Deadwood Lakes was a hike I had heard of from the late Karen Sykes, long ago. She had pushed me to try the hike through our chats, and she gave me the pro tip of finding the “trail” from across the highway, half a mile up the Pacific Crest Trail. It was easy to pick out. The first time I tried to go there, there was still snow on the pass at the top, and I slid in mud and put a branch into my knee. Two years later I came back to try it and had a great hike.
It was September 18th 2009, so a perfect day to go down memory lane on a hike that was on the old lost blog. A sunny Indian Summer kind of day, where the morning are chilly high in the mountains, zero bugs biting and shorter days, so day hiking over backpacking. My friend Jared and I arrived early at the parking lot for the Pacific Crest Trail, on the eastern crest of Chinook Pass (Highway 410). We got onto the PCT and headed North, following it under the first ridge. The trail slowly gains elevation and the highway is visible under you. But you don’t really notice it. The views across, towards Naches Peak and down into the American River valley are gorgeous.
On your left keep your eyes peeled for a rough boot path shooting uphill of the PCT. You can see it Google Maps in satellite view. This will be brushed out at the start and requires pulling yourself up to the trail. This is NOT a trail to trail standards. It is an unmaintained boot path that starts on National Forest land. Mind this and tread carefully and lightly. The path goes up, then angles across the ridge, then angles up till you reach a wide pass that is partly forested. This has National park markers as you enter Mount Rainier NP. The boot path is also a tiny bit nicer on the National Park side.
Picture was taken in July, two years before (hence why it is so green, with snow patches). The pass is nice to stop at. The trail pitches over the other side and heads down quickly into the upper lake basin. This side of the trail is more protected, and holds snow longer. It is also home to many blueberry and huckleberry bushes.
The views from the pass, looking towards Naches Peak, far across the valley.
As you start the final descent into the upper basin.
The views of upper Deadwood Lakes and of the peaks across the valley (you are looking towards Sunrise – Sourdough Ridge and Dege Peak in the park, across Hwy 410).
We passed the upper lake and walked the right side to the forested area between the lakes, and took a gander at lower Deadwood Lake.
The forest was typical lower subalpine.
Being late in the year the lower lake had a beach to hang out on. From the other side we had a great view of the ridge that separates Deadwood from Crystal Lakes.
We walked back the way we came. One weird thing about the lower lake is there was an obvious stream channel in the middle of the lake. You could see it clearly, and see it running, where as the rest of the lake was mellow. That would explain why the creek is often running in fall, where Hwy 410 crosses it, just past the turn off to Sunrise.
Low growing wild blueberries (the plants are usually only a few inches tall in subalpine).
Jared hanging out in the low sun of early fall at the upper lake.
We picked around the lake, trying to find shore to hang out on. We did not find anywhere decent on the upper lake on the sides.
I decided to make us lunch.
My then choice for trail cooking. A GSI pot set up and a small stove.
We had finally found somewhere to hang out, at the head of the lake. Not at all level, it was a grassy slope. With a lot of ground water perking though. Deadwood Lakes get a lot of water through them, from the hillsides above. Usually when at subalpine lakes you find them dry around in September. Not these. So it made sense why there was a stream channel.
While I made lunch, Jared was doing fly fishing.
He never did catch anything that trip.
He did nearly get sucked under however.
The upper part of the upper lake is a mud bed, and you will sink fast in it. So be wary.
That trip I was making sliders.
Mini Trail Sliders.Sometimes a hike deserves a cooked meal!
Jared eating lunch.
Last views on the way up to the pass. This part was easy climbing up.
On the way down, with slide alder to cross, just before we jumped back down onto the PCT and had an easy hike out. Coming down from the pass, time and patience are needed – and trekking poles are useful. So is sitting on your butt as needed.