she went, for a chance to work on her socialization and playing well with other dogs.
As mentioned, we drove.
We drove with bellies full of delicious breakfast sandwiches, and a huge thermos of coffee keeping us going. We took shifts on the way out, even – I drove for a while as Sarah napped, then I napped while she drove. It worked perfectly – the drive went quickly, and we arrived at the trailhead refreshed and ready to head in.
Quick note – holy crap the trailhead was packed. We’re talking overflow parking for nearly a mile down the road. Thankfully, our drive from Portland is a lot longer than the Seattle crowd’s drive, so by the time we arrived a few folks must have left already, and we found a parking spot right near the trailhead. Win!
The hike in was pretty clean, if rather impressively long and tiring. We hiked, we rested, we snacked, and we hiked some more. We hydrated a bit, and trudged onward and upward. The interesting thing about the trail up to Mt. Daniel is that the views sneak up on you. They’re always there, barely vqisible through the trees, but they don’t come through slowly – instead, you just turn a corner and get a face full of Cathedral Rock, bracketed by a beautiful meadow and views of the rest of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness range.
Magestic is the best way to put it.
The amazing views heralded the most technical section of the trek into Peggy’s Pond – traversing around Cathedral Rock itself. It wasn’t far, or too tough, but it was a noticable change from the wide switchbacks of the forest. Here we scrambled, following rocky passes around and up until we finally topped out into the basin between Mt Daniel and Cathedral.
I could say that we quickly set up camp and then zipped off to scout the route up… but that wouldn’t be true. That wasn’t the goal of this hike! Instead, we set camp and relaxed; cooked a few backpacking meals for dinner, read a bit, and were in bed before 9:00.
We got up early… But not so early that we were the first people heading up the trail. Sarah actually got up to peek out of the tent at the sunrise, but pretty quickly crawled back into her sleeping bag for a few extra bits of sleep.
Breakfast was quick and beautiful; a mountain house and some oatmeal, along with some nice coffee packets we brought along. All by the shore of the pond, watching the sun burst over the peaks around us.
Fed and caffeinated, we struck out onto the trail.
It went up.
Sometimes there were switchbacks, but sometimes it was scrambling.
Always though, there were views. Amazing, magestic, sweeping, soaring, and awe inspiring views.
The trail up the slopes of Mt. Daniel basically follows a huge ridgeline, climbing up the Southern face from the Eastern side. The trail actually mounts the ridgeline pretty early on, though Sarah and I missed the well hidden trailhead and ended up doing a bit of exploratory scrambling to catch the ridge trail itself. That’s pretty good though, since we’re both rock climbers and are quite comfortable on semi-exposed rock… for me, at least, I’m honestly more comfortable there than the alternative option of going up a scree or talus field, so I was quite happy to do some clambering on rock.
The trail went on for, roughly, an eternity. There’s not much to say about it, honestly, aside from the fact that it went up and that we took a few breaks to drink water and eat some excellent apple / brie / prosciutto sandwiches. We kept going until we got to the top, is the real report.
The fun part of the path were the views, unsurprisingly. Unlike the day before, we had amazing views for almost the entire route up the mountain – we switched which side of the ridgeline we were looking out over a few times, but the views were amazing and somehow kept getting better as we moved upward. It was actually a bit of a problem, since we ended up hiking a bit slower than planned due to how often we were stopping to take pictures… or even just to gawk at the amazing vistas opened below us.
The summit itself was pretty low-key. We topped out, relaxed a bit, napped for 5 or 10min in the sun, and then headed back down. The only real excitement was when another team that was heading to a further peak took a small fall off one of the ridgelines – they were okay, thankfully, but it was definitely scary to see them desperately clawing their way back up to the ridge. We don’t really know what happened, but from what we could tell two of their team members got off-trail, and found themselves partway down the steep ridge slope below the trail… and then slipped enough that they triggered a small rockfall and slid a hundred yards or so down the slope.
Doubly-scary was that fact that it wasn’t just the two people who fell, but that their dog was with them and followed them down! Thankfully all the mountaineers in question, both human and canine, were merely scraped up a bit. No one needed a rescue, and everyone was able to walk out that same day under their own power.
Our descent was, thankfully, uneventful. It was definitely long, and definitely tiring, and I absolutely didn’t enjoy it… but it’s a descent. That’s kind of par for the course, you know? The descent isn’t the fun part – dreaming about dinner is the fun part! And dinner was worth dreaming about… delicious beef stroganof, hot cocoa, and relaxing by the pond were in order. And for me, I even took the chance to swim for a bit! The water of Peggy’s Pond was frigid, but amazingly fresh and enjoyable, definitely helpful in washing off the sweat, bug spray, and sunscreen of the day.
Dinner was, similar to the night before, mountain-house freeze-dried dinner with some lunch leftovers added in for flavor. Not the most exciting… but hey, after a full day of hiking and scrambling and summitting? They were pretty amazing, thankyouverymuch.
Bed came soon after, though I did enjoy the chance to read a bit of my comic book in the sunset while Sarah sketched a bit. It was a good evening.
You’d think that after two days of going to bed super early we’d wake up early.
Remember, though, that we’d just summitted a huge mountain. We were tired, man… we slept in again.
I mean, okay. We didn’t actually sleep in that late, in comparison to how late we usually sleep when we’re in Portland. We were up and moving by 8:00, if I remember right, and on the trail pretty soon after. We still did a lot of photography and sightseeing, but the trail was mostly downhill on the way home, and so we made pretty good time while taking pretty infrequent breaks.
We did see a pair of jets flying through the mountains at one point… maybe F-18s, though I honestly couldn’t tell you what they were, since they flew by so fast. It was really neat to see, but also a little disconcerting that they were flying so low, and so close to the various peaks.
There’s honestly not much to say about the hike out. It happened, we were tired, and we drank a lot of water? It’s the hike out – you don’t really want it to be eventful, you just want it to be safe, and quick. Which it was, though it did feel pretty long at the time…
Anyways, after the hike came the drive home – two parts stick out in the story.
First – the food in Roslyn. Sarah’s been to Roslyn before, when she was working on the pilot for Man in the High Castle, and so she took some time to show me around town… “town” being quite small, so the tour was basically us walking the 5 minutes from where we parked to the diner that she remembered being the best in town. It was amazing – a perfect burger with excellent pulled pork (I was hungry leave me alone) and the absolute best parmasean truffle fries you could ever imagine.
Second – the adventure home. It’s been a while since I’ve had to use my AAA membership, but thankfully I still have the number saved in my phone from all the times that they had to come and save me during drives home from the Loj, back in New Hampshire. It came in handy again, when the car lost power in central Washington on Monday evening during our drive home. Thankfully the nearest tow truck was not only a local expert, who was able to pinpoint where we were on the highway after a few quick questions, but he was also less than 20min away.
The drive home wasn’t quite what we’d expected when we left the Alpine Lakes wilderness – It wasn’t as quick as we’d aimed for, but it was a heck of a lot tastier than we could have hoped for. And hey – not only did we get home well-fed, but we still made it back to the house in time to get some good rest before work the next day.
Not a bad anniversary weekend. Not bad at all.