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Margaret Lake recon
posted by John : September 4, 2008

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Water break

It's Thursday, but TNAB was out of the question. I'd already been to Clara's kindergarten assessment and met her teacher and the evening was booked with Lilly's first visit (as a student) to the preschool she'd be attending starting next week. Hmm... so what to do? Skip a Thursday? Hardly.

Whether Clara knows it or not she's been looking forward to another father-daughter backpack trip like the one we did last year to Scout Lake. And just like last year I felt it was necessary to make sure the route and destination were appropriate for her slightly shorter legs. I guess you could call me a responsible father or something like that. (Never mind all the irresponsible things I do, this is what counts.)

Since I was staying home for the day anyway I figured I'd use the afternoon (and spectacular weather, too) to scout this year's probably campsite at Margaret Lake. I'd never been there, but many years ago I'd passed above it on my first trip to Lake Lillian and last fall we visited one of the other lakes in the same basin, but from the other end.

Hiking alone has its advantages, but I was in the mood for company so I dropped a note to Jo, one of the TNAB hikers. She's a self-described Hiking Nanny so I figured there was at least a shot she'd be available. We met at Truck Town for the ride up to the trailhead just east of Snoqualmie Pass.

Since Clara's assessment lasted until almost 11am we didn't get to the trailhead until about noon. With a touch of food in our stomaches (she considered hers breakfast since she'd only just woken up (yes, jealousy is ugly)) we started up the main road to a (usually) gated spur that brought us to an actual trail.

Needless to say, it wasn't a really strenuous trip, but no cake walk either. The trail wound through some second growth forest criss crossed by abandoned roads while working up to the ridge. The sun roasted us, but it was the views of Rainier and ripe berries that had my attention.

Tokul, Athena, and Zeus were having a field day straining against leashes and, it seemed, thrilled to be out on the trail when dogs outnumbered people. Jo had a sweet water bottle/bowl combo thing that kept her water free of dog slobber while allowing the canines a quick drink without much effort or loss.

The trail gets nicer as you get higher on the ridge. From the old roads down low we passed into fields of heather, huckleberries, and, yes, bear grass. So far the trail was looking really good for Clara who tends to think of trail quality as measured by things to eat and flowers to sniff with beargrass being at the top of the list. After the berries we entered a more mature forest right near the ridge crest and the grade eased.

Just a short way along the ridge we found a signed intersection that pointed the way down the other side to Margaret Lake. From the edge of the descent we had great views of peaks to the north and a peekaboo of Margaret Lake. Mt. Margaret stood 500 feet above the ridge, but that wasn't for today.

The first downside to the route for Clara (and probably Daryl and Lex) was that we had to drop a couple hundred feet into the lake basin. That was great for the way in, lousy for the way out. Plus it felt really steep. At least it was well shaded by the ridge to the south. Of course, this also meant the berries here weren't nearly as far along. It looked like any picking we'd do with the kids would be on the south-facing slope.

At the bottom of the big steep the trail wound through meadows and sparse trees. We stopped at muddy Lake Yvonne so the dogs could play in the shallow water. The final descent to Margaret Lake was a sloppy trench of a trail that would require some hand holding with the kids, but nothing they couldn't handle. (Plus it looks like there are some way trails that might skip that section.)

At the lake itself we found we weren't alone. A woman with two dogs, a couple hiding in the talus below Mt. Margaret, and a couple of fisherman with a campfire were already there. I explored toward the talus a bit, but that trail had no sites on it. I trucked to the east and found lots of trails and even more campsites. Hurray! One of the big downsides to Scout Lake is there is really only one campsite. My big worry when taking the kids there last year was that we'd arrive and find it taken and... um... I don't know what we would have done. (Nah, there was a so-so site on the other side of the lake we could have used.)

Scouting complete, we headed back. The dogs crashed through Lake Yvonne again, of course, as though they hadn't had enough of splashing about in Margaret Lake. The climb out of the basin passed by in a flash. It wasn't nearly as bad as I'd been fearing. In fact, the whole route out seemed a blur. In no time we were back at the truck wondering why it smelled so bad (oh yeah, Tokul's pre-hike deposit in a baggy under the wheel in an apparently not-so-odor-proof bag).

I was ready to kick off my boots and head home, but Jo was itching for more. She still had TNAB on her mind for just two hours later even though we'd cranked out about five and a half miles and almost 2,000 feet of gain.

More power to her, I say. I was going to preschool and that'd be adventure enough for me.

Don't worry, though. Next week I'll be back on the trail with TNAB and as a bonus we're looking at a peak that turned me back last time I was there. And barring a serious turn in the weather we'll be back to Margaret Lake to make a one-time outing into a tradition.

(This trip also marked the first adventure with the new camera. It worked pretty well, but it's big enough to not fit into a pocket. Without a case that would fit it I resorted to using the case for Lilly's camera. Bright yellow and orange made me feel a little silly, but it probably also announced that I wasn't worth shooting. In a season that's as wacky as this has been with accidents filling the newspaper it may become my permanent camera case. (Though Lilly did complain when I came home with it strapped to my pack. Oh well.))

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