Blanca Lake

This weekend I enjoyed some “luxurious” backpacking at Blanca Lake, located north of Skykomish along Highway 2.

Blanca Lake is a glacier-fed alpine lake. It has a milky turquoise color due to the glacier-ground rock dust (known as “glacial flour”). In 3 miles crossing two wildernesses (Wild Sky and Henry M. Jackson), the popular trail to the lake gains a little over 3000′ before dropping another 300′ down to the steep shores.

Our group of six decided to take along some unusual (heavy) supplies for this trip due to the short distance; this included swim trunks, a dozen eggs, bacon, steak, barbecue sauce, and iPod speakers. We paid the price for these on the 30 switchbacks up to the pass, but they were so worth it once we made camp.

The trail tops out at Virgin Lake before descending down to Blanca: breaking out of the trees here, we caught a great view of secluded Glacier Peak.

Glacier Peak

The next 300′ downhill was on muddy trail but soon enough we broke out into a clearing with a view of the lake from on high.

 

At the head of the lake, dozens of hikers crowded the beach; I was amazed to encounter such a zoo after quite a lot of elevation gain. We crossed over the log jam (trekking poles were handy) to the next beach, which to our amazement had no tents set up yet! We claimed it as our own.

 

From camp (click to expand)

The day started to heat up as direct sun reached the shore. Taking advantage of our last real day of summer, a couple of us jumped in the glacier-fed waters. It was refreshing and instantly numbing; we didn’t linger long but sunning on the bleached logs floating nearby was a relaxing way to spend the afternoon.

For dinner, we built a fire and cooked steak directly over the open heat. With the addition of barbecue sauce, the meat actually got pretty tender. The windy evening blew smoke in our faces; luckily, we were prepared with the right equipment…

 

Watching the alpenglow descend on the rugged ridge leading to Kyes Peak’s summit with my Kindle in hand was a fitting end to the evening.

Kyes Peak

The next morning, I woke up way earlier than everyone, made some coffee (I’m partial to the Starbucks Via instant packets), and wandered around taking photos as the sun rose on neighboring Goblin Peak

Morning light over Blanca Lake (click to expand)

We enjoyed more fantastic food – this time, eggs and bacon for breakfast. This is hardly the minimalist backpacking food I’m used to.

Negotiating the logjam on the way home

One of the highlights of the trip was the spectacular huckleberry patch located just below Virgin Lake at the top of the switchbacks. Fat, ripe berries hung heavy on the branches; we gathered about a quart each in less than an hour.

Mountain huckleberries
Less than an hour’s work

The berries taste like tart blueberries – the fatter they are, the sweeter they are. They also stain hands and lips a wonderful color as they burst. It was a highlight of the trip for sure.

Naturally, I put the berries to good use after the trip:

Huckleberry coffee cake

 

 

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