Ponds & Beyond
It was Labor Day Weekend. I had not
been out backpacking in 13 months. The forecast was for a chance of
rain each day. Kim and I hashed over a few ideas. Janet signed on too.
We chose a trip off Highway 2. Potential for a ridiculously slow drive
home. Nonetheless, this trip fit the bill. Kim and I first day hiked up
Ponds in mid July 2013. It was a
long 13 mile day with 3100' of gain including a trip up to the upper
pond. We saw just one or two other groups that day. An extra 1.5 miles
goes over the Cascade Crest to Pear Lake and then the Pacific Crest
Trail (PCT). We needed a backpacking trip for that additional
exploration. Kim had been back several times since the first visit.
I met Kim then we headed to Janet's place. From there it was off to
Highway 2 heading east. Traffic on the first day of the three day
weekend was not bad. We turned off just after Skykomish on the Beckler
River Road. Just after the pavement ended we headed up the Rapid River
Road to the trailhead. Folks were camping just off the road but we were
the first car to arrive at the trailhead at about 9:00 am. By 9:15 am
we were packed up and on our way. Our friend Gwen had hiked up earlier
in the summer and had many down trees to work over or around. The
trailhead trail report mentioned the trail was cleared as of 7-31-16.
The route starts with some moderately steep switchbacks on rocky tread.
Not much of a problem heading up but a pain in the feet on the descent.
It was very overcast as we started out. After climbing steadily the
trail suddenly begins a traverse to the left (west). From here on the
trail is in excellent shape. A little brushy down low but not bad.
Higher up there has been extensive recent brushing. The tread is mostly
soft with few roots or impediments. Overall, I find it to be an
excellent trail. The traverse leads to thicker forest. Two switchbacks
lead to another long traverse as the route moves into the Meadow Creek
drainage and follows high above the creek. The forest has a wide
variety of trees. There are some large ones along here. In places the
leaves are already beginning to turn color.
We climbed into the clouds. A little rain began to fall. It was moist
enough with rain and wet brush that I we stopped to put on rain pants.
I used and umbrella and did not put on a jacket all the way up. We
found a great variety of fungi. A number of types of mushrooms plus
some huge shelf fungus. There were just a couple saprophyte sightings.
The coral root was still in good shape. Janet noticed some
yellowjackets and Kim saw them coming out of the ground. Not in big
numbers and not aggressive. We sped through three or four spots with no
stings. The cold temperatures likely had something to do with it. Kim
saw then the previous fall after the Meadow Creek crossings. We saw
more before the crossings this year.
At about the half way point we reached Meadow Creek. It was wide enough
to require a ford in 2013. In early September it was an easy rock hop.
Still plenty of running water but much less than in mid July 2013.
There are only a couple of campsites at the Lower Fortune Pond. The
upper pond has no trail and minimal camping space if any. We were a
little concerned that a few faster groups might pass us and leave us
looking for space to camp. At the first crossing of Meadow Creek a five
person group did catch up with us. Kim talked with them while Janet and
I, already across the creek, continued on. We decided that i would
speed up and try to reach the ponds first. After a slow steady pace the
first half of the way I sped up considerably the rest of the way.
The trail stays on the far side of the creek for about .75 miles before
recrossing. It crosses at Fortune Pass. A big tree there had an old
sign for the defunct Snoqualmie National Forest. It was bent by tree
growth and now just had the words "Fort Ass" "Elev 0" showing. We
photographed it in 2013. On her earlier trip Gwen found a big bunch of
big trees down here. The route has been cut through all the blow downs
but the tree with the sign seemed to be missing. I took a quick look
and could not see the sign. The tree appeared to have fallen direction
down on the sign side. After a quick look I headed higher. There is
only one switchback from the pass to the ponds. The trail seems to go
straight ahead. A pile of sticks and small logs block the route. The
trail clearly switchbacks here. Once more a short way above and it
continues up to the ponds.
The forest gives way to meadows as the route flattens. The berry
bonanza starts here. I could not resist stopping for a few of the sweet
ripe blue and huckleberries. The rain had stopped by Fortune Pass and I
had put away the umbrella. The clouds were still right near the
surface. A last short descent brought me down to Lower Fortune Pond. I
quickly dropped my pack and scouted out the sights. There is not much.
Just across the outlet is a well used spot that is right on the shore
of the pond. This is clearly to close to be allowed for use. A short
trail leads to some spots a little farther from the water. Just before
the outlet is a trail junction. The old PCT went through here. It is
now signed as "abandoned". A big campsite sits close by. I grabbed that
one. It has more trees and some protection from wind and rain. At this
time the rain began to fall again. I was dry just under a tree at the
campsite. Rain covered the surface of the pond.
Some 43 minutes later the big group arrived. A few minutes after that
Kim and Janet arrived. Some of that time was taken up by the groups'
berry eating on the way in. I did some while waiting. The other group
mentioned that they had one yellowjacket sting just below the one
switchback after Fortune Pass. By the time we were ready to put up
tents the rain had stopped. By some miracle it never started up again
for the rest of the trip. We explored around the area, had dinner, and
photographed the evening light. It was dark by 8:15 pm and we were all
in bed. With no long day planned for Sunday we planned to sleep in. A
little rain the first day but otherwise it was a fine day to get
A link to Days 2 & 3 report and photos is after the photos
Click on thumbnails to get
Freckled Pelt Fungus
Another Big Mushroom
Jackson Wilderness Sign
Great Mossy Color
Kim On Trail
Meadow Creek Meadow
Meadow Near Pond
Pond Just Ahead
Lower Fortune Pond
Hard Rain Arrives
Old PCT Route
Blue Sky & Clouds
"J" Scale Demonstration
Another Big Fungus
Pika On The Rocks
More Great Color
Lit Up Tent
2 & 3