The Pacific Crest Trail passes by quite a few lakes in Washington, which is not surprising, especially since about 70 miles of the PCT goes through a place called ‘Alpine Lakes Wilderness’. Heck, just a few miles north of the Bridge of the Gods there is a lake – Gillette Lake.
Some names for lakes appear over and over again – for example, I passed by three different lakes called ‘Sheep Lake’.
First of all, lakes often provide good camping! In a land full of mountains, it is sometimes hard to find a good flat spot to pitch a tent, but lakeshores tend to have flat places for tents. Of course, camping is bad for the vegetation around lakes, which why most (all?) wilderness areas have a rule saying that camping is prohibited within 100 feet of the lake. However, a lot of people ignore this rule.
Though I appreciate the camping opportunities offered by lakes, they do have a few disadvantages. First of all, they may be havens for flying insects which bite humans. Second of all, they increase the risk of condensation in tents, which was an important consideration for me since my tent will get condensation if I do not choose a good site for it. These two problems are the may reasons I would prefer to camp next to a creek over camping next to a lake. But the most important consideration for picking a camping place is whether it is where I am at the end of a hiking day, and sometimes my hiking day ended at lakes rather than creeks or dry camps.
Anyway, here is a run-down of all of the lakes where I camped:
Pipe Lake is a lovely lake, but what I remember most about the lake is that I camped next to some people from the Tri-Cities area. It was a pleasure to share the evening with them.
Dewey Lake was magnificent in a way which my photos fail to capture. It was not the best camping spot due to the abundance of flying insects which like to bite humans, but it worked well enough as a place to sleep. Besides, did I mention that it was magnificent?
Ridge Lake was an important water source because it was the last water source for over five miles (unless you were desperate enough to get water from puddles), and those were five of the hardest miles on the PCT in Washington at that. I didn’t just get water at Ridge Lake, I slept there (and many others camped there too, including rock climbers).
Like many hikers, I decided to camp at Lake Janus since it was the last major camping area (not to mention the last campsite with water) before an uphill climb that none of us were in the mood for that evening.
Purple Point Campground, which is where I slept in the town of Stehekin, is just a stone’s throw away from Lake Chelan, which is the largest lake in the entire state of Washington (!), the third deepest lake in the USA (!!) (the PCT also passes the deepest and second deepest lakes in the USA – Crater Lake and Lake Tahoe).
Last but not least is Hopkins Lake, the very last place I camped on the PCT before I completed my hike through Washington. I admit that I was not having the best hiking day, and I was really looking forward to seeing the lake. I wasn’t thinking much about reaching the USA/Canada border, I wanted to see the lake because that meant I would be able to stop hiking. And indeed, when I first saw the lake from above, I was really happy, because even though it took a little while before I was actually at the lake, I knew that I was near my place of rest. Furthermore, it was the first water source after 10 miles of no water – getting to a water source after 10 dry miles is always a relief. A lot of people camped there (it’s arguably the best campsite near the USA/Canada border), and it had great meaning for most of us because it marked the ends of our hikes, however long or short they were. I couldn’t believe that it was my last night in my tent! For those of us who were continuing into Canada, it was our last night in the United States.
There were, of course, lakes where I did not camp but are still extremely worthy of mention! I will share them with you in Part 2!