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SMC and Nadeau Lakes
posted by John : June 17, 2007

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I've been on the receiving end of five Father's Days now. The first four featured great weather. The year it wasn't to be. The forecast deteriorated over the course of the week and when I woke with the kids it was pouring rain. No matter! Grandpa Jack was on his way so we geared up for a wet adventure.

There are three lakes that are at almost 4,000 feet, but on the west side of the ridge headed by Mt. Si. They aren't mentioned in many guidebooks and a fishing book that talks about lakes as small as an acre said they were formerly popular, but no longer because they were blocked by private land.

Happily, we have a permit to cross that private land.

Earlier this Spring Grandpa Jack gifted a permit for Hancock's Snoqualmie Tree Farm mostly so we could go fishing with him, but also so he could go hiking with us. (The farm used to be owned by Weyerhaeuser and stretches from North Bend to Highway 2.)

At about 10am we headed out and half an hour later we were at the magical Spur 10 gate on the tree farm. The gate opened with a wave of our arms (and a twisting of the key) and we left the potholed county road for the bliss of a private road maintained for logging trucks.

The rain and mist hadn't let up so as we climbed we saw none of the views that come with a clearcut. No, I'm not advocating for more logging, but when you can see for miles and miles and miles it's still kind of nice.

Four miles in we were at Lake Hancock and turned up hill. The road had been pretty good, but now that we were on a rarely used road climbing steeply it got slightly worse. It was still in better shape than the county road that has huge holes in it, but probably only because nobody ever drives up this way. (The road did get worse the higher we climbed, but was never really bad.) We parked at a gate at the edge of the Hancock property and suited up for a wet walk. It was only eight miles from the gate and 30 minutes, but felt really remote.

Clara was in jeans, but her raincoat covered much of her. Lilly would be sitting in the pack for most of the hike and her legs were bound to get soaked. Without moving, she'd also get a lot colder. I reprised a trick from a previous hike or two and had her wear an old rain jacket of mine as pants. It works surprisingly well and kept her bone dry.

The first part of the walk passes under some steep slopes with big rocks. It's all road walking, but looking across the valley formed by the outlet from SMC Lake to cliffs on the far side made it worth while. We saw a bundle of cool plants that Clara pointed out (especially beargrass) and even a pair of blacktail deer. (Clara explained these to Amy later by pointing to her bum while saying "deer!")

In only half a mile we were at SMC Lake. Unfortunately, it was completely socked in with clouds/mist/fog so we couldn't see much. We found a great place launch a raft or belly boat as well as eat lunch. We didn't have a boat so we ate there instead. Grandpa Jack had brought a flyrod just in case, but we didn't use it. We did see one dead fish in the water, though, so the lake might not be barren. (We'll have to return to confirm.)

The weather cleared for a few moments and we got a view of what appears to be a pretty nice looking lake.

We left SMC and followed a road that climbed a few hundred feet to the shores of Lake Nadeau... or at least we thought it did. Standing on the edge of a bluff we looked down and saw nothing. We could hear water, but couldn't see it. I figured the map was wrong and it was a hundred or more feet below us. We wandered along the high bank on a road (did I mention it's all road walking?) until the girls decided we needed to eat again (fully 30 minutes after lunch). I set them up and then jogged down the road to see if it got close to the water.

Turns out we weren't that high above the water after all. It was just that the still water was reflecting the gray sky that just happened to look exactly like the clouds and mist all around. On my return I found some lingering snow and brought a chunk back that the girls adored.

The walk back was quick. I had hoped to get to the third lake (Lake Moolock, clearly the coolest name), but it would add almost two miles and in the rain it didn't seem worth it. Back at the truck the girls shed their wet clothes (Clara did, anyway, Lilly was almost 100% dry), and cuddled into towels, blankets, and covered up with jackets. Protected from spills, I broke out the hot chocolate and the girls took turns sipping from a regular cup.

The drive down was nothing special, though the clouds had lifted a bit so we could see views of the tree farm if not the mountains around us. We'll definitely be back to explore the lakes more and next time we'll bring a raft. And next time it better not rain on us.

Total distance was 1.8 miles, and about 850 feet of gain.

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