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TR: Colchuck Lake

Posted by gck Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Distance: 8.4 miles
Elevation gain: 2200 feet
Trailhead directions and more on WTA.

Welcome to 2013 hiking! This is a few weeks earlier than I normally start hiking, but the weather was right and my mom wanted my brothers to spend a day away from their computers. I never fully caught up with my Canadian Rockies trip reports from last year! At this point, I’m not sure I remember enough to do full reports, which is too bad. I’ll have to do better this year.

I’ve started paying more attention to what hikes are good to do in this early season before the prime stuff melts out. This one melts really early – this year, people were reporting a snow free lake by the beginning of June! It’s a bit of a drive from the Seattle area, but it’s worth it. Note that no dogs are allowed in this area to protect the fragile environment. You can’t miss the multiple signs at the trailhead, but we encountered one guy who decided to take his dog anyway. Off leash, of course. The last time I did this hike was in October 2009... huge temperature difference! I’m also happy to report that I was in much better shape at the beginning of this season than I was at the end of the 2009 hiking season, which means that all of this work has some sort of lasting effect. There is still hope for me!

IMG_0157  IMG_0221
left: Mountaineer Creek
right: mountain views

Colchuck Lake and Stuart Lake share the same trailhead and trail for the first few miles. The trail stays close to Mountaineer Creek (with a few crossings and two nice bridges so you don’t have to worry about getting wet) for about two miles, and this part of the hike isn’t very steep, and some sections are even flat. One of my brothers had done Poo Poo Point earlier this month, and after a mile of this hike, he was practically complaining that it was too easy. The trail spent more time in the woods than I remembered, and right now, there still aren’t many flowers. However, the creek has quite a bit of water going through it at this time of year, and it’s impressive to see and hear. I also noticed some sections with burned trees where last year’s wildfires made their mark.


Things get more challenging after the Stuart Lake trail splits, but there are also great views of surrounding peaks (that I am of course unable to name). It seemed like we kept going up and up, and all of a sudden I started seeing the blue of the lake peeking through the trees. A lot of lake hikes plop you right down at a nice lunch and viewing spot, but Colchuck teases you with partial views for awhile before you get to a place where you want to settle down. The lake is really large, with many places around the lake to sit down. Even though the parking lot was pretty full when we left and we encountered a number of people along the way, we still had our own space for lunch. We could see another group nearby, and they provided our lunchtime entertainment as one of the adults jumped in the lake to get a reluctant kid to do the same. By the way, apparently Colchuck means "cold water" in Chinook.

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left: hungry chipmunk
right: mountain goat!

We passed a group of people at the lake who apparently didn’t realize that they weren’t supposed to feed the wildlife. They were giving their kids food to hold in their hands and standing around with their phones and DSLRs, trying to catch a super-awesome shot of a bird eating out of a kid’s hand! Then they got an even better idea… why not put food on a kid’s head? The bait worked, and the kid said, “Ow!” as the bird pecked his head. But they didn’t get the shot, so they put food on his head again. Meanwhile, some hungry chipmunks went over to their backpacks and stole their nuts.


On our way out, someone told us that there were mountain goats in the area, and sure enough, I saw tufts of white fur caught on rocks and branches. I found two goats eating in a cluster of trees near the lake, but they were mostly hidden from view. A third goat ran briefly in sight, so I got my goat picture! I typically don’t see mountain goats on my hikes, so this was a real treat. I’m glad the “feed the wildlife” family wasn’t around.


I had it in my head that I wanted a view down towards the lake, and I’d planned on perhaps going up part of Aasgard Pass if I had energy and it wasn’t snowy. The weather was more cloudy than I’d hoped (so no brilliant turquoise water), but I still dragged my brothers to the south end of the lake. I followed the cairns in the direction of Aasgard and then went up a little bit of the boulder field, just enough to find a big boulder to sit on and take in the views. We saw a few people going up Aasgard that day, but Colchuck Glacier was more popular. The climbers were like little ants in groups of four or five, slowly making their way up the snow. Lots of people (who were fortunate enough to get lottery permits) were camping that night. The view of the lake in the morning before the afternoon mountain shadow would be pretty spectacular.

random video clips and pictures from my camera

Good start to the season! Hopefully lots more to come.


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