Where to go on the first day of a holiday weekend?
Preferably somewhere where there will be little camping. I had done Vesper
twice before but Gary had not been up it. We met in Bothell at 6:30 and
were on the trail by 8:00 am. There was only one car in the lot when we
arrived. The forecast was for mid 80s. It was almost chilly when we began.
The crossing of the South Fork Stilliguamish was easy. More than half the
way was on bare rock and the water has a short skinny log over it. There
is also a rope handline. Once out of the trees and into the tall brush we
found some recent brushing. The reason soon became apparent. Since my last
visit there has been a washout across the trail. The route has been rebuilt
across it. The brushing is around this point.
We climbed up into the basin and the trail was every bit as rocky as I remembered
it to be. The valley still had a lot of shade. It was quite warm in the sun
but much cooler in the shade. There are still lots of cairns across the talus.
We got off route a time or two but had no trouhle getting back on the "trail".
The trail up the valley has more elevation gain than I remember.
Soon enough, we were under Headlee Pass. Many short switchbacks later we
crested the pass. We should have had a nice view of Glacier Peak but it was
very hazy. In the other direction we did have a nice look at Vesper Peak.
The traverse across to the lake basin went quickly. We continued beyond the
summit trail and went to the lake. There is still a good sized snow bank
that may well survive the summer. The lake was calm providing some nice reflection
After our lake break we headed down the outlet creek and picked up the trail
once again. It was now getting much warmer and my pace slowed down. The route
up to the slabs is good in some places and not so good in others. It is always
easy to follow. The section through small trees is the steepest and worst.
As we neared the slabs we heard voices. Three hikers were now not too far
Once on the slabs you can go most any way. I chose a route up the center
on some of the steepest slabs. It was lots of fun. The rock is very sticky
making for great traction. There was still a few snow patches though they
are melting fast. All too soon we topped out on the summit. I clambered up
the last few rocks to the actual summit. The haze was in all directions. We
could see Sloan Peak okay but Glacier was still no more than a shadow. Big
Four was clear and Copper Lake sat right below us.
It was time for lunch. The other three hikers arrived. Not exactly a crowded
trail this day. Since it was still early we spent a long time on the summit.
In fact it was two full hours. Gary spotted a goat cooling his heels on a
snow patch below us. As the day wore on the haze did lessen. It was not entirely
clear but we could now see Pugh, White Chuck, Daniel, and Stuart among others.
A pair of hikers reached the top and turned around 10 minutes later. That's
a lot of work for a 10 minute stay. After the others left Gary and I headed
down. We chose a slightly more moderate route. As always, the slabs were a
blast. I was disappointed when we were back on the trail. Most of the descent
is a knee basher. Although only 4 miles it goes slow. The threesome on the
summit stopped at the lake and we saw two others there. One person dove into
the lake and lasted about 10 seconds before running back out. I suppose it
was a bit chilly.
We chose not to stop at the lake on the way down. We reached the pass and
dropped down in shade. Much of the valley below was already back in shade.
At the bottom of the pass we met a family coming up. The rest of the descent
was just one long rocky slog. In the last mile we met several groups. They
all asked how much further it was to the mine. They had no idea where it was
but were heading up the trail anyways. Perhaps its time to change the name
of the Sunrise Mine Trail.
We dunked out shirts in the ice cold creek coming down but they dried out
in no time. It was plenty hot for me. Back at the trailhead we found that
the car had recently passed into the shade. It made for a much more comfortable
interior. This was Gary's first time up and I think he had a good time. I
always love to visit. The trail is a bear but the summit views are well worth
it. The distance is only about 8 miles round trip with just over 4000' of