Backpacking In The Height Of The Rockies, Canada

British Columbia, Canada, Canadian Rockies, Height of the Rockies, Limestone Lakes, BC, panorama
Height of the Rockies Sunset Panorama : Prints Available

A spectacular sunset over some remote and pristine alpine lakes in Height of the Rockies Provincial Park.

In July we drove over the border into British Columbia, Canada and headed east towards the Height of the Rockies Provincial Park in eastern BC. The trek I had in mind is a somewhat obscure one involving several hours of driving along dirt forestry roads to access a seldom traveled trail which eventually fades into a convoluted off-trail routefinding adventure, finally arriving at a spectacular series of high lakes in a rugged glaciated basin.



Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Slade Lake, Washington, tent

Camping at Spade Lake, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington.

Just as an update, a week ago we went on a 5-day backpack trip in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness of Washington — a big loop to Spectacle and Spade Lakes. After that we had hopes for a sunny weather forecast and another trek in Washington, but alas the weather deteriorated and the forecast for the next week was rain, rain, rain. Also if we wanted to stick to our loose schedule for the summer, the mid-July date said it was time to move on. So although there’s SO much more I had wanted to do in Washington, we hit the road again and are now in the Canadian Rockies! We’re in Fernie at the moment and plan to work our way north through the range for the next 3 weeks or so, of course doing lots of backpacking and hiking along the way.

As we continue traveling and backpacking on our big summer road trip, I’ve realized that it’s unfeasible to keep this blog up to date with my photos and trip reports. So, unfortunately, just as we’re starting to get into the more exciting backpacking trips, the photos and reports will have to wait until autumn when we’re back… or perhaps until some long rainy down days… but hopefully that won’t happen too often!

Sauk Mountain, Washington

Sauk Mountain, Washington, wildflowers, sunset, July, Cascades
Sauk Mountain Sunset : Prints Available

Sunset from the slopes of Sauk Mountain, Washington – July.

Now that I’m back home from our summer road trip I’m finally able to process my photos properly on my big monitor, so in the coming days and weeks I’ll be posting photos and trip reports from all our adventures!

This one is from July, on Sauk Mountain, a small hike with a big view over the Sauk River valley in western Washington state. I hiked up here in the fog with little hope for light, but right at sunset the clouds parted enough to let some through! The next day we drove over the spectacular North Cascades highway then up into Canada. I felt bad leaving Washington since there’s so much more hiking and backpacking I want to do in the Cascades, but with a weather forecast of just more and more rain, we knew we needed to keep moving on. I guess I’ll just have to return someday!

Alpine Lakes Trek, Washington

Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington, wildflowers, Cascades
Red Columbine : Prints Available

Aquilegia formosa

In mid July after having done two backpack trips on the Olympic Peninsula, we were excited to do some more in the Cascades; however, most of the treks we had researched in the central and northern Cascades were still snowbound on the higher passes and lakes. We studied the maps looking for a trek we could do under 5,000 feet elevation and concluded that the Alpine Lakes Wilderness fit the bill. This area boasts many interesting lakes and rugged peaks, and is generally lower elevation than the more northerly ranges. Plus, I’d never visited here before and was eager to check it out!

I realized that we could probably connect two intriguing lakes with one long triangular loop circuit: Spectacle and Spade Lakes. We planned on five days: one day hiking up along the Cooper River to Spectacle Lake, a rest day there, a long day over Waptus Pass to Spade Lake, another rest day there, and a final long haul out the Waptus River back to where we started at the Salmon La Sac trailhead.

Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Spectacle Lake, Washington, Cascades
Green Spectacle : Prints Available

A kaleidoscope of greens at Spectacle Lake.

We started by dropping our packs off at the Cooper Lake trailhead, driving back to Salmon La Sac to park the truck, and hitchhiking back up to Cooper Lake to save a few miles. The hike to Spectacle turned out to be more challenging than we expected; after Pete’s Lake the trail seems to be in complete neglect, passing through a burned forest with seemingly hundreds of downed trees to negotiate. The trail was obviously well engineered at some point in history, but now appears to be non-maintained, perhaps on purpose? We wondered if the powers that be decided that Spectacle Lake had grown too popular, and that they’d let the trail be reclaimed by nature for only determined hikers to tackle. Or maybe it’s just too much of an uphill battle (no pun intended) to clear out all the fallen burnt trees. Anyhow, after much unexpected frustration crawling over logs and bashing through wet foliage we finally stumbled over the ridge into the Spectacle Lake basin late in the evening, grateful that we planned a whole day to relax and enjoy the scenery.

Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Spectacle Lake, Three Queens, Washington, Cascades
Spectacle Reflection : Prints Available

Three Queens reflects in Spectacle Lake on a calm July morning.

We lucked out and had beautiful sunny weather during our rest day at Spectacle, wandering around the lake shore and enjoying several dives into the frigid water.

Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Spectacle Lake, Washington, Cascades
Spectacle Sunlight : Prints Available

Morning reflection at Spectacle Lake.

Taking a swim!
Time for a dip!
Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington, Cascades
Mountain Salad : Prints Available

Day 3 turned out to be a tedious 11-hour march: back down to Pete’s Lake, up and over Waptus Pass, down to Waptus Lake, and up to Spade Lake. We were both feeling pushed almost to our limits by the time we finally dropped our packs and set up our tent.

Fording the Waptus River.
Fording the Waptus River.
Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Mount Daniel, Spade Lake, Washington, tent, Cascades
Spade Lake Morning : Prints Available

A fantastic camp site above Spade Lake, with Mount Daniel towering above.

Spade Lake seems to be a fairly seldom visited lake, despite the close proximity to the hordes in Seattle — likely because it’s such a trudge to get there no matter which way you go. The lake is ringed with huge granite slabs, with snow-clad Mount Daniel rising beyond. Campsites here are few and far between; we managed to find one single spot flat enough to place the tent on, using sticks and rocks as anchors. But what a view!

Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Mount Daniel, Spade Lake, Washington, tent, Cascades

Quite the view from our tent at Spade Lake.

Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Bears Breast Mtn, Shovel Lake, Washington, Cascades
Bears Breast Sunshine : Prints Available

The sun sets over Bears Breast Mountain and Shovel Lake.

Again we lucked out with a bluebird sunny day for our rest day at Spade Lake! In the evening we hiked up a nearby ridge to get a fantastic view of the ultra-rugged Bear’s Breast Mountain.

Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Mount Daniel, Spade Lake, Washington, moonlight, tent, Cascades

Finally on day 5 we endured the long haul all the way from Spade out along the Waptus River back to our truck at Salmon La Sac. Never before have I experienced a backpacking trip with such a dicotomy of grueling, boring hiking and beautiful relaxation. 3 days of tedium for 2 days of bliss. Was it worth it? Of course! Would I do it again? Ummm, maybe not!

Olympic High Divide Loop

Deer Lake, Olympic Peninsula, Sol Duc, Washington, Olympic National Park
Deer Lake Sunset : Prints Available

Sunset at Deer Lake, Olympic National Park, Washington.

Mount Olympus is the king of the Olympus Peninsula in Washington; laden with thick glaciers, the 7,980 foot peak soars above the surrounding rainforest valleys. Some of the finest views to be had of this remote mountain are from the High Divide trail which follows a high ridge opposite the Hoh River valley — that is, when the notorious Olympic Peninsula rain stops long enough to see it. In early July right after our Olympic coast trek we spent 4 days backpacking a loop route from the Sol Duc valley via the High Divide in Olympus National Park, hoping to catch a view of Olympus.

Olympic Peninsula, Sol Duc, Washington, wildflowers, Olympic National Park, Tiger Lily
Tiger Lily : Prints Available

Mount Olympus, Olympic Peninsula, Sol Duc, Washington, Olympic National Park, High Divide, hiking

Hikers on the High Divide trail with the Hoh River valley below.

After a first night at Deer Lake we hiked up to the High Divide ridgeline and relaxed for a few hours on the summit of Bogachiel Peak while waiting for the clouds and fog to hopefully lift off the next section of the trail. We were excited when the clouds started breaking up, revealing glimpses of rugged snow-capped peaks across the Hoh River valley. Each time we saw a big peak through the clouds we’d think “Wow! That must be Mount Olympus!” only to see another even bigger peak moments later! After a while the clouds fully lifted, revealing Mount Olympus and its glaciers in all their glory.

Mount Olympus, Olympic Peninsula, Sol Duc, Washington, Olympic National Park
Mount Olympus Forest : Prints Available

Mount Olympus (7,980 ft / 2,432 m) as seen from the High Divide, Olympic National Park, Washington.

Olympic Peninsula, Sol Duc, Washington, wildflowers, Olympic National Park, avalanche lilies
Avalanche Lily Meadow : Prints Available

Olympic Peninsula, Sol Duc, Washington, deer, wildflowers, Olympic National Park
Deer and Lilies : Prints Available

Mount Olympus, Olympic Peninsula, Sol Duc, Washington, Olympic National Park
Mount Olympus Sunset : Prints Available

Sunset light on Mount Olympus as seen from the High Divide.

Mount Olympus, Olympic Peninsula, Sol Duc, Washington, Olympic National Park
Mount Olympus Twilight : Prints Available

We enjoyed dinner and sunset views up on the High Divide trail, then descended to our tent at Heart Lake. The next day was socked in with fog and rain all day, which made us all the more grateful for the great weather we had during our High Divide walk the previous day.

Heart Lake, Olympic Peninsula, Sol Duc, Washington, Olympic National Park, fog
Foggy Heart Lake : Prints Available

Foggy weather at Heart Lake.

Olympic Peninsula, Sol Duc, Washington, mountain goat, tent, Olympic National Park

A mountain goat peers into our tent at Heart Lake.

So we spent the 4th of July tentbound at Heart Lake — no fireworks or parties, only rummy and mountain goats to keep us occupied!

Olympic Peninsula, Sol Duc, Washington, Olympic National Park, hiking

Hiking through the forest along the Sol Duc River.

Finally on our last day we packed up our wet tent in the rain and walked the last eight miles down the Sol Duc valley back to the trailhead, admiring the lush forest all the way.

Olympic Peninsula Coastal Trek

Olympic Peninsula, Washington, Olympic National Park, hiking

Hiking past seastacks along the Olympic coast, Washington.

Olympic Peninsula, Washington, Olympic National Park, hiking

A rope-assisted descent down a steep portion of trail over a rocky headland between remote beaches.

Olympic Peninsula, Sand Point, Washington, Olympic National Park

Panoramic view at Sand Point, Olympic National Park.

At the end of June we did a 4-day backpacking trek up the wild coast of the Olympic Peninsula from Rialto Beach to Sand Point, in Olympic National Park. This was a fairly demanding hike with many rugged and rocky headlands that could only be passed at low tide, along with the ever present coastal fog and rain. The tough hiking and weather was rewarded with secluded wilderness beaches, picturesque sea stacks, tidepools, and the company of seals and bald eagles.


Up Through Oregon

Crater Lake, Oregon, Crater Lake National Park, lake

Overlooking Wizard Island from the rim of Crater Lake, Oregon.

In late June we visited my uncle and cousins in Ashland, Oregon for a few days, then made a quick drive up through the state. Our first stop on the way was Crater Lake National Park, where we hiked with my uncle up a crumbly peak to the high point along the rim of the crater. This spectacular caldera lake at over 6,000 feet elevation was formed when the Mount Mazama volcano collapsed about 7,700 years ago, and subsequently filled with water. The lake is the deepest in the United States — 1,949 feet at its deepest.

Mount Hood, Oregon, Trillium Lake
Trillium Fog : Prints Available

A quiet foggy morning at Trillium Lake near Mount Hood – June.

From Crater Lake we took a scenic route past the Sisters mountains then up towards Mount Hood where we spent a night near Trillium Lake. Early in the morning I walked to the lake, which was shrouded in fog. As I sat there peacefully at the calm and misty lake, a bald eagle silently swooped down and grabbed a fish out of the lake in front of me! The ease and grace of the eagle’s catch was awe inspiring… and then it came back a few minutes later and did it again, making it look like the easiest thing in the world. So magestic. Welcome to the northwest!

Mount Hood, Oregon, Trillium Lake, duck
Trillium Duck : Prints Available

A local duck swims in Trillium Lake with Mount Hood (11,250 feet) towering behind – June.

Later in the morning the fog lifted, revealing a glorious view of Mount Hood above!

The Redwoods

California, Founders Grove, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, redwoods

Hiking through the giant redwoods in the Founder Grove, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California.

California, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, redwoods, hiking

Hiking through redwoods in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California.

California, Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park, Stout Grove, redwoods

Giant redwoods in the Stout Grove, Jedediah Smith State Park, California.

After leaving Tahoe we drove west to the coast then spent several days walking and hiking in the magnificent redwood forests of Northern California. Words and even photos can’t really do justice to the sheer immensity of these giant trees and the raw feeling of power they emanate as you walk amongst them!

Lake Tahoe

California, D. L. Bliss State Park, Lake Tahoe
Tahoe Shore : Prints Available

A tall pine along Lake Tahoe at D.L. Bliss State Park.

After driving across Nevada we arrived at beautiful Lake Tahoe where we camped for a couple nights. We enjoyed a sunset and some wine at the beach at the quiet D.L. Bliss State Park on the west side of the lake, then the next day hiked the famous Rubicon Trail along the lake both ways.

California, Lake Tahoe, Rubicon Trail

View along the Rubicon Trail on the west side of Lake Tahoe.

California, Eagle Falls, Lake Tahoe, sunrise
Eagle Falls Sunrise : Prints Available

Sunrise light illuminates Eagle Falls – June.

Yet again our backpacking hopes for Tahoe were dashed by too much snow still in the high country, and with high winds still in the forecast we bailed after our second night and continued into California. Gotta come back to Tahoe again someday!

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