A Washington Adventure – Backpacking Flapjack Lakes


Sunday and Monday, 19-June-2022 & 20-June-2022

It’s been a while since I’ve had an adventure like this, hasn’t it? One big adventure with a few different blog posts dedicated to it? Well… Here we go! Adventure to Seattle, solo-style!

A while back, I was granted citizenship to Austria, through an update to the Austrian Constitution allowing repatriation for descendants of those displaced by war. I compiled paperwork over six months, sent it all in, and then waited almost nine months. Then, out of the blue, I get a package in the mail – a very official package with my “Bescheid” included – my new citizenship!

Now that I have it, though, I need a passport… and the closest consulate is in Seattle. I haven’t been for a few years, and I’ve never had an opportunity to either explore the city on my own or to go backpacking in the Olympic National Forest… which happens to be right across Puget Sound from Seattle…

When I told my Manager at work that I’d be taking some time off, I got a very unexpected reply. My manager, since I don’t think I’ve discussed him before, is an older gentleman. He’s small, and fairly frail. With absolutely no offence intended, he’s not someone I’d expect to be out in the woods.

But when I mentioned that I was planning on backpacking the Olympics, his face lit up in a way that I hadn’t really seen before. He started rattling off hikes that he recommended, and our conversation ended up meandering all the way from the Olympic National Forest to his ascent of Mt. Rainier.

It’s always amazing, to me, to learn the subtle details of someone’s life that you never would have learned otherwise. The people we see, day to day, tend to become one-dimensional caricatures… “Ohh, Bob is just a guy who works in the shop, and eats PB&J every day”. It’s… unfortunate… that we tend to loose out on the rich tapestry that everyones lives actually are.

I learned that he, as a younger man, had been an accomplished outdoorsman – and mountaineer, in his own right. He regaled me with stories of glaciers and hikes… nothing too crazy, mind you, but stories that, simply put, mirrored my own surprisingly closely.

From all this, I got a target – Flapjack Lakes, from the Staircase trailhead.

I looked up the details, and planned my ascent. The trail was a normal length for me, and the elevation gain wasn’t outside my comfort range. It was high, don’t get me wrong, but it felt doable – especially with all the Physical Therapy that I’d been doing recently.

I’d planned the adventure well – I’d leave Seattle on Sunday, taking the ferry across Puget Sound, and then drive to the trailhead. It wasn’t the fastest route, by a good margin, but it was the best adventure… and you know what? That was the whole goal here – I enjoy taking the scenic route, and a ferry absolutely meets that criteria.

The ferry ride went beautifully. I had time to not only enjoy the pastries that I’d picked up from the Panama Hotel tea house, but I even had time to call my Dad and StepDad to wish them a happy fathers day! What – you expected that I should forget such an auspicious day? Never! Well… I did forget to call my friends who have kids, but… yeah. I felt bad about that, when I realized.

Anyways! To the hike!

It… Uhh… It was a hike.

You know how I usually skip the details of the hike, because it’s effectively just me stepping one foot in front of the other for seven hours?

Yeah… this was like that. But beautiful!!! I mean, I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest for seven years now (yeah, I can barely believe it myself), but I’m always awestruck at the sheer volume of vegetation that surrounds me when I step into the woods. Don’t get me wrong – West Virginia puts up a good fight, but… Well, The Olympic National Forest is a rainforest. And Rainforests have a very high biomass concentration.

It was, simply put, beautiful.

I walked, I adored the views, and I appreciated the many waterfalls that I saw. I enjoyed the snow-capped peaks when they shone through the trees, and I loved every foot of elevation that I earned, with a 40lb pack on my back.

I camped at Flapjack Lakes, exceptionally happy and proud of my ascent. It wasn’t an easy one, to be sure, but I felt good by the time I was setting up the tent in a small clearing next to a snowfield. The lakes were clear and cold, and the nearby Sawtooth Ridge stood out against the cloudy sky. It was exquisite, exactly what I had been hoping for.

That night, I camped under the stars. I ate my dinner, drank both cocoa and apple cider (yep, I brought them both), and read my book. It was… It was. It simply was, and that was exactly what I’d been hoping for.

The next day dawned… well, it didn’t quite dawn bright. It was cloudy, but… you know, it wasn’t bad at all. It might not be bright and sunny, but it was cool, beautiful, and I didn’t need to wear sunscreen. So… you know. Win!

The hike back out was beautifully simple. I took my time, making sure to not overstress my knees or burn myself out, and stopped every hour or so for a nice rest to read more of my book. I enjoyed the scenery, sipped water, and clomped along down the trail toward the car.

Simple. And. Beautiful.

Once back to the car, I took my time unpacking. The next leg of my adventure was driving to the next campground… and I wasn’t in any rush. It wasn’t too long of a drive, either – approximately 500ft, give or take, to pull into the next parking area and pick a pull-in campsite.

Yeah… advantage to doing my second night in an established campground.

Once settled into my new campsite for the evening, I relaxed and gorged on some more freeze-dried food. Drank more cocoa, sipped more cider, and read on into the night…

A very good adventure, and an excellent escape from the day to day life.

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