Pacific Crest Trail

White Pass to Chinook Pass

Trail No. 2000

SEPTEMBER 11 - 13, 2010  A Mountaineers backpack trip along the Pacific Crest Trail.  After an early morning meeting time and a kick-off breakfast in Enumclaw, we drove to Chinook Pass to drop off a car, then headed to the trailhead at White Pass, elevation 4400'.  The trail climbs out of White Pass on a gentle grade, and soon passes lake after lake, pond after pond, and many golden meadows in the William O. Douglas Wilderness.  It was a pretty day, cool and sunny, and we saw very few people on the trail other than our group of 7.  We stopped briefly to admire the larger lakes, and just before we reached our destination for the night, Snow Lake, we found ourselves in a sunny meadow full of (barren) low brush berry bushes.  It was too much to resist, and we stopped for a long break in the sun.  Our campsite at Snow Lake was spacious and the lake was easily the prettiest we had seen that day.  The sky was clear, so the temperature dropped sharply as the sun went down.  Early in the morning we woke to the sounds of elk.

We had many miles and some elevation gain ahead of us on the 2nd day, so we got an early start.  There were more lakes, ponds and meadows to hike through from our camp at Snow Lake to where the trail begins a steep descent to our low point of the trip at Bumping River.  A sturdy 2-log bridge over a swift creek had been damaged, leaving 1 log that was slippery from many muddy boots crossing it.  Half of the group crossed on the remaining log, while the other half went downstream a short distance where another log was deemed a better choice for crossing.  Back on the trail, it did not take long to reach bridgeless Bumping River near its headwaters of marshy Fish Lake.  The crossing was easy at this time of year; someone had cobbled together a footbridge of short logs, and we crossed without getting our boots wet.  The trail began to climb immediately afterwards, and we were glad for the cool, overcast day.  We stopped for lunch just before Buck Lake, then continued up.  Eventually the trail broke out of the pretty woods it had been traveling though, and we finally began to see some views.  Vine maples crowded together on one steep slope were starting to show their fall colors already, and a fat marmot watched as we hiked by its perch on a large boulder.  The trail topped out at 5800' and began to descend to a junction with Laughingwater Trail, where we would have had our first view of Mount Rainier if it had not been a cloudy day.  After a traverse along a ridge, the trail began to roll up and down, until it finally dropped steeply to the junction with American Ridge Trail.  We took this trail to beautiful American Lake for our second night, and it started to sprinkle as we set up our camp.  It did not rain, though, and soon after we retired for the night, the clouds went away and thousands of stars filled the sky.  I was awake near midnight and heard elk barking close by and one bugling in the distance. 

We had a beautiful day for our final hike out, and we enjoyed views that got better the farther north we hiked.  Another climb out of Dewey Lake, where we stopped for lunch, and finally we were face to face with The Mountain.  We opted to hike the Naches Loop trail to Chinook Pass rather than the PCT to keep the views of Mount Rainier.  It was a stunning hike, with golden meadows and flower-filled meadows, and raucous ravens flying overhead. 

approximately 30 miles

approximately 3100' gain