Winchester Mountain

Twin Lakes Road and Trail No. 685.1

AUGUST 9, 2008   I have often said that some of my favorite hikes were in the rain, and this CHS hike to Winchester Mountain is a case in point.  The CHS and ACHS groups spent the weekend at the Mountaineers' Baker Lodge for this hiking weekend.  Each group was scheduled to do a "required" hike on Saturday and then join together for a "just for fun" hike on Sunday. 

We woke to steady rain on Saturday morning and after breakfast drove up a forest service road that was luxuriously wide and smooth compared to the road I drove last weekend.   The road becomes too steep and rough for most passenger vehicles after the Yellow Aster Butte/Tomyhoi Lake trailhead parking area, so we parked there and hiked up the last 2 1/2 miles in the rain.  This road gains 1600' in elevation and sweeping views as it travels through masses of wildflowers.   Clouds clung to the mountains and drifted through the valleys--and drenched us with rain. They could not hide the beauty of this area, however, and provided a perfect backdrop for the deep green trees and colorful wildflowers. 

At 2 1/2 miles we reached Twin Lakes, a pair of deep blue lakes at the base of Winchester Mountain.  We were surprised to see a pair of llamas in a field above the lakes that watched us nonchalantly while they grazed, apparently pack animals for some of the people camped at the lakes.  It was still cold and raining when we started up the trail to the old fire lookout on Winchester Mountain.  The wind became more intense as we switchbacked up the hillside until it was driving the rain sideways and we were all drenched.   Only 2 of our group continued past a significant snowfield to the lookout; the rest of us retreated downhill to the relative shelter of a copse of trees to add layers of clothing before hiking back to the parking area.   By the time we reached our cars, large patches of blue sky appeared and the sun came out, albeit for a brief time before the rain began again. 

Dry clothes and hot coffee do wonders for a cold person, and soon 2 of us were ready for the short walk from Baker Lodge to Picture Lake.  I've seen amazing photos of Mt. Shuksan reflected in Picture Lake and have always wanted to go there.  I was surprised to discover that the lake is tiny and completely surrounded by a road that loops around it.  It was still raining and Mt. Shuksan was veiled behind clouds when we got there, and over the course of the next 20 minutes, the clouds lifted and dropped, providing teasing views of the mountain.  The wind was brisk and there were no mirror pictures for us this trip, but the stormy sky was very dramatic. 

We woke to pouring rain again on Sunday morning, and everyone agreed that it was not "just for fun" weather, so after breakfast we packed the cars and went home.  This hike deserves a second chance, however, and several of us are planning to return on a sunny day. 


Picture Lake