Dorothy, Bear, Deer, & Snoqualmie
I knew it had been some time since I last visited Snoqualmie Lake. I
did not realize it had been 16 years. After long and steep hikes the last
few weeks I was ready for a long and easy trip. This is a very busy trail
so I headed out early to beat the crowds. There were 5 cars with dewy windows
in the lot when I got started at about 9:00 am. I was the first day hiker
to arrive. The road is in very good shape. Excellent up to the bridge over
the East Fork Miller and good after that. I remember the trail being rocky
and knew that a great deal of trail work was done in the last few years. I
was still in for a shock.
There is very little natural trail left up to Lake Dorothy. It is almost
entirely man made. Some of this work was very necessary and a nice improvement.
Much of it is overkill in my opinion. Over time the wood will rot and massive
maintenance will be necessary. This idea of turning a trail into a city like
boardwalk is new and I am not a fan. It took me only 36 minutes to reach the
lake so for the most part I did get to hike on trail once at the lake.
Coming down I decided to count the wooden steps. There are 567 steps plus
about 90 rock steps. That means 657 man made steps in 7920 feet (1 1/2 miles),
or one step every 12 feet. That does not include 300+ feet of level boardwalk.
If you like walking steps this is the trail for you. In fairness, the steps
are not as high as most and many have dirt encased in a wooden border.
At the lake I took the short detour to the outlet. The water is low and
I could walk out a ways to get photos looking down the lake. I also
found the first of many ripe berries. Back on route the trail climbs 130'
above the lake then has a few ups and downs. This is a big lake and it takes
some time to walk the length of it. I did see one tent as I hiked along the
lake. At the inlet I crossed the bridge and soon came upon a campsite with
tents and blue tarps hanging over it all. A few ups and downs and the trail
begins the climb to the pass.
This trail has no long climbs but enough smaller ones to add up. The trailhead
is at 2200'. Dorothy is at 3058'. The pass is at 3800' and Snoqualmie Lake,
the low point, is at 3147'. Trail work continues along Lake Dorothy but very
little has occurred beyond. The trail is a little rocky but not bad. There
is one very bad mud spot at bout 3250'. It is wide, deep, and difficult to
get around. With a good deal of effort I managed to get by with dry feet.
This small section really does need steps, gravel, or whatever can repair
the mess. There is also a big tree down that I crawled under with some difficulty.
It took me 2 hours to reach the pass. Now it was all down hill to the three
remaining lakes. The day began cool but was already heating up. Much of this
route is in forest and makes for a nice cool hike on a hot day. It took only
a few minutes to drop to Bear Lake. The campsites at Bear and Deer are really
just wide spots in the trail. None of them had any campers. Bear and Deer
are larger than I remembered. From Bear it only takes a few minutes more to
reach Deer. Along the lakes I found plenty of ripe berries. My progress was
slowed considerably. Time was not a concern this day and I enjoyed the berries.
From the end of Deer Lake I could see slices of Snoqualmie Lake below. I
could see the little peninsula which juts out into the lake. I recall a campsite
there from a previous visit. The trail down to Snoqualmie is okay but it has
some short scrambly spots. Not hard but possible to slip and slide on angled
mossy rock. Now 6 miles from the trailhead, I had no desire to twist an ankle.
Other than that, the trail on down is fine. It does not come close to the
shore and I kept looking for a side trail to the peninsula.
I did not look hard enough and soon the route did drop down to the shore
but well beyond the peninsula. There was an inlet creek which I followed a
short distance. This end was grassy with a few larger rocks. One of them was
angled perfectly for a napping rock. I had some lunch and proceeded to try
it out. I have slept on many a summit and at many a lake and laying alone
in the warm sun it was easy to nod off.
A little later I heard voices (really!). It was the first people I had seen
all day. They waved from the trail and kept going. They were coming up from
the Taylor River side. A little more rest and it was time to head on back.
As I reached the trail I met another hiker. He was with the other two and
had in fact come up from the Taylor River. We talked a little as we walked
up the trail. I was determined to find the side trail this time. It turns
out the other hikers had left a sack of crackers there to help the third hiker
find them. It was not that obvious but I don't know how I missed it coming
Now it was time to climb back up to Deer Lake. At the lake I found an overgrown
side trail that ended at some rocks on the shore. It was shaded and made a
nice place to enjoy the lake. All too soon I was back on the trail. The berries
were thick and I spent more time filling my belly. Some were very sweet.
Between Bear Lake and the pass I met two pairs of backpackers. They were
the only people from the Dorothy side I saw above Lake Dorothy.
The rest of the route out was hot but not hard. From the inlet of Dorothy
to the car I passed more than a dozen hikers. It was still not as crowded
as I expected. Coming down I passed the time by counting the steps. Back at
the trailhead there were now closer to 30 cars. Strange that I did not see
many of those people. Although I am no fan of recent trail building practices
this is a nice hike. It ended up being 13 miles with over 3000' of gain but
it was never strenuous. Compared to Snowking last week it was a walk in the
park. A nice way to while away a late summer day.