Aug. 14th. Distance 10.2 miles. Ascent 2293 ft. Descent 582.
As usual we were grateful to Clara and Hannah, who got up with us at 4:30am and drove out to the trailhead. Since we started at 5:00am, traffic was pretty light, and we arrived in Trout Lake around 9:00am. To start the trek off right, we stopped off at the restaurant and had our fill of pancakes, bacon, eggs and huckleberries. Having driven 4 hrs already, the last 13 miles to the trailhead passed quickly, with Mt. Adams in full view to the North East. It was a relief that unlike last year, this was a mild forest fire year, and that there was no smoke in the sky.
Once at the trailhead we finalized our packs and after the requisite pictures we headed up the trail around 10:30 am. It did take a few miles to get comfortable with the ~45lbs on my back. Fortunately we were walking through the forest, and the combination of light breeze and shade made the first few miles pretty easy going.
The trail headed north for around three miles, then turned east towards the west flank of Mt. Adams. Along with a steady climb, we transitioned from shady green forest into a large burn zone where the weathered white skeletons of trees remained standing, with a few strands of live trees intermixed. This combination illustrates the remarkable situation where among square miles of burn, the fire could bypass these little pockets. With Mt. Adams making cameo appearances, and regrowth in full swing at the base of the dead stands, this stark scene is easy to conjure, and made a surprisingly positive impression.
After several miles heading towards Mt. Adams, the trail turned north, along the west flank of the Mountain. As we continued, I was glad we started with full water bottles since there was no water source for most of this leg of the trip. Continuing north, we were treated to a 4 volcano viewing as Mt. St. Helens appeared in west, Mt. Rainier loomed to the north, looking back we had clear view of Mt. Hood, and to the east we were in the shadow of Mt. Adams. Thinking back to our 2015 trek I already felt confident that this stretch would be considerably more scenic than the the ‘green tunnel’ from Cascade Locks to FSR23!
We continued trekking, bypassing our original 6 mile goal site, and made our way to Riley Creek just below Sheep Lake by around 16:30. We set up camp in a big meadow right alongside the creek, with a flap view of the glaciers on the north west flank of Mt. Adams. Though chilly (glacier melt just a mile from the source!) Riley Creek provided a welcome place to wash up. We fired up the stoves and before long we were dining on hamburgers from our bbq the night before.
With the sun setting, the alpenglow was a fitting goodnight to our first day on the trail!