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John Guilford's Hikes

Pinnacle Lake on 2001-05-26

Date: 2001-05-26

Location: Pinnacle Lake

People: (including myself): Pam

			Real Alt.	Miles
Start:		3:05	2660		0
Bear Lake:	3:15	2776		0.3
Pinnacle Lake:	5:00	3790		1.9
Leave:		5:25	
Bear Lake:	6:40			3.5
Out:		6:45			3.8
We were looking for a relatively short, early season hike, and Pinnacle and Bear lakes seemed to fit the bill, especially as Pam hadn't been there before.  With it being Memorial Day weekend, we also figured that Pinnacle lake would be much less crowded than something like Lake 22 or Heather Lake. 

The six mile dirt road into the Bear Lake trailhead is somewhat tedious, and was in relatively good shape with sections of washboard and potholes. 

The day was warm and Pam opted to wear shorts while I wore my long, lightweight pants.  We weren't sure if we'd hit snow, but if not there would surely be mud, so we wore gaiters over our waterproof boots. 

The hike in from the trail head to Bear Lake is very short and quick.  If you are heading straight for Pinnacle Lake, you turn just before Bear Lake itself.  We opted to take the quick side trip to Bear Lake.  There we saw a group or two of people who apparently came for the fishing.  They brought inflatable boats and had one on the lake and other still on shore.  Standing on the shore, I saw what I first thought was a fish in the shallows.  A close look showed little feet instead of fins, so it was a salamander of some kind, about six inches long.  We then found several more moving about just above the bottom of the lake.  I'm not sure how they breath, but I was surprised to just see them hanging out underwater, apparently as content as could be.  The lake was ice free. 

After Bear Lake, the trail switchbacks and gains altitude before emerging onto the ridge line above Bear Lake which the trail follows to Pinnacle Lake.  The day was warm and we were both soon sweating as we climbed the hillside.  We started getting into patchy snow and mud.  At the bottom of the switchbacks, Pam tried crossing a patch of snow to avoid the mud on the trail and punched through into the mud under the snow bridge.  Fortunately her gaiters prevented more than just a little bit of snow from getting in.  If she hadn't been wearing gaiters, she would have gotten a boot full of gunk when she tried to extricate her boot. 

Shortly after reaching the ridge line, one gets a good overview of Bear Lake on your right.  It makes a good visual indicator of how much altitude you just gained.  By this time the trail had become mixed snow and dirt with much of the trail overlaid with well consolidated snow.  The snow made the going relatively easy, though I was glad for my waterproof boots and gaiters.  I wouldn't have liked to hike this with tennis shoes, as I saw a number of people doing.  They must have had pretty wet feet by the end!

After the climb up to the ridge, an apple sure tasted good and provided a sugar boost.  About here we met the first people we'd seen since Bear Lake coming down.  We succeeded in finding a trail that was uncrowded and peaceful (unlike the more popular trails).  Pam thought the terrain and forest were nicer than Lake 22 and Heather Lake.  I guess the six miles of dirt road scare off many casual hikers - either that or many people aren't as aware of Pinnacle Lake as they are of Lake 22 and Heather Lake

With the trail almost entirely under snow, we for the most part followed the existing foot prints, trusting that they knew where they were going.  This worked well till just before Pinnacle Lake.  Maybe a tenth of a mile from the lake, the real path went to the right.  Some people in front of us missed the turn and headed towards the left.  When we got to the junction, the path to the left was more obvious and we followed that.  When the path started heading down hill towards the creek/canyon that flows out of Pinnacle Lake, I figured that we'd missed the real trail some distance back.  However, I was sure that following the creek upstream would lead us to the lake, which it did in short order.  At the outflow of the lake, the normal route away from the lake was perfectly obvious.  Our detour was longer and tad more difficult than the correct path, but we didn't lose all that much time.  The lake was mostly ice covered, except near the edges and the outflow.  The snow on the left side of the lake, which one would have to take to get to the gully that leads up to the Bathtub Lakes area was unmarked - apparently no one had been through there in a while.  If we had started earlier, we thought we might like to go up to the Bathtub Lakes area, but with our late start, that wasn't really an option. 

The sun was still out, though high clouds were building.  We settled onto the snow next to the lake for a snack of bagels and some pictures before heading back down.  A few minutes after leaving (using the correct route), we came across the junction where we took the wrong turn.  Looking at the layout of the terrain and the shape of the snow, it was easy to see how we'd not seen the real path, it was easy to miss.

The way back passed a bit quicker than the way up, since we were going down hill.  At one point near the beginning of the descent from the ridge down towards Bear Lake, we lost the trail.  This was a section where the trail was half snow and half ground.  The foot steps in the snow petered out.  In places we'd see what looked like parts of the trail on the ground and tried following that a ways, but they all disappeared into nothing.  So we back tracked a hundred yards and found the switchback that we'd missed.  Judging from the steps in the snow, we weren't the first people to miss that turn.  Then I noticed a number of branches across the wrong turn, to let hikers know not to go there.  Apparently they weren't obvious enough for us, so Pam added some more branches to make it more clear. 

The bugs weren't bad on the hike, though a couple times when Pam stopped to adjust her boot laces a cloud of gnats would form.  We didn't find any bugs at Pinnacle Lake, though there were more at Bear Lake.  Back at the truck, as were changing into clean clothes, a bunch of mosquitoes and other flying bugs formed.  They weren't that aggressive, but they were annoying, so we got our changing down, and took off in the truck.  The breeze through the cab quickly got rid of any remaining bugs. 

Pinnacle Lake makes a good shorter length hike, particularly when one wants to avoid some of the crowding one finds at some of the other trails on Mt. Pilchuck

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Last updated on: Mon Jun 8 16:50:16 PDT 2015