Hike to Greider Lakes, Snoqualmie National Forest

April 19, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

The dusty gravel roads twist through the trees, caving dramatically away on one side then the other, so steep the slopes aren't visible from the driver's seat of my battle-scarred minivan. Serpentine movement bring me back to the days when I was roaming the hills of western Montana, exploring the dusty Forest Service roads looking for a place to take a picture, or set up the tent and stay awhile. But now, I'm going to a dam, then hiking to a lake high up in the Cascades. The van creaks and moans, the fuel gauge waving feebly, goodbye.

The dam is boring. The lake is low, so nothing pours furiously through the black-hole overflow spout. Piles of driftwood collect on the side of the road, next to signs instructing visitors not to touch the water. Back to the car.

I move on the the South Fork Site, where there is a boat ramp and more signs advising a lack of “body-contact” with the water, straining my feeble understanding of typical boat-related activities. Here, I wander the muddy beach, admiring the dozens of half-submerged trees that wander like mutated octopuses through the emerald water. There is a picnic area here, but I'm two hours away from lunchtime, so I move on.

Spada Lake, Snohomish County, Washington.

At the Greider Lakes trailhead, I gather my meager equipment and food. The trail begins by winding expressively through the mossy lakeside old-growth, the kind of soft, sun-dappled scenery I see in my head when I read about forested alien planets. Soon, this intersects with an old road bed, cut violently at intervals to allow the creeks to run through unimpeded. This portion of the hike is bland, and not very inspiring. Press on to the Bear Creek site for the best view of the eastern half of the lake.

Sultan River, Washington

Another trailhead marks the departure of the Boulder Lake trail from the path I'll follow. I skip the side trail around the reflecting ponds, as I'm two short miles away from lunch, and hungry. However, my plans are foiled as over the next mile I'll gain over 1300 vertical feet. I can hike the Tooth of Time Stockade trail in 45 minutes, but this slog cost me over an hour. Steps of rocks and chainsawed voids in fallen trees guide me through what seems like thousands of switchbacks, with the tantalizing sound of Greider Creek bubbling just out of site. Far above me, I can hear the intermittent voices of the Washington Conservation Corps trail crew that passed me somewhere near Bear Creek, while I was failing to make a picture of rushing water. Heavily laden by cameras, tripods, and cheese, I can't envy those young men and women who cheerfully bounce up the same trail I'm on, but further encumbered by axes, pick-mattocks, and at least one chainsaw.

After a Sisyphean eternity on those switchbacks, the trail emerges at the edge of Little Greider Lake, where I encounter the trail crew eating lunch among the last remnants of cool white snow under the trees. Another half-mile of trail is all that stands between me and the lukewarm fixins in my pack. I trudge onward.

Finally, past the empty campsites and over a rickety wooden walkway, I arrive at the base of Big Greider Lake, a pool of clear mountain water backed by a towering cliff face, itself cut by dozens of tiny waterfalls. The hundreds of fallen logs washed up at the north end of the lake are sturdy, and finding a conveniently seat-shaped one, I sit and consume my eagerly anticipated lunch of ham, cheese, raisins, and apple. Although signs warned of bear, I see none.

Big Greider Lake, Washington

After dozing in the sun on the logs like a wild animal, I pack up my detritus and hike/roll back down the mountain, passing a sweaty and cursing trail crew wrestling problematic downed trees off the trail. My aching legs convince me to pause at the aforementioned Bear Creek site to scarf the rest of my food and try out my new speedlight for a forgivable self-portrait with the lake as backdrop.


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