Amy and Henry were off to cheer the 3-day walkers, which left the girls (including Tokul) and me at home. Sure, we could have whiled away the time watching TV and whatnot, but the sky was cloudless and we had a few hours that we could spend in the mountains so off we went.
By 8:45am we were on the road. Not bad, if I do say so myself. At that time of the morning, even in early September, it was 45F so we had jackets and gloves and hats... and sunglasses and shorts and water shoes. Hmph.
The destination was Baker Lake on Keechelus Ridge. It's on the part of Keechelus that has been logged so not many folks head out there for hikes. However, it's the remains of the logging roads that make it so attractive for kid hikes. You can get really close before you even get out of the car.
45 minutes later we were stopped at a switch in the road. The GPS had helped me get to this point, but looking down the brushy valley toward where the lake was supposed to be didn't fill me with confidence. While the girls stayed in the car I checked out a little scratch in the brush that climbed some rocks. Huh. A trail. Go figure.
Even if we didn't get to the lake picking some berries would make this a memorable event after all. So we geared up (really me putting on my boots) and after a few moments in the sun left the coats and hats and gloves in the car. Except Lilly, who insisted she wear her fleece.
The trail was actually pretty good except for the logs down across the tread. Blueberries (or probably huckleberries to be specific) were everywhere. It's a whopping half a mile to the lake with about 200 feet of gain, but since we had to stop to pick at least one berry off each bush we spent about half an hour eating our way to the lake.
Some of the berries were absolutely delicious. Some had that same nasty aftertaste I experienced at SMC and Lynch Lakes in the North Fork valley, though thankfully not as strong. Perhaps we're too late in the season already.
(Don't tell that to the crews of berry pickers we saw driving in. There were at least four separate truckloads of people filling huge white buckets on the north and east sides of the ridge.)
Where the trail runs into the lake there's a bunch of camp sites and a ton of downed logs choking the outlet. (Or what would be the outlet when the water was higher.) Grass grew up between the logs making Tokul's first jump toward the water a bit surprising. (What's really surprising is she could jump at all with all the berries she'd eaten.) There was a solid, sandy beach along the shore, but in the shade. Around the other side we could see another solid beach in the sun so we followed a trail up a knoll overlooking the lake.
The trail faded away before we got down to the other beach, but gave us great views to the east of sun-drenched mountains and Little Kachess Lake 2,000 feet below. We stopped for snack (again) before heading back down to the lake.
Tokul swam and swam and swam. The girls wanted to do the same, but it was too cold in spite of the brilliant sunshine and blue sky. Or maybe it was the freaky stare of the radio tower looking down from the ridge.
The radio tower was a bit of a bummer. The hillside had been logged, but the berry bushes were golds and reds so it wasn't so bad looking. The tower reminded me that we were only half a mile from the car. Still, the kids had fun so that's what was important.
The walk back took way too long. Again.
I had been pushing to get back in time for lunch, a bath, and early naps before an evening event, but the girls couldn't be bullied away from their berries. Even while riding my shoulders Lilly would demand more berries. I probably still have purple hair in places. (Celebrating the UW victory over Boise State... yeah, that's why!)
The girls were hammered by the time we got back to the car and so was Tokul. We packed up and headed home and made it just in time to get everything done and some resting, too.
Total distance was perhaps a mile and 350 feet of gain, round trip.