Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Forging through rain to Melakwa Lake

"Into each life some rain must fall." -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

After my frigid hike in the Pratt Lake basin a few weeks ago, I vowed to return and see the views that before hid behind a cloud cover. No such luck. I may never see the alpine lakes in this area on anything other than a cold, dreary day. This time, however, I conquered the cold and enjoyed a nine mile hike in the rain to see Melakwa Lake.

It was 51 degrees and drizzling when I parked at the Denny Creek trailhead and pulled on extra layers. The hike started out easy, keeping to a flat, maintained path that rolls beneath the I-90 and passing a small waterfall. After a short mile or so, it dumped me directly at the base of a larger waterfall where a few crazy kids were taking advantage of a plunge pool. The smooth granite made for a perfect waterfall, though the water was freezing.

Since I was bundled up and fearful of getting wetter than I already was, I passed on the opportunity to swim and crossed the rocks to pick up the trailhead as it began to climb. The forest quickly gave way to a massive avalanche chute on one side and Keekwulee Falls on the other. The falls were as pretty as they always are but I was more intrigued by the rocky chute, wondering how often avalanches hit the area. All of the trees here were short – were they often bowled over by boulders? – and many of the branches were broken.

As I trekked on, I actually found myself sweating despite the rain. The path had become steep as I made my way up Denny Creek valley, looking out from time to time to see the evergreens shrouded in whispy clouds. I ambled up switchbacks, across the creek and over another rocky chute before pausing for a quick snack as the trail crested at Hemlock Pass.

I climbed 2,300 feet before the trail began to gradually head downhill toward the lake. Dodging mud pits, picking my way over puddles and wiping the rain from eyes kept me distracted enough that I occasionally had to remind myself to look up and admire the views, foggy as they may be.

There wasn’t another soul at the shores of Melakwa. The clouds were thick around the water, obscuring the Chair and Kaleetan peaks that ring the lake. I spotted sunken timber in the shallow, crystal clear waters and watched the rain pelt the waters before I headed out. Even the mosquitoes for which the lake is named had sought cover.

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