backpack kayaking
Crystal clear Summit Lake; backpack kayaking lets you explore remote alpine lakes. Photo courtesy of Mary Taunton and Nym.

As we trekked down the path, the rain created an eerie setting. We’d gotten a late start on our backpack kayaking trip and the sky was rapidly darkening as we scrambled over and under trees that had fallen across the trail. Between blinking the rain away, our eyes struggled to find footing for our feet that wouldn’t result in a twisted ankle. Onwards and upwards we went, the wind making our raincoats ineffective at keeping our heads dry.

Nym nimbly navigated the terrain and gloried in the refreshing downpour—she was truly in her element. Having done this trail the previous year, I was shocked at what a difference the storm could make to the setting.  Somehow, the frolic I’d had through the flower-lined footpath paled in comparison to the ominous, slushy stomp we were having now.  The darker conditions suited the trail so perfectly and despite being cold and tired, we were having the time of our lives.

backpack kayaking
Adventure dog Nym always ready for the next backpack kayaking trip and a chance to explore the woods. Photo by Mary Taunton.

By the time we arrived at the lake, it was so dark that we just had to assume there was water filling the dark hole in the horizon off to our left. We skirted around the edge and walked up onto a dry bank to pitch our tent. The second we had our poles in place, the wind gusted a mighty blow that nearly swept our tent out of our hands and off the cliff.  Cold and determined, we staked it firmly into the dirt and hastily put on the rain cover before shedding our drenched outer layers and climbing inside the inviting tent. We barely had tucked ourselves into our sleeping bags before falling fast asleep.

As the sun began to send warm rays of light into our tent, we woke. Peering outside, we were thrilled to see that the rain had gone and it was becoming a gorgeous day. The morning fog hung about us but was quickly being dissolved by the heat of the summer sun.

Now was the part we’d been waiting for, our first glimpse of the lake. It’s a rather unique experience to wake up and be surprised by your surroundings. I had been here before and knew what to expect, but this was a new destination for Llew, and I was stoked to see his expression when he spotted the shimmering blue lake. His face lit up like a kid at Christmas as we scrambled down to the beach. Knowing that there was a further surprise for him 30 yards further, I told him to not look back until we reached the right spot. As he spun around to see Mount Rainier looming behind the lake, he was astounded by how large it looked compared to the view from Seattle or our other hikes in the area.

Deciding it was best to wait until it warmed up a bit more before taking our Advanced Elements Packlite Kayak out for a jaunt around the lake, we made our way around Summit Lake and up to the ridge line behind it.  Honestly, the view from the ridge is one of the most breathtaking in Washington. From the higher altitude, the lake positively glistens, the evergreen trees contrasting perfectly with the deep blue of the alpine lake.

We sat atop the rocky ledge and marveled at Mount Rainier’s incredible beauty. The bowl beneath us began to fill with clouds and we watched as the view became more and more obscured. It was such a peaceful setting, amplified by us being the only two people within shouting distance.

Finishing our breakfast of Clif Bars, we headed back down to our campsite to retrieve our kayak. We blew it up by mouth, having forgotten the foot pump, then hopped inside and pushed off from shore. Though not built for two, the kayak did remarkably well at carrying our weight as we paddled across the lake with Nym herding us from the shore.  The light weight indestructible Packlite is ideal for backpack kayaking in the Pacific Northwest.

As more people began to pop out of the tree line, we decided it was time to pack up and head to the nearest diner for some coffee and burgers. We made quick work of dissembling our campsite and then began the hike back down. After having the lake to ourselves on a Friday night/Saturday morning, we were happy to have braved the storm and avoided the hoards of hikers that we passed on the way out.  The shortness of the hike combined with the remarkable view, makes this hike a favorite destination for many, but we’d managed to have it as our own, private paradise.

backpack kayaking
Mary and Nym discuss heading home before the trail gets too busy with weekend hikers.  Follow Mary and Nym on more backpack kayaking adventures soon.  Photo courtesy Mary Taunton. 

If you liked this article, read about canoe camping beautiful Lake Diablo.

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