Granite Lakes

Yesterday was a big wind storm which shut down the floating bridges. Today was the calm and after the storm and the day of the Seahawks first Super Bowl. With that in mind we needed a snowshoe trip which would get us home before the game started. Suzanne, Kolleen, and Bob were along for these close in lakes. They are not the most popular destination as the route is entirely up a logging road. In the winter, with a layer of snow, the stumps are covered and the trip is much more enjoyable. We met at the Mailbox Peak trailhead, near the end of pavement on the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Road. By 7:40 we were on our way. We first walked about .20 miles down the road to the gated road on the right.

The over night snow level was forecast to be about 1000' and the trailhead is at 820'. I expected to hit snow by about 1500'. The high winds from the previous day left some concern that the road/trail would be a mess of downed logs. In fact there were only a few trees down and the snow level was much higher than I expected. The road is moderately graded and in fine shape. At a sharp rightward switchback the old road went straight ahead. That road is now hard to see. I took it two years ago and found out that the road fell into the creek leaving a difficult scramble across. The new road is longer with more elevation gain but much easier and safer.

Where the road crosses the creek, remnants of the old road can be seen again. Now back on the old route we began to move across the ridge coming down from Mailbox Peak.  At some point I need to try the cross country route up Mailbox from here. I hear there is plenty of bushwhacking near the top. After crossing the ridge the road drops a little to cross Granite Creek on an old road bridge. Finally at about 2200' we hit traces of snow.

Very quickly the snow went from a trace to a dusting to covering the road. We trudged on until we were sinking 6" and stopped to put on snowshoes. Suzanne continued to set a fast pace and after a short "s" turn the road straightened out and headed a little more steeply uphill. We soon came to a road heading off right and downhill. It crosses Granite Creek a little below the lower lake. We continued on.

The next right turn is the route to the lakes. There are two picnic tables near the intersection. The snow was a bit deeper than the tops of the tables. The intersection, at about 3100', was roughly the high point of the day. Upper Granite Lake is just below 3100'. The road descended while heading straight towards the lower lake. It then turned to parallel the lakes. When the road petered out we headed cross country towards the upper lake.

There are logs and scars of past logging here but with more than 3 feet of snow it was all covered by an unmarked layer of white. The only tracks we saw where made by animals. The terrain was mostly open but with the buried small bushes and logs Bob and I managed to posthole to our waists several times each. Suzanne and Kolleen did not seem to have any problems. The Middle Fork Valley was covered by low clouds when we began but as we reached Upper Granite Lake the skies turned to a strange blue color I can barely recall having seen before. The last 6 weeks have been continuously gray and rainy. It was nice to see the sun again.

The upper lake was snow covered with just near the outlet being open water. It was a nice place for lunch. After our break we headed down to the lower lake. Bob and I again managed to make some monumental postholes on the way. Directly above us was Dirty Harry's Peak. One week ago we were on the summit and could not even see straight down to the lakes. Visibility was not a problem now. The lower lake was completely snow covered. Looking down the lake and across the Middle Fork Valley was Green Mountain and some lower level clouds. It was rapidly turning into a spectacular day to be out snowshoeing.

Getting off the popular routes into unmarked snow is among the best things about snowshoeing. Add a couple of lakes and sunshine and you have the makings of a great trip. I lagged behind the others as we climbed up from the lower lake. Most of my winter photos have looked like black and whites. With the sunshine I could actually see some color. I took quite a few photos of the lakes and the peaks surrounding the valley. The summit of Mailbox was out of site but we could see near it. Web Mountain was above the upper lake. Across the valley was the bare ridge with a little cabin and Point 5124 which I visited two years before.

We soon found our inbound track and followed it back. I caught up with the group back at the intersection. We slogged back down the road. In several places small creeks cut across the road and it was bare down to dirt. We jumped some and climbed down and back up for the others. As is usually the case we kept snowshoes on long past the point where we put them on. We met one lone hiker who was coming up. I hope he enjoyed the track we set in the snow. All at once the snow ended and our snowshoes came off. From there it was an easy walk back down the road.

We reached the cars at about 1:00. It took about 4:20 for us to cover 11 miles with 2600' gained. While it is just a walk up a valley there is a bit of elevation gain. On the drive out we could look back to see the peaks of the Middle Fork bathed in sunshine. We were home by 2:00 in plenty of time to see the game. That was not pretty but our snowshoe trip was. It was nice to get out in fresh snow and some sunshine. Hopefully we will see more days like that this winter.

A number of photos are courtesy of Suzanne Hartman.

Grouse Ridge
Granite Road
Granite Creek
Snow & Dirt
Snowshoe Time
Lake Basin
Dirty Harry's Peak
Descending  Road
Fresh Snow
Near Upper Lake
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Photo Page 2

Trips - 2006