I recently had the opportunity to explore the Alpine Lakes Wilderness hike off HWY 2 just past Skykomish and was amazed at the abundance of food, medicine, and beauty in this place. I have not explored much of the Cascades because, for some reason, I had this image of desolate, cold and snowy mountains. But during the summer months, this is not the case at all.
After a short drive down the gravel road off HWY 2, we arrived at the Boulder Lake trailhead. Here we started our Alpine Wilderness hike. We double-checked our gear, quick stretch and in we went. Very quickly into the hike, we discovered an abundance of Twisted Stalk berries and Oval Leaf blueberries along the trail to snack on. As we explored further, we found a few ancient, giant, old growth Douglas Fir and Cedar trees. The Douglas Fir was one of the biggest trees I had ever seen. Would have needed at least 10 people to give it a solid hug. Just beside it was some Wild Ginger. After properly identifying it with its beautiful flowers growing below the heart shaped leaves, I added a bit to my water bottle.
After about 45 minutes, we arrived at Trout Lake. A lovely stop to rest, grab a snack and take a swim. Some of our friends decided since they had to leave early the next day, they would stay and camp here. The rest of us continued deeper into the mountains.
It’s a solid climb from here up to Boulder Lake. There are several switchbacks into the open hillside where the sun beat down on us with just a few shady spots to rest in. The views from here are amazing. You can see mountainsides all across the way with their dry channels where the snow melt would create seasonal streams. Also, looking up, you can see the waterfall flowing out of Boulder Lake. As we ventured up, we discovered many more useful plants such as Pearly Everlasting, Yarrow, and Mugwort. By the time we reached the top, I had tasted 9 different kinds of edible berries!! (Thimbleberry, Gooseberry, Trailing Currants, Oval Leaf Blueberry, Trailing Blackberry, Twisted Stalk, Salmonberry, Red Huckleberry, and Black Huckleberry)
We reached the top, crossed the stream and made our way around to where we could see the lake. Wow! Standing on berry covered, stoney cliffs, I gazed across the deep blue water reflecting the talus covered hillside of scattered trees and tiny patches of snow, before my eyes reached the peak of Boulder Lake Mountain.
I quickly dropped my pack and jumped into the clear, cold, refreshing water. Exploring the stories of large boulders and trees that lay on the bottom of the lake … what an enlivening feeling!
We set up camp nearby in a stand of large firs and hemlocks. Then back to the lake for more swimming. We perched high up on a rock cliff to watch the day transform into night. There is this magical point when the trees become darker than the sky. Then as the light fades, we watched the shades of blue grow ever deeper and darker until, one by one, the stars appeared as if a hummingbird was slowly poking holes in the night sky.