Summer is back with a vengeance! We had a lovely cool few days early this last week, but by the weekend, temperatures had climbed back to a summery 85°. According to the forecast, they'll continue to climb higher over the next week. In past summers, when temps are this high, I'd spend the weekend a home reading trail reports from other hikers, thinking they were insane to be hiking in the heat. This year, Andy and I were those crazy hikers. Not only did we hit the trail this weekend, we went on our longest, most difficult backpacking trip of the year. Crazy indeed!
It was definitely hot, and plenty miserable at times, but also totally wonderful. Since Andy didn't want a long drive to the trailhead, we planned to start at Snow Lake, one of the busiest trailheads in the state. We were able to leave most of the crowds behind with an early start, and by hiking well beyond the dayhiker mobs. The plan had been to hike all the way to Upper Wilcat Lake but we had forgotten our topo map, and the only trail directions I had past Lower Wildcat Lake was the vague (and likely inaccurate!) information from the Washington Trails Association website. All that, combined with the unrelentingly steep descent from Gem Lake to Lower Wildcat Lake, made us decide to stop at Lower Wildcat Lake, even though it was hugely disappointing after hiking past beautiful Snow and Gem lakes. I was so disappointed that I didn't even take photos of Lower Wildcat Lake. Still, we spent a lovely evening camping in the woods, and we had the lake all to ourselves. Sunday morning, we got an early enough start that we were able to hike the 1000 feet back up to Gem Lake in the shade, then take our time with the rest of the long, crowded, hot slog back to the car. Never have I been so happy to see a parking lot!