The last time I had camped at Walupt Lake was in the late ’70s when I was still in Jr High. It was a campout with my Dad’s co-workers. At the time, we camped in an old canvas tent. The thing I remembered most about that trip is that it poured down rain relentlessly. It rained so hard that getting a fire started was impossible. One night was enough of that, and everybody packed up and headed for sunny skies in the Cle Elum area.
Thirty-five or so years later, I’m taking my daughter on the last camping trip before school starts. Thunderstorms were forecast (deja vu?), but only a 30 percent chance, not enough to deter a Pacific Northwest camper.
We had two nights before us. Instead of our normal overland camping (a new location each night), we decided to base camp and stay in one location and “relax”.
From our house in Ellensburg, we headed south through Yakima and then West on Highway 12 over White Pass. Since it was still early in the day, we headed up Highway 123 to Paradise at Mt Rainier National Park. Once we arrived at Paradise, I reconfirmed why I avoid such places on Summer weekends. All the parking lots were full and the closest parking spot along the Paradise Valley Road was nearly two miles away. With those crowded conditions, we literally did a “drive through” and headed back towards Highway 123. As you can see in the photo below, Mt Rainier was obscured so we weren’t missing a lot.
On our way back to Highway 12, we made a quick stop into the Ohanapecosh River Campgrounds. Just like at Paradise, the campground was full with people everywhere. Because of the federal sequester, the Ohanapecosh Visitors Center was closed. While at the campground, we ate lunch and then walked over to the bridge that crossed the river and snapped a few photos. There were people actually swimming in one of the deep pools below the bridge.
Getting back on Highway 12, we drove a short distance to and through Packwood, Washington. Shortly after Packwood, we got onto Gifford Pinchot National Forest Road 21 when I realized that we didn’t purchase a couple bundles of firewood for the next two nights. Whoops! We turned around (luckily we weren’t too far down the 21 road) and headed back towards Packwood. Not too far down the highway, I spotted a empty bin along the highway with a sign “Firewood”. I pulled into the driveway because there were several people out in the yard. I enquired about purchasing firewood and at first they were hesitant because they were just moving out of the house. Then he decided to sell us the remaining personal firewood he had left at the house. I got quite the deal for $20. I loaded up my roof rack with dry maple firewood and strapped it all down for the remaining trip to Walupt Lake.
As we were driving on Forest Road 21 to Walupt Lake, there was a lot of weekend traffic heading down in the opposite direction, everything from large 5th wheel trailers to multiple Prius’. The road also had it’s share of rough, bone jarring braking bumps on the hills.
We arrived at Walupt Lake under overcast skies and found a nice campsite. The campground seemed to be at about 10% of its capacity with other campers. However, every site was reserved for the upcoming Labor Day Weekend.
After setting up camp, we did a little exploring before settling in for the evening. We first ventured down to the lake and then followed the Walupt Lake trail along the shore of the lake and through the forest for a mile or so before heading back to our campsite.
After our short hike, I got a nice fire blazing (maple is great wood for camping) so we could roast hot dogs and smores for dinner and dessert.
Before the night was over it started to rain as predicted (nothing like my first trip to Walupt Lake). However by morning, it had mostly stopped.
The next morning, we decided to go for a hike (my daughter’s first). One option was to follow the Walupt Lake Trail up to the Pacific Crest Trail. The other option was the Nannie Ridge Trail with hopes of some potential views of Mt Adams. The Nannie Ridge trail was the choice (but not my recommendation for a first time hike).
Once you leave the Walupt Lake Trail, the Nannie Ridge Trail #98 constantly climbs throughout the forest for approximately 2 miles and 2000 feet of elevation gain until you reach the the ridge under Nannie Peak. From there there are views of Mt Adams, but in typical Pacific Northwest style, the mountain was hidden with clouds. We hiked a little further along the ridge before my daughter had enough and wanted to turn around. At that time, the skies opened up and it started to rain. We only had to hike in the rain for a short time before we were back into the forest and out of the rain.
By time we were done with the hike and back to the campsite, we probably hiked about 5 miles. Since this was my daughter’s first hiking trip, she was exhausted and very sore. That night, she retired to bed very early and slept nearly 12 hours.
I was glad to wake up to a rainless night, which meant I could put away the roof top tent and awning dry. Since we had plenty of firewood left, I made a nice morning campfire before breaking down camp.
Instead of heading back the way we drove into Walupt Lake, we decide to head home south past Mt Adams via Tout Lake and Goldendale, Washington.
From Walupt Lake, we headed South a short distance on Forest Road 54 before connecting with Forest Road 2329. In this area of Washington State, Forest Road 2329 is the closest route to the crest of the South Cascades. This section of forest road was also part of my Washington Cascades Overland Expedition in August 2007 (see my blog post at Washington Cascades Overland Tour 2007: Intro)
We stopped for lunch at the Horseshoe Lake Campgrounds which is about a mile off of Forest Road 2329. Horseshoe Lake Campground would be a very quiet and peaceful camping destination. Views of Mt Adams can be seen by hiking a trail around the lake.
Our next stop was at the Takhlakh Lake. Takhlakh Lake offers fantastic views of Mt Adams. At the time we visited Takhlakh Lake, the cloud cover was high enough that Mt Adams was visible.
From Takhlakh Lake, we continued South a short distance before connecting with Forest Road 23. We continued on Forest Road 23 until Trout Lake, Washington where we fueled up with gas and ice cream at the general store.
After leaving Trout Lake, we finished our trip home by driving the highway to Glenwood, then Goldendale, then Yakima (with a stop for dinner at Miner’s) before reaching our home in Ellensburg.