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Thomas Lake Trail #111
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mini location map2019-10-28
15 by photographer avatarkeepmoving
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Thomas Lake Trail #111Volcano, WA
Volcano, WA
Hiking avatar Oct 28 2019
Hiking14.84 Miles 1,585 AEG
Hiking14.84 Miles
1,585 ft AEG23 LBS Pack
Partners none no partners
Set out to do my first snow/winter overnight for the year in one of my all-time favorite areas- Indian Heaven Wilderness.

Beautiful sunny afternoon with temps in the mid 30s. Started from Thomas Lake Trailhead and made my way out to Blue Lake where I turned north onto the PCT. I had forgotten how tough it is to hike Indian Heaven after things start to freeze. There are so many lakes, ponds, streams, seeps, etc... so everything turns to ice once it gets cold and the whole area is essentially one big ice rink. Without microspikes or some type of traction device, it becomes an extreme test of ones balance and patience. Despite multiple close calls, I'm proud to say I only completely fell down once during my entire hike and am no worse for the wear.

At Eunice Lake I turned northeast and followed Lemei Lake Trail. I haven't been on this section of trail for years, but it brought back happy memories of hiking it with a group of friends during a particularly buggy summer afternoon a long time ago. Above 4700-4800 feet I hit some patches of snow that were a couple of inches deep, and provided a blissful relief from trying to navigate the black ice that coated most of the trail. I then turned left at the junction by Clear Lake and wound my way back southbound on the PCT and headed over the Elk Lake where I had intended to set up camp for the night.

I had a new freestanding tent that I selected specifically for winter/snow treks and was excited to set it up. I selected the very last campsite at the far end of Elk Lake that was fortunately snow free. I set up the tent without too much trouble, broke a hole in the ice over the lake to collect water, then heated up dinner before retreating to the comfort of my tent for the remainder of the evening as the temps held in the 20s.

I dozed off for a bit, but eventually awoke when the wind kicked up. It was strong enough that it was causing the ice that covered the lake to snap and crack quite loudly as it crashed into the shoreline. I laid awake for a while in the dark before finally deciding to pack it up and head out. I figured it wasn't worth a night of restless sleep and I had already accomplished everything I had set out to by testing out the new tent (which I am happy to say works great).

I followed the trail back by the light of my headlamp. Pausing in several meadows along the way to shut off my light and admire the star filled sky. For the fun of it, I opted to take one of the unmaintained former Cascade Crest Trail segments to cut between the PCT and Lake Umtux. It had several snow patches, but overall was very easy to follow by headlamp and was a nice way to mix things up. When I got back to the truck at 4000' the gauge read 27 degrees and I startled a mouse that was rummaging around in my center console.
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