Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sand Lake via the PCT (White Pass)

Sand Lake, October 9, 2011

It's a long drive to White Pass from Seattle but we'd never hiked there and wanted to before winter set in (then, we'll come back with snowshoes and/or skis). We enjoyed the drive from Seattle via SR 410/Cayuse Pass to Hiway 12 and to White Pass where we found the trailhead for the PCT where the PCT begins to head north. The traihead is at Leech Lake.

The trail to Sand Lake via the PCT is mostly in the forest but en route to Sand Lake it skirts several lush meadows and there's also a spur to Deer Lake (nice camps). Since the PCT is open to horses (plus late snow-melt and recent rains) the PCT was quite muddy in spots but not bad enough to deter hikers who don't mind a bit of mud on their gaiters. It's not too high a price to pay for this quiet lake created from snowmelt (no inlet or outlet).

The lake is shallow; hence a sandy bottom and shore. In October it was a pretty scene, the lake bordered by Halloween-candy-colored grasses and reeds on one side and a row of handsome evergreens on the other. There's a nice camp on the north side of the lake; perhaps even more as we weren't looking for campsites. Fall color is just starting up and mushrooms are emerging.

Not too far from the lake we came upon the Sand Lake Shelter; it was looking like it had a hard life but was still standing and ready to serve those in need of shelter. The shelter is used year-round not only by hikers but snowshoers and skiers. It'd make a fine winter camp.

A couple hikers we met were scouting out the trail for ski trips this winter; they knew this place like the back of their hands and told us how to get to Cortright Point a little further away. Who could resist?

However since days are growing short and you don't live in Packwood or Randle you should probably call it a day when you get to Sand Lake. We think the drive is worth it.

Stats: Sand Lake round trip is about six miles with 900 feet of gain. Cortright Point is a little further. You can also get to Sand Lake on the Sand Lake Trail No. 60 which is reached from another trailhead. See Green Trails Map White Pass (No. 303).

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