Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Hiking to Lake Valhalla

While on a mid-week trip to my parent's little house in Leavenworth, Andrew and I woke up late (for us) on a Wednesday morning. We had a leisurely 9 am scrambled egg breakfast. Once we'd enjoyed our coffees and packed some snacks, we hopped into the car with Sophie and drove to the Leavenworth Ranger Station for some hike suggestions...We were already thinking about a few hikes in the area, such as Icicle Creek or 4th of July Creek. Our main hike objectives were to find a lovely alpine country that was not crowded with hikers, dog-friendly, and offered an abundance of fall colours. A helpful ranger made a couple of suggestions, and she seemed to understand that we were also asking (between the lines) where Sophie could hike off-leash.

We chose an 11-mile round trip trek just North of Steven's Pass on a section of the Pacific Crest Trail. Our destination was Lake Valhalla, a shiny glacial lake in the shadow of an impressive rocky mountain. I was a little dissapointed while trekking through the first bit of the trail, because the noise from Highway 2 could be heard for about the first mile and a half. Highway noise doesn't fit too well with my idea of immersion in nature =) but soon I couldn't complain about anything as we were able to view Mt Lichtenberg from the trail and vivid red, orange, and gold vegetation. We both thought we saw a cave on the side of the mountain, and stopped to check it out with the binoculars to find that it was only a shadow cast by a rocky ledge. Darn it--I'd still like to see some wild bears, albeit from a very safe distance.

This is Andrew trying to focus the binoculars on our "cave", and below is the view from the lower part of the trail.
Soon the trail led us deeper into the forest, and the highway noise subsided. We crossed a few dry streams, and then a few that were still running. Shortly after a larger stream, the trail widened into a *beautiful* meadow. Surprisingly, there were no bugs! No mosquitos! Since I am considered gourmet fare for mosquitos, and Andrew is slightly sub-par gourmet fare we were both relieved at the lack of insects.
Andrew and Sophie waiting for me at the stream crossing. I'm not positive on this because we don't have a Green Trails map of this area, but the stream might be properly called "Rainy Creek".
Can you spot Sophie in the meadow?

So of course I couldn't resist taking just *one* picture in the meadows. At this point in our hike, Sophie started amusing us by becoming "Miss Fancy Paws" What this meant was that anytime something interested her in the brush (A squirrel, a twig snapping, who knows!) she would place both her front paws together like you'd imagine a rabbit might do, and bounce in and out of the brush. Think big 50-lb dog delicately goes "hop out of sight-hop back into sight" while gracefully keeping both her front paws together. Pretty funny. I was able to get Miss Fancy Paws
to stay still on a "down" for more photos.

The weather was just perfect, we were both cozy in our wick-away long-sleeved shirts and pants. We still hadn't met anyone on the trail, which made the quiet and beauty of it all *very* enjoyable, and Sophie was of course being the
good off-leash hiking dog that she has always been. She stays faithfully in sight and waits for us around the bends of the trail. She occasionally runs out of sight for brief moments to investigate necessary canine affairs and quickly returns to her "pack". We entered the forest again, and then soon another meadowy area with some uphill climb. We were able to see we were getting closer to Mt. Lichtenberg, and knew Lake Valhalla couldn't be much further.

We soon reached the high point of the trail, in terms of elevation gain this is probably hands down the easiest day hike I've ever done...I wish I could say that meant no soreness the following day but I *was* a bit sore in the thighs. We descended into yet another small meadow and then passed some amazing campsites (made me wish we'd brought our packs for an overnight!).

The lake was breath-taking, and the reflections cast by the fall-turned trees were astounding. I wish I'd taken more photos now, but for a while I just sat and enjoyed the loveliness of it all...meanwhile my crazy husband picked up a large stick and threw it in the icy-cold lake and of course Sophie faithfully jetted off into the water. Not having the depth perception to match her fetching enthusiasm, she paddled far past the stick. Andrew threw some rocks to guide her back. After a while, Andrew decides to "dip his toes" into the lake. Hmmf... what's that thing they say about dogs and their owners again? Luckily there was sunshine enough to warm both of them once their water follies were finished.

1 comment:

Jen said...

What a great hike! Schatzi does the "miss fancy paws" thing, too. I think hiking with a dog is so much fun...not only do you have the great hike, but entertainment along the way. :)