PCT Round Two Warmup – Hart Lake

— December 2, 2013

Hart Lake Trail - North Cascades
Peaks in Glacier Peak Wilderness. Photo by Brett Fisher.
July 1 – 2, 2013

Last night was cold enough to keep the mosquitoes down. Trail dogs are good for extra heat on a cold night. The Luck Dragon kept close. I think she was happy to have extra heat from me as well. She growled at something once but didn’t run off. I was pleased she stayed next to me. No walls on a tarp to keep her in if she wanted to chase something or ramble.

The Luck Dragon’s bed roll consists of a 2 ft x 3 ft piece of closed cell foam pad and an equal sized piece of fleece blanket. The foam pad doubles as a sitting and kneeling pad for me when the dog is not sleeping on it. She’s really happy to have the blanket put on her on cold nights. She gives me a “you really love me don’t you and I love you too” look when I put her blanket over her.

The cold also brought condensation. We’re only going a short ways today so I take the time to dry off my sleeping bag, ground cloth, and tarp. We’re waiting for Dances With Lizard. She’s bringing back my 2-Liter Platy bottle refilled with floatie free water. Good daughter. She delivers the water then departs for the bus to Lucerne and the boat down lake for her two weeks off.

Hart Lake

The Luck Dragon and I hike to Hart Lake. Mid-morning and it’s already hot out. We take a break by the Holden Lake Trail junction for water and snacks. The mosquitoes encourage a short break. We take a longer break and have lunch at the log bridge over Holden Creek. The Luck Dragon gets a meal in the morning and another in the evening. We’re trying out Nutro Natural Choice High Endurance dog food on the trail. This is a high calorie food developed for working dogs. In between, she has a few Zuke’s Power Bones and Zuke’s Hip Action snacks. One for energy and the other for hip strength. And she gets two fish oil pills each day to keep her coat healthy.

The water is running high, hard, and fast in the creek. Not too far past Holden Creek, we leave the firs and shade behind and start ascending. Magnificent glacier sculpted granite walls and peaks rise around us. The cliffs are punctuated with waterfalls.

And it’s hot. The air is hot and the trail is hot. Sandy stretches of trail hurt the Luck Dragon’s feet. We go through these as quickly as we can, running when it’s not too steep. I keep a look out for patches of shade for her to stand and walk in.

Trail Falls empties Hart Lake and it’s a gorgeous drop of water. I stand and watch for awhile.

We find seeps for the Luck Dragon to cool her feet in. Then streams. She lays in one to cool her entire self off. Smart dog.

Hart Lake Trail 3 - North Cascades
Backtrack, if you’re hot, this is what you do,” says the Luck Dragon. Photo by Brett Fisher.

There’s one last steep rise past Trail Falls, then the trail drops down to Hart Lake. We take our packs off by the sign pointing to the camping area. The Luck Dragon disappears in the brush. “Splash!” She’s found the lake. I wade. The Luck Dragon swims for sticks. The icy water feels good on my feet, ankles, and knees. My lower legs are numb in just a couple of minutes so I retreat to the shore and shade.

We check out the camping area. As we had been informed, a Washington Trails Association crew has filled up the site. We find a flat spot where the trail leaves the tent sites and take a nap. It gets buggy so I put my head net on. Late afternoon, and the trail crew straggles in. There are twelve of them. They look hot and tired. The Luck Dragon gives them her “I don’t know you” challenge, which is quite a menacing bark. And then she makes friends. We’re shown a tent site that the trail crew was told to leave open for hikers. I set up camp and make some dinner – mashed potatoes, SPAM, and cheddar cheese. Good trail food.

My meal timing is off. The trail crew invites us to a burrito dinner. I’m only a day and a few miles into this trek, so I decline second dinner. Unheard of for a hiker, right? The Luck Dragon and I hang out with the crew while they eat. We share information, and swap trail stories and lies. The dog gets a lot of attention. Then we head to bed as night falls.

Back to Holden Village

The mosquitoes were a nuisance last night. I slept with my head net on. I had thought of hiking on to Lyman Lake today, and maybe even over the pass to the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail. But the trail crew says it’s still snowed in up there. So we’re just going to explore around Hart Lake, swim, and let my knees rest.

The Luck Dragon and I walk back towards Trail Falls looking for a way down to the top of the falls. Nothing. Not even a deer track. So we return to the lake for a swim. My swim lasts all of three seconds. Maybe five. I’m in the water. I’m swimming. I’m out of the water. That water is frigid. I dry off in the sun and throw sticks for the Luck Dragon.

We walk back to camp for some lunch. The flies are bad. First mosquitoes. Now flies. I decide to go back to Holden Village instead of camping here another night. I leave a note saying “see you down the trail” to the crew and start the trip back. It’s much cooler and fewer bugs back at the Holden Village Campground.

I stow our packs in the bear box and we walk into Holden Village. We hang out at the edge of the Village on the porch of the Hike Haus because of the Village no dog rule. We drink water. I realize I’m a bit dehydrated. Eventually we see Lori. She gets me a cold pack for my knees. Thank you. They’re still feeling fine, but I’m just being cautious. Lori finds Blaze. We chat and I come up with a new hiking plan.

On the way back to camp, the Luck Dragon and I walk within 10 yards of a doe. The dog shows no interest in chasing this or other deer we’ve encountered. Maybe she thinks they are big sheep and she learned not to chase sheep on our farm as a puppy. Blaze comes by for a visit. She says she has some days off later in the week and might hike with me then.

Day 2-3: Nine miles hiked. Camped at Hart Lake one night, and back at Holden Village Campground the next.

Hart Lake Trail 2 - North Cascades
More peaks in Glacier Peak Wilderness. Photo by Brett Fisher.
Trail Falls - North Cascades
The cascading Trail Falls is the outlet for Hart Lake. Photo by Brett Fisher.
Hart Lake Basin - North Cascades
A waterfall in the basin walls above Hart Lake. Photo by Brett Fisher.