Mon 8 Sep 08

Itching for a hike, I spent Saturday morning scouting Google Maps terrain view of Washington for something of interest. I eventually settled on the Mt Daniel area in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, figuring it could be an aggressive day summit even with a bit of a late start. At the last minute though I decided to bring along some company and changed my plans to an overnight scenic hike with two of the dogs. I knew that meant not being able to scramble up the rocky upper portions of Mt Daniel, but figured it’d still be a fun outing (maybe more so). Nora’s a bit high strung and didn’t make the cut. Three dogs would’ve been a bit much anyway. Trammell and Taylor though happily clamored into the back of the Focus and off we went. After a two hour drive, including a horrendous twelve mile stretch down a washboard- and rock-filled forest service road, we arrived at the trailhead of the Cathedral Rock Trail 1345.

The dogs waited in the back of the car while I made some final adjustments to my far too heavy pack (ten cups of dog food didn’t help). Sniffing the air and cocking their heads at a few other hikers. I kept them leashed at the start of the hike hoping to contain some of the energy that they would need later in the day. They tugged for about ten minutes especially as we passed a couple other groups of hikers, but then relaxed to match my pace. I unleashed Trammell and he followed right at my heels. Very dog-friendly trail: dirt with patches of rock and a few boulders. We hammered away at an endless set of switchbacks, eventually (1500 feet of elevation gain later) breaking the monotony by popping into view of a small alpine lake with a few campsites scattered around its periphery. The dogs had lapped water from a few streams on the way up but happily slurped from the giant water dish and splashed around in the reeds. Not there yet though guys. Another 500 feet up and we enjoyed our first views of Cathedral Rock.

Up further still the trail cut through Spinola Meadows, a flowery flat area pocked with frog-filled mini ponds. Nearby ridges offered vistas to the East. Mount Stuart (climbed last October) pictured in the distance in the picture below-right.

A bit more climbing and we were through Cathedral Pass. We connected with Peggy’s Pond Trail 1375 and followed this around a rocky exposed stretch of trail skirting Cathedral Rock. I would not recommend this trail at all to anyone trying to keep track of two dogs. The dogs themselves didn’t seem overly concerned, but I played the role of spotter in three or four spots where they were skittering down a narrow ledge with a lot of slope below. The pictures below were taken from trail 1375, but not from the exposed sections.

Reaching the trees on the far side of the slope, we stopped for about fifteen minutes, looking out over the valley to Deep Lake below and refueling. The dogs both had a few handfuls of Canidae and shared some of my Ritz crackers. The dogs seemed more interested in continuing down the trail than enjoying the scenery so off we went. Five minutes of hopping over logs and ducking under pine trees and we emerged at Peggy’s Pond.

As we stepped into the meadows near Peggy’s Pond, the dogs, who had been dutifully walking behind me, jubilantly welcomed the change in terrain with sprints and bounds. They chased each other down the trail and splashed into Peggy’s Pond. Cathedral Rock loomed overhead. There were a few campsites set up in the area and just to avoid the chance of an overly-exuberant dog interrupting someone’s peace and quiet I ended up leashing both dogs again for a few minutes as we continued down the trail.

From Peggy’s Pond the trail turned toward Mt Daniel and became much rockier. The dogs picked their steps more carefully, but didn’t seem too bothered by the pointy footing. The slope was still fairly gradual at this point.

Trammell was bothered a bit, however, by the mosquito-net-wearing couple we passed on the way out of the meadow. Alien and ominous in their Back to the Future head regalia. He gave a low warning growl as we passed, warily glancing over his shoulder several times. Below: Looking back at Cathedral Rock and Trammell posing in front of Mt Daniel in the distance.

After Peggy’s Pond we had the backcountry entirely to ourselves. On a gorgeous Saturday afternoon, crazy. I suppose anyone who had come this far was probably following the higher ridges toward the summit of Mt Daniel. The landscape shifted from trees and flowers to rock and glaciers. I love these locations that let me know I’m disconnected from the norm. Stark granite punctuated by vibrant blues and greens. The dogs sniffed and explored, perking up as the marmots serenaded us with their shrill cries from the cliffs.

Trammell galloped through a small glacial pool. Running laps on the beach and plucking objects from the bottom. Taylor chased briefly then was content to lap at the water and wander the shore.

Heading further up a somewhat steeper section Trammell was thrilled to discover snow. Snow in the summer! Woof! He ran and cut and crouched and burst again showering me in snow spray as he passed. Taylor gobbled down what she could.

At this point it was about 4:30 and I was starting to have second thoughts about camping. Given the surrounding steep slopes, hiking options would be limited for the next day and I still had enough daylight to get back to the trailhead. I’d basically just be hiking out in the morning anyway. Though catching a sunrise lighting up Cathedral Rock in the morning would almost certainly be mesmerizing. I fed the dogs from a Frisbee while I thought it over.

I decided to climb a little higher. The dogs had to do more scrambling as we headed up steeper rock and it was fun watching them route find as they trailed behind me. Occasionally Taylor would get stumped by a tricky boulder and I would backtrack to point out a dog-friendly route to her. We topped out at our high point of the hike (elevation 6500 ft) to find a sloping glacier and more turquoise pools (check out the depth of the one Trammell is looking at).

I’m used to seeing crevasses fissuring in horizontal planes. This one was spiraling and as Trammell and I peaked into the gap I was surprised to see how deep the crack went. Trammell backpedaled quickly.

I didn’t check the time, but with the light fading I knew it was probably time to turn back if we were going to make it back to the car before dark. No camping it is. Would’ve saved a good forty pounds of gear to have figured that out ahead of time. Oh well, at least it was a good workout. Looking up at the peak, I was a bit bummed to miss out on the vistas that would certainly accompany another hour of scrambling, but mostly I was happy to be able to romp through the wilderness with a couple of good companions.

We retraced our path back down the rock slope and I was surprised with how nimbly the dogs handled the descent. Trammell scampered down whatever looked easiest nearby and Taylor made traverses whenever she felt uncomfortable. All that city life and still lissome in the wild.

The dogs handled the slopes around Cathedral Rock again, but I had to give Taylor a boost a few times and I watched Trammell very closely. At Cathedral Pass we followed a side path higher on the ridge for a while before dropping back down to the main trail.

Below: A look down at Deep Lake from the slopes of Cathedral Rock. And a look back at Cathedral Rock from near Cathedral Pass.

I think the dogs were starting to feel the miles and they dropped into step behind me, occasionally trotting ahead, but never far off. Again the endless switchbacks and finally we reached the car at about 7:40. The dogs lay down immediately in the back and slept hard most of the way home. A few more photos can be found here.

2 thoughts on “Mon 8 Sep 08

  1. Gregg Pohll

    Beautiful photos and great looking dogs. You must make tham very happy. I also appreciate your writing. Very well done and I appreciate your reports and experiences.

    I would like to caution you though as a long time Park Ranger and Naturalist that having dogs in the high country this time of year really throughs the Pikas and Marmonts off their game plan. The behaviors of the Pikas can change for day after a “close call” with a percieved predator. They are gathering food and just a short change in bahvior can cost them dearly this time of year. I guess my message is to make sure you keep your dogs very close between now and the time the snow flies when you are in the alpine areas.

  2. Josh Post author

    Thanks for the heads up. I’ll be sure to keep that in mind if I’m ever up in the high country with the dogs again (only been up there once with them in the two summers I’ve lived in Washington; we normally stick to the grassy parks close to home). I picked this hike because it was listed as one of the best places to hike with your dog in Western Washington (Google Book link with text).

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