My friend and former teammate Hillary had asked me the weekend before at Derby Days if I wanted to go hiking at some point in the next week as it was her “rest week”.
Myself, being in permanent “rest” due to injuries sustained through the last cycling vs. vehicle accident I was involved in, in which the vehicle of course won, I was happy to go wonder around nature.
Originally we had planned a Wednesday hike, but as Wednesday came around, we settled on a Saturday hike instead, and having the year previously (thank you Facebook for the reminder!) hiked Rachel Lake with Zach, Hillary had commented that she wanted to do that hike.
So I made plans with her to finally get her up to Rachel Lake, and Rampart Lakes if we had the time.
Wanting to get an earlier start due to it being a weekend and parking always a concern, we met at Pioneer Coffee in North Bend at 7am and headed up.
Before long, we were at exit 62 on I90 and heading towards the trail-head on the forest service road that turns to gravel after passing the Kachess Lake Campground.
I remembered this road the year prior being pretty riddled with washboards for the first section of it as it climbs up, and it still is.
What I didn’t remember is just how pothole-riddled the rest of it is.
Taking it easy, as to not inflict motion sickness on my passenger, we came to the trail-head parking lot, which was already nearly full to my surprise being that early.
Heading up, we took our time, stopping to view Box Creek from its various view points, looking at flowers, and just taking in the views as we climbed in elevation.
The trail starts off with some grade, levels out, then in the last mile and a quarter or so, the grade increases as you take large steps up rocks and roots.
This section of the trail in the dry can be technical to keep your feet under you, let alone it being damp or wet.
The silty ground, the mossy rocks where water flows consistent down parts, and the smooth surface of rocks and roots make it sometimes difficult to keep a solid grip.
The key is good balance, and good tread on your boots. Those you see struggling the most are ones out in regular tennis shoes or the like without decent lugs to grab into the cracks and crevices.
We made it to Rachel Lake, and with it a lot of other people around it fishing.
We hung out for a few minutes, then decided to climb up Rampart Ridge to get a better view.
Again the trail gets narrow, technical, and the grade increases.
The switchbacks up though give you a little better view each time, and eventually you’ll end up looking down on the lake perched high above it before you finally crest over the top of the ridge.
We decided to keep on pushing, since time was still on our side. I had another engagement later that evening at a birthday party that I was expected to bring my from scratch Mac and Cheese, so that is what would ultimately set our turn around time.
We wandered around following the trail, eventually passing the cutoff to Lila Lake and continued on towards Rampart Lakes.
Having only ever hiked up to Rachel in the past, I didn’t really know what I was in for.
But eventually we came to the surrounding ponds, beautiful in their own setting, then we crept up over another ridge to the setting of a small stream cut through the rock with green vegetation all around.
Pushing on we came to one of the first larger lakes of the Rampart Lakes, a serious of small interconnected lakes.
We then pushed up over another ridge, and was greeted by another lake.
It seemed everywhere we went, we ran into another lake, until eventually we though we had explored them all and headed back.
We passed group after group of people that were heading up, both to Rampart and Rachel, and when we returned to the lot, there was tons of cars parked off the road.
I had figured the lot would fill, but I didn’t realize that it was such a popular destination.
There were cars lining the road out for a mile down, making it difficult to actually stay on the road without scraping one side of the vehicle against the trees on the opposite side.
Overall, the scenery is well worth the hike up, especially if you continue on the extra mile and a half or so from Rachel to Rampart Lakes which also have plenty of spots to pitch a tent and enjoy an overnight weekend trip, and with the amount of people up there with fishing rods, I would assume some decent sport fishing could be had.