Sunday, November 25, 2007
Let the I-90 hiking season begin!
47 miles outside of Seattle, less than 2 minutes off I-90 is not a recipe for success if you're seeking a hiking trail with any degree of solitude, especially when the destination is a pretty little sub-alpine lake, nested cozily between high ridges.
Yet that's the dilemna of Annette Lake, which for 6-8 months is roughly the hiking equivalent of 520 at rush hour. But beginning sometime in November, after the temperatures drop, the first snow flies and ice forms in the moist shadows, one can enjoy a bit of privacy on this admittedly average trail, well under an hour from Seattle.
Wanting to work off some holiday meals and anticipating chill temperatures and possibly a little snow to scare off the masses, I left Ballard Saturday morning at 11am and was on the trail by noon. There were just 7 cars on the strip-mall sized parking lot, one of them belonging to a single woman backpacker who had just spent a very cool night at the lake, with temps in the upper teens.
The trail starts off modestly switching back through a fairly open forest of fir with a stunning lack of undergrowth. After about a mile, the way crosses the Iron Horse Trail and continues up, sometimes steeply through groves of dark fir and the occasional cedar, with the freeway's faint roar mixing with a plethora of small rivulets casdcading down from the eastern ridge. At about 2500' fresh snow appears and the trail ices up, testing the grip on your boots and making one lust after those hikers coming down with walking poles.
After a little more than 2 hours, the trail flattens out and dead-ends in a picturesque bowl under snow-capped pinnacles, with the rather circular Annette Lake resting at their base. At around 2:30pm, the temperature was around 30 and there was not a breath of wind. A small waterfall was feeding the lake on the opposite shore and you could almost see a thin film of ice spreading across the water.
Soon enough some other hikers showed up, then some more and then some more. But for twenty minutes or so, plenty of time to eat lunch, all was quiet and peaceful and very, very worthwhile.