John Guilford's Hikes
Holden Lake on 1998-07-29
Location: Holden Lake
People: (including myself): just myself
My Alt. Real Alt.
Start (Holden): 11:45 3220 3220
Wilderness Bdy: 12:00 3280
Leave "Road": 12:10 3420
Creek: 12:30 3880
Creek: 1:20 4780
Holden Lake: 1:45 5120 5280
Leave lake: 2:20 5120
Creek: 2:40 5000
Creek: 2:47 4800
Creek: 3:42 3900
Arrive "Road": 4:05 3460
Wilderness Bdy: 4:23 3340
Out (Holden): 4:40 3280 3220
The day before leaving Holden was my last chance to get much of a hike in.
I was busy during the morning so I only had a half day to do the hike. I
wanted to get up to Holden lake and thought that I could do it in a half
day. My schedule was further constrained by it being a Wednesday which
meant that dinner was buffet style meaning there wasn't a 6:15 sitting,
just the 5:00-5:45 buffet. I skipped lunch, bringing some fruit and gorp
with me, and took off about 11:45.
The day was relatively warm though not scorchingly hot as it was earlier in
the week. The trail leads up a south facing side of the valley putting the
hiker in a hot sunny location while climbing. Ideally one would do it
earlier in the day when it was cooler, but despite it being hot, it wasn't
First one goes up the road from Holden till one gets to the Wilderness
boundary. This leads one past the camp ground and the ball field and the
remnants of the Miner's Village (where miners lived during the mining
years, but which were torn down after the mine closed and allowed to go
wild). At the boundary the trail narrows down to trail width (instead of
road width). It still is a good path gradually climbing up the river
valley. About ten minutes later the trail to Holden Lake leaves on the
right side of main trail. The main trail continues up the bottom of the
valley towards Hart Lake.
This trail is still in good shape though a bit smaller than the trail on
the valley floor. Here one starts gaining serious elevation, sometimes
hiking in the sun and sometimes hiking in shade. There was more shade that
I had been expecting, but I had expected to find little to no shade (so
much of any shade was more than I had expected). The trail heads WNW while
switchbacking up the hillside. At times one gets good views of Copper Peak
and Dumbbell Mountain. One can also see up valley, though Hart Lake lies
just beyond a bend in the valley (and hence is never seen). Looking back
down the valley one can see Holden, at least the old mill flanked by two
large tailings piles (the third level). One can also see the south flank
of Bonanza peak. No place along the trail is really very steep. It keeps
a rather gradual slope and makes up for that by switchbacking back and
forth. The lack of steepness meant that I good take a good pace going up
without killing myself and that coming down was easy on my joints.
Not knowing how long it would take me, I set a good pace on the way up.
The bug situation was quite a bit different than on my previous day's
hike. Here the flies weren't bad unless you stopped moving. While hiking
they weren't too irritating, but if you stopped for more than about 30
seconds, they'd start congregating till you had a half dozen or dozen flies
flying around and landing on you. The flies were kind of dumb and it
wasn't that hard to kill them. That was a losing proposition. In the time
it took to kill one fly two more would arrive (not that I didn't try :-).
This tended to motivate me to keep moving and not take long breaks.
In the sunny parts of the trail I wore my Seattle Sombrero which kept me a
bit cooler overall, though my hair got pretty sweaty and wet. In the
shadier parts I started taking the hat off to cool my head more.
Figuring that I could probably make better time going down than up if I had
to, I set a mental "turn around time" of about 3:45. To my surprise I got
up to the lake in two hours (which is much faster than my usual time to
hike 5 miles and climb two thousand feet, which by my usual reckoning of
1/2 hour per mile and 1/2 hour per thousand feet would be 3-1/2 hours).
I passed several groups coming down as I went up. They all thought I was
crazy for climbing up the trail in the heat of the day. One crosses
several small, unnamed creeks as one ascends the valley wall, none of which
are any problems for crossing. One pretty much just walk through them as
they are so small though they do make a good break for wetting down one's
The lake has some really nice views of the Mary Green glacier on the west
flank of Bonanza peak and several tall waterfalls falling into the lake
basin. On the west side of the lake a snow field extended almost all the
way to the lake. I thought about trying to get over there and at least get
my feet in the snow. However, the trail leads one to the south east corner
of the lake. The short way to the snow field would be to go left around
the lake. To do this, however, one has to cross Holden creek which is
relatively large. I went a short way downstream, but couldn't find a good
crossing spot. There was one set of rocks that probably could be jumped,
though I wouldn't want to do that while carrying my tripod (which I was
carrying on this hike). Jumping back would be a bit more difficult and
missing the rock would have unpleasant consequences. Instead I started
going around the long way (to the right). On the north side of the lake I
decided that I really didn't want to go to all that much trouble just for
I had hoped that here would be a breeze at the lake to keep the bugs down,
but there wasn't. Again I found I had to keep moving to keep the flies
from getting too annoying. I had to settle for eating an orange on the run
and stopping for some brief pictures. On the north side of the lake I
found a pretty little wild flower meadow, though I didn't dally there too
long due to the flies. I'm told that several weeks earlier when Rich had
hiked up there the flies weren't bad but the mosquitoes were. I'll take
the flies over the mosquitoes if given the chance as the flies really
weren't biting me (though the did bite Heather, some one I met on my way
After pictures and a snack I started back down. As I was considerably
ahead of schedule and in no rush, I took my time on the descent, taking
longer to go down than I did coming up.
A few minutes from the lake, I met another hiker coming up who was even
crazier than I was (i.e. someone who started up even later than I did and
also came up in the heat of the day).
Coming across one of the small streams I thought I'd try something
different. I soaked my hat and let it partially dry and then put it on.
It was definitely cooler that way, though it caused an interesting
sensation. I was warm as I hiked, but the hat dripped cold water down the
back of my neck giving me goose bumps.
The views going down the trail are pretty much just the reverse of going up
the trail, though the down hill hiking is much more pleasant than the up
hill. Near the bottom, between the last creek and where the trail joins
the Hart Lake trail, I came across a covey of ptarmigans. I think I
surprised a hen near her brood of chicks. Off the side of the trail I
heard high pitched "cheeping" as well as brush movements from the birds
moving. I think I upset the hen who turned to face me and who flared out
her feathers at me. For a moment I thought she might actually charge me,
but instead she turned around and started down the trail away from me while
clucking. I followed her down the trail and she stayed a constant distance
of about 20' in front. If I stopped, she'd stop. When I continued, she'd
continue. I think she was intentionally leading me away from her chicks.
A couple hundred feet down the trail she flew off the side of the trail and
"hid" in the brush as I went past. I thought that this would be the end of
the birds but a bit further down the trail I came across another couple
birds. I stopped to pull out my SLR and 200mm lens to get a better shot of
the bird just about the time that another bird, in the brush right behind
me along the trail, flushed out of her hiding place causing me to jump.
Camera in hand I again followed the bird on the trail down hill. I'm not
sure if this one was intentionally leading me or just trying to "escape"
along the easier line of travel, namely down the trail. I felt bad about
"chasing" it, but I had to go that way to get back down the trail.
Eventually it too left the trail and I passed on.
Back on the main trail (the Hart Lake trail) I bumped back into Heather who
had caught up with me on the way down (and who hiked down while reading a
book!) who accompanied me back to Holden.
Holden Lake, Mary Green glacier on Bonanza Peak
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Last updated on: Mon Jun 8 16:50:16 PDT 2015