Again, it’s been a while since my last hike post. And this post is much overdue as well… Here goes…
I had my usual Thursday off from work, so Jonathan and I decided to hike. Flexible jobs make for good hikes. It was cloudy in Seattle, but the previous day there had been an inversion where the clouds congregate down low and the skies are sunny up at high elevations. We’d heard about the inversion from Eve who had hiked and had been greeted by clear blue skies on her trek the day before. We were hoping for the same luck. And the forecast for the Stevens Pass area was clear so we went for it.
Thursday, January 8, 2015. Hike: Bridal Veil Falls and Lake Serene. Distance: 8.2 miles roundtrip. Elevation gain: 2000 feet. High point: 2521 feet.
A cloudy, gray morning in Seattle. Typical Seattle weather. I pack my hiking bag – including but hoping to avoid using my rain gear. Jonathan picks me up in his trusty old car, off we go toward Stevens Pass. This will actually be my first time hiking in that area. We sip on some coffee and cross our fingers that the clouds will part and we’ll meet sun on the other side.
And like clockwork, the clouds miraculously part. We’re about a mile before the turnoff for our hike, and bam! We leave the clouds in the dust. The road rises just barely enough that we drive above the fog and into the sun. We couldn’t have hoped for better luck. We are so psyched for the sun that we miss the turnoff. We drive an extra half mile, take in some beautiful mountain views at a turnoff, and then retrace our steps. We park in the lot – only a few other cars there. I pee behind the closed bathroom building with the locked pit toilets taunting me, and we set off on the trail.
The trail is relatively flat with only mild elevation gain over the first few miles. Some tiny patches of snow scattered here and there, but nothing substantial, and nothing on the trail itself. The trail passes the turnoff for Bridal Veil falls (which we’ll hit on the way back down). We skirt some lesser, but still amazing, falls on our right. We cross the creek. The ascent begins. To quote the WTA trail description, “It’s a steady ascent using stairs, roots, and rocks for the final 1.5 miles gaining 1,300 feet”. Our entire hike is in shadow, the sun is obscured by Mt Index which towers over Lake Serene, at the top of the hike. (“Across the water the cliffs of Mt. Index rise 3,000 feet straight up and snow is piled at the base after a winter full of avalanches.”)
A hundred feet or so from our destination of Lake Serene, we’re greeted by icy trail. Careful walking. An older hiker with a sweet bandana-as-sweatband and his dog hike on by. He remarks that it’s like spring up here. It kind of is. Only when we finally reach the sign announcing our arrival at the lake do we find the sun. So happy, we bask in it’s light for a few minutes before forging on down to the lake. Jonathan and I find a nice rock to perch on, sit in the sun, and fuel up snacks. Man, this lake really is serene. It’s so incredibly still and peaceful.
We also realize that our sun is very limited. The sun is so low in the January sky that it’s barely peeking out at us through a notch to the left of Mt Index. It will “set” in a matter of minutes! Man, did we ever reach the lake at the perfect time. Jonathan sets up cameras to capture the changing light. We eat snacks – Skout bars, hot peppermint tea, hot hibiscus tea, etc etc.
The lake is iced over, some footprints visible on the ice which lead directly across and into snowcaves at the base of Mt Index. It’s been so warm that we wouldn’t risk following the footprints and crossing the ice. We’re happy on solid ground. Several small glaciers persist in the dark wintery shadow of Index. A few other hikers come and go. The sun “sets” around noon or so. Jonathan realizes that he had his GoPro on the wrong setting and it failed to capture the time lapse pics he was hoping for – bummer! More snapshots to compensate.
After a good rest, we take the trail that skirts around to the right of the lake. Signs point us toward “Lunch Rock” and “Valley Overlook”. We check out Lunch Rock first. Up icy stairs and then we’re at a huge snowcovered rock that overlooks Lake Serene from the perfect angle. So aptly named, this would be the perfect place for lunch!
We snap photos. I get nervous that Jonathan is going to slide off the icy snow and into the lake (my ol’ irrational fear of heights kicking in). I make my way down the icy stairs and over to the Valley Overlook. A nice view of the valley below and the outlet of the lake, also the uppermost point of Bridal Veil Falls.
I wander back down to our initial perch by the lake. I recline on a sleepy looking log. My rest is stirred by a mother-daughter hiking duo in matching purple athletic tights. I snap some pictures on their iphones for them. Jonathan wanders back down from his photo op at lunch rock. I pose for some pictures for him by walking across a log bridge several times – a human subject with Lake Serene as the backdrop. I’m getting cold. We head down.
Trying to warm myself up, I take off quickly and hike ahead. I pass a few more hikers here and there. I make it halfway down the descent to the falls before Jonathan catches up with me. We bound down the stairs that make up a big chunk of the trail.
We reach the spur to the falls on our left and take it the 0.5 miles to our next destination. More uphill that we weren’t quite expecting. I’m glad I didn’t know there would be more up. Pass more hikers. I’m starting to feel sleepy. Stairs, stairs, stairs, and we’re there! Bridal Veil Falls!
The falls are huge. Water is leaping off rock which towers above us. A light mist hangs in the air from the crashing water. More pictures. Jonathan poses for some pics at the base of the falls and gets drenched in the process. We soak in the falls for a few minutes, then we’re off. On our way down again. Down, down, down. We’re back at the trailhead before we know it.
Just in time to take in a beer from a tiny/weird new brewery on Route 2 less than a mile from the trailhead. And then we were on our way back to Seattle. A good hike. Great weather. Awesome inversion. Success.