Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sheep Lake & Sourdough Gap

Looking down on Sheep Lake

Sheep Lake

There are a large parking area and two outhouses at Chinook Pass (5400 ft elevation) where there was on this occasion also a big snow bank.  Two trails take off from the parking lot, one to the south, Naches Loop, and one to the north, Sourdough Gap which is a on a section of the Pacific Crest Trail.  There was still snow on the Naches Loop but the north trail to Sheep Lake and from there on up to Sourdough Gap was snow free except for a couple tiny patches.  We could have gone a little further than the Gap but there was larger snow patch on the steep hillside and people we met coming down said if we decided to go onward to see the view of Upper Crystal Lake and Mount Rainier we should be careful, as it was very slippery and one young woman had fallen but fortunately not been hurt.  Although we would be able to see Upper Crystal Lake, Mt. Rainier was shrouded in clouds so it was a risk without much benefit of a mountain view.  We chose to stop at the Gap.

Snow in the parking lot

It was a nice comfortable day for hiking, some clouds but lots of sun and not too warm.  As in the past we continue to keep track of how many folks we meet on the trail and how many dogs.  This was a 30 people 7 dog hike, 7 miles round trip with a total elevation gain of 1200 ft.  Most of the people and dogs we encountered were on the lower part of the trail.  Once up on top at the Gap we had perfect solitude.  It was so quiet the only sound was the wind. 

We are in our mid 70s and not speed demons, the actual time up was 2 hours and 40 minutes.    The return down to the parking area was 2 hours and 7 minutes.  We spent 20 minutes at the lake on the way up and on the way down and another 30 minutes at the top where we had sandwiches, vegetables and fruit for lunch and were buzzed by hummingbirds.  In addition to water we also carry nuts and chocolate for snacks.  Too much speed cheats us of all the beautiful things in nature that we can see and enjoy.  We stop often to take pictures and admire the scenery and the flowers and to rest now and then if necessary.  Digital cameras and large capacity memory cards allow us to take as many photos as we want and the computer allows us to edit the pictures once we get back home.  

As the trail starts it drops down 100 ft. and then most of the rest of the way is a gradual incline with the steep part the last ¼ mile that includes a sharper drop off to one side and ends at 6400 ft. This is highest we have hiked this year so far.  We saw chipmunks, fish jumping in the lake, gray jays, other smaller birds and we heard marmot whistles.  The most surprising was several humming birds that passed by fast enough to be a blur of wings but close enough to hear the buzz.

Hello little chipmunk

It is approaching peak flowering time in the mountains and we were not disappointed.  Many of these flowers are small and white.  Sometimes I think people walk right by them and don’t even take the time to see all these little beauties.  Other flowers are more colorful and showy.  Bob has a chart that allows us to keep track and check off the different flowers we see each time we go out.  We take a field guide, bird book and flower book in the car or one in a pack.  Below are a few pictures of what we saw.

 Yellow Lousewort

Close up of Yellow Lousewort



Beargrass close up



Showy Jacob's-ladder

 Avalanche lilies

Glacier lilies

Tiger lily with a cobweb



Fendler's Waterleaf

Cinquefoil (?)

And some views looking out and down from Sourdough Gap . . .

 The snowfield we chose not to cross

Sheep Lake

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