Started the day off fairly late and didn't hit the road from the Tri-Cities until about noon. I was off to make my self-imposed annual pilgrimage to Shoe Lake. Shoe Lake is an alpine lake in the Cascade mountain range and is along the Pacific Crest Trail. I started trekking to this lake back in 2001, and I've been making trips up almost every year since. Have always jumped onto the Pacific Crest Trail via the trailhead at White Pass. This time I wanted to try and get to the lake from a different route. I tried this via a couple of attempts.
My first doomed attempt at getting to Shoe Lake was via the McCall creek. This creek comes from the McCall Basin which is a basin north of the Shoe Lake basin. There was no trail. So, the dogs and I did some bush whackin' along the creek. This was a doomed trek. Made it ok for a little bit, but after a while, the creek-carved canyon became narrower and much more thick with brush. Eventually got to a point where my back-packed body and my dogs' short legs were done in. Tried to continue for a little bit by hiking up the canyon wall and then going up the canyon. The climb up was burly, but the dogs were troopers. Once on the top of the canyon hiked toward the McCall Basin. Unfortunately, the hiking wasn't much better. At this point, I called it, and decided to head back down. I still wanted to get to Shoe Lake, and there was only a few more hours of light. So we booked it back to the truck via some elk/deer trails. Then headed to a the Tieton Meadows trailhead to catch the Pacific Crest Trail south of Shoe Lake.
Now I read reports of this trail being super steep, but we felt up for it. There wasn't much time to think about it. It was about 4pm, and there was only about 3hrs of light left. So, the dogs and I had to book it.
Only followed the North Fork Tieton trail for a little bit, and then we took a right onto the Hidden Springs Trail (#1117). This was the beginning of our hell for the evening. It seems like after a few minutes the slope of the trail zoomed vertical. It wasn't bad at first, but after time it wore us down. Every other opportunity, I'd look skyward for any signs of approaching the Shoe, but time after time---nothing.
At one point, we approached the base of a scree slope (a wall of small boulders). For some insane reason, I thought we could leave the trail and cross this slope horizontally and somehow end up at the east side of Shoe Lake.....I thought this slope was just below Shoe Lake. So, the dogs and I slowly and carefully walked on the rumbling rocks. It was steep, and the rocks were very loose. We tried this for about 15min, and at one point I looked back and saw Gunner and Gomez sitting down and just looking at me and thinking, "you don't expect us to hike this, do you?!" I picked up Gomez, and we headed back to the trail.
While scrambling the scree, this was the first time we heard elk bugling in the distance (or it could have been hunters). It was cool to listen to.
It was good, because when we got back to "climbing" the trail, I found that this slope was at the base of just another range. We were still one range away from Shoe!!!! So, we put our heads down and continued upward.
At one point, I looked up to see another person (first of the hike). This guy (and later his wife), were just coming back from Shoe Lake. They were camping at Hidden Springs. They suggested I camp with them, but we were focused, and we had one mile left, so we politely said, "no thanks", and continued up the trail. We shortly reached the Pacific Crest Trail....we were almost there!
After a few more minutes, my tired legs, blistered feet, sweaty body, and aching back reached familiar territory: The southern rim of the Shoe Lake basin! Snapped a few pictures, and then we rushed down into the basin. Gunner and Gomez knew where they were and made a beeline toward the water and slurped away.
We then made our way around Shoe Lake's shore to the small grove of trees we call our camping spot. At this point, it was all business. I got some water boiling, pitched a tent, and then started cooking dinner. All in all, it was an uneventful evening. Before going to bed, I watched a movie on my iPod: There Will Be Blood. Then it was off to sleep.
Around dawn we were awoken by a loud "bark". I believe this was a male elk (they were in rut now, were "horny", and wanted to fight, or...well, you know. I think the elk was on the rim of Shoe Lake basin, and was barking to see if there any elk in the basin. This has happened before during other trips. It barked a few times, and then it stopped. It was a loud noise, because it is so quiet along the lake.
Woke up and had a bit of a snack, and then headed out. Stopped by Hidden Springs again and looked for the actual spring. It was pretty small--now I know though. Then hit the trail again, and made quick work of it. Topped the day off by making a pit stop in Yakima at Miners. It was alright (a bit too much mayo on my burger), but next time I think I'll hit the taco truck Taco El Grande.
Until 2009, Shoe Lake.
And Here Are The Signposts...