Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Secret Lake on a prayer, using the bible as a roadmap

Snow Lake, the semi secret lake that is stocked with fish, has been on my radar for a couple of years now.  I’ve tried to reach this lake twice .   Both times were last year.  It looked like the best starting point was near Staircase but with the roads washed out, I decided to try reaching it from the backdoor via Lebar Creek.  That was  a steep cross-country route and I got too far off track and had to give up. 

Later in October I tried going in from the Staircase side but got caught in a freaky early season snow storm and had to abandon my attempt.  This time I decided to go in the front door and with company.

My company arrived at my house at about 8 am and we loaded up mountain bikes into his vehicle.  There was some concern at the start because his car was having electrical issues.  Would we make it to the trailhead?
Watching the voltmeter


The car had a voltmeter rigged up inside of it.  I watched as the volts dropped lower and lower and lower and then the car stopped running.  Bill had to pull over right next to Lake Cushman and pop a new battery into his car.  Bill did not know if his car would be able to make it all the way back home.  Oh well, we were going hiking anyway.  Perhaps we would have to hitch hike home, time would tell.  I pointed out that we could at least coast back down to the lake and start the car on compression to save battery life. 

When we reached the closed wild life gate we saw a motorcycle was parked there.  The cycle was covered up so we could not really tell what it looked like.  We parked next to the cycle and unloaded the bikes.  But suddenly the bushes near the motorcycle started moving and making roaring noises.

Man camped at trail head

Then a man emerged from the bushes, the man was wearing a Mexican blanket over his shoulders and maybe nothing more?  He had spent the night there in the bushes next to the road.  
The man asked us what time it was and asked us to light his cigarette.  He also asked us where the road went. Hmm.. I found it rather odd that he was way out there with no way to light a cigarette.   The man had a rolling suitcase, I wondered how he fit that on his bike.   That seemed a bit odd, in fact the man seemed to be a bit odd. Perhaps most people would not want to leave their car parked in that spot with the odd man there. But we were determined to hike and that was that! We would worry about the car later.

We rode our bikes about 5 miles down the logging road to the trail head.  We had to stop and lift our bikes over windfall several times and we had to do a lot of pushing to get up the first hill.  

The trail head is unmarked but it is not hard to find.  There is an interpretive trail with signs that have the names of tree on them.  The trees in this area are huge and beautiful .  The “trail” we wanted was just a spur off of the interpretive trail.  The spur gains 1,300 feet in just over half a mile, it is only a way trail, but it has seem some maintenance over the years.  I suspect the last time the trail got maintenance was in 2007. 

We had no trouble following the steep trail up to the lake, I can't understand why my friend got lost here lastyear.  The weather was very hot, so we took our time.  When we got our first glimpse of the lake we were impressed.  It is a large beautiful isolated lake surrounded with old-growth, who could ask for anything more? 

There was a little bit of snow next to the lake and it was just still just cool enough to keep the bugs from hatching.  In a few more weeks the bugs up there will be terrible, but for now it’s nice.

I wandered around looking at moss.  I was a bit frustrated because I lost my good hand lens, but I made do with the crappy college bookstore hand lens.  I found some peat moss at the edge of the lake and some other moss that looked like pholia species.  I also took some pictures. 

While I was botanizing Bill tried his luck at fishing.  It was the wrong time of day to be fishing, but still he got a few nibbles. 


At 3 pm we decided we better head back down.  With Bill’s car issues we dare not try to drive in the dark.  The battery would go dead very fast with headlights on!

We made a quick trip back down the brutal hill side to our waiting bikes and then mostly coasted back to the car.  When we reached the wild life gate we were surprised to see clothes draped over it and the motorcycle was still there.  What the heck?   Why was that guy still there and was he naked now?
Clothes hung over the gate, is the guy naked?

We could not see the guy at all so I yelled ahead to give the guy some warning that we were coming just in case he was naked.  He yelled back “yeah yeah” from the bushes.  I asked him if he was dressed and he said he was.    He said he had been swimming and splashing the creek.  We loaded the bikes back into the car and then the man came out of the bushes.

I noticed that his cycle was now uncovered and it was a Harley Davidson that was set up for touring. Bill gave the man what was left of his giant sandwich and half gallon of apple juice and thanked the man for “watching our car”. 

 The man then started talking about the South Fork Skokomish Valley and then mumbled something about religion and that he was going to show us something and he headed back to his bike. 

 “Oh no” I said to Bill “he’s getting out his bible” 

 “Oh no, I can’t cope with that” answered Bill.
Dude using the bible as a forest service road map
But sure enough out came a tattered hard back bible.  The man opened the page up to a map and started using the map to show us places in the Skokomish Valley, It all make perfect sense except for one slight problem. 

  It was a map of Jerusalem.  But the guy was reading it just like a map of the valley, pointed out the roads and the hill sides.  Hmmmmm… very interesting I thought.  I’ve  got to get a picture of this guy.  I knew he would be eager to show the world how he discovered that the South fork Skokomish Valley is actually Jerusalem.

Eventually we told the man that we had to go because we had car issues.  So we both got into the car and Bill put it in neutral.  I rocked back and forth a bit to get the car moved and down we went.  Coasting down the hill at about 45 MPH it seemed.  This was a rather scary ride as Bill drives like a maniac and his car has power brakes.  Power brakes don’t work for very long when the car engine is not running.  Here is a video of part of the quick trip down the road with the engine off.  Click the gear symbol to see it in high definition.

How long would the brakes last?  Oh my gosh we were going fast.  Oh my gosh that's a steep drop off and here comes a curve!    I was a bit scared.  I was reminded of my trip down the mountains in Panama in an overloaded bus with the brakes burning up. 

 Well I thought, Bill does not want to die anymore than I do, so he probably won’t drive the car over the cliff.  It was a white knuckle ride all the way.   Bill mentioned that the brakes were losing power but he kept on coasting without staring up the engine.  Oh wow..

Eventually Bill started the car on compression and the engine roared back to life.  But he still drove down that mountain like a mad man.  I noticed that when the RPM’s were high enough the voltmeter did not drop, it only dropped when the RPM's were below 3,500. 

So Bill drove the next 20 miles at 3,500 RPM’s and we made it back to my house.  When we arrived at my home some of the neighbors gave us some funny looks because Bills car is so loud and unique.

It was quite an exciting day, we had all kinds of adventures both on and off the trail.

about 12 miles with about 1,800 feet elevation gain

The hiking part was about 3.5 miles RT with 1,700 feet elevation gain, including pushing the bikes up hill for abour 1.5 miles.

A light snack at the lake

I lost the trail here in the snow last time

Flowers in the Marshy area near the lake

Washed out culvert at Copper Creek

Super compact fishing pole

Steeper part of trail

Sphagnum near the lake

Track and elevation

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