Saturday, September 24, 2011

A sparkling oasis

Location: Stevens Pass

Distance: 11 miles

Elevation gain: 1,500 feet

The lure of water on a sunny day drew me to Lake Valhalla, an oasis in the midst of craggy rock roughly 40 miles from Leavenworth. A bonus was that the route follows the Pacific Crest Trail, one of the most famous trails that winds from the Mexican border all the way to the Canadian border. Several couples I encountered in the first two miles eagerly asked if I was headed for Canada – I almost hated to disappoint them with the truth.

It was pretty flat going and for the first mile or two, I could see the highway below and Bavarian hotel and cottage rooftops peeking out of the forest. Eventually I crossed two creeks and indulged in blueberry picking in an open meadow before Lichtenberg Mountain and Nason Ridge commanded my attention.

I arrived at the sparkling lake after 5.5 miles, anxious to dig my feet in the cool water and let the sun warm my face. Unfortunately, there is a backdoor to Valhalla and dozens of families had beat me to the spot. I tried relaxing beside a fisherman for some time, but it wasn’t long before the splashing of dogs and shrieks of young children nudged me on my way. Still, it was pretty as a postcard.

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