I spend most of the spring looking forward to the Victoria Day long weekend. It’s the Canadian kick-off to summer and it often involves a road trip and camping. Usually we plan a trip to an established drive-in campground and spend the weekend day hiking and relaxing in camp.
This year we knew we had to get our packs on and do a “shake down.” The challenge was figuring out where to go. We originally wanted to get into the Mowich area of Mount Rainier. Unfortunately, while it has been an unusually warm spring, it hasn’t been quite enough to melt out the higher elevations enough for a comfortable backpacking trip.
Thankfully we are lucky enough to have an amazing National Park right in our back yard. North Cascades National Park is about a 2 hour drive from where we live and has a huge variety of backcountry trails. We studied our map and some trip reports and finally decided to hike alongside Ross Lake on the East Bank Trail.
We drove out Saturday morning, picked up our permit from the Wilderness Centre and were hitting the trail just after 10 am. The first 3 miles of trail followed along Ruby Creek before turning and climbing 800 ft up to Hidden Hand Pass. We then had 5 long miles to cover through the forest before finally getting out to the lakeside at Rainbow Point Campground. We took a good break at Rainbow Point to enjoy the scenery before strapping our packs back on to cover 4 more miles to our campground at Devils Creek. Thankfully this last section was some of the most scenic with the trail staying cliffside right along the lake. This section of trail also had some of the nicest collection of wildflowers, including Wild Rose, Columbine, Fireweed, and Bunchberry.
We got into camp around 4:30, which meant we had successfully covered 12.5 miles in about 6 hours. We had the campground to ourselves and were able to take the best campsite on a rocky outcrop overlooking the lake. There was also a well established fire pit for us to enjoy later.
By the time we got camp set up we were feeling pretty tired. The weather also took a slight turn for the worst, deciding to unleash a bit of rain and wind on us. We made a quick dinner and tucked into the tent early, with hopes of nicer weather for the morning.
When we woke up the next morning we were slightly discouraged to see that the clouds hadn’t lifted off the peaks. We had originally been hoping to day hike up to Devils Dome which we had been told was mostly clear of snow. With the clouds sitting on the mountain tops, we decided instead to have an easy day of wandering along Ross Lake.
Within a couple hours we made it to Lightning Creek Campground where we met a very nice couple and their dog, who had hiked in from the North end of the lake through Skagit Valley Provincial Park. We stayed and chatted for quite a while seeing as these were the first people we had seen in nearly 24 hours. Finally we decided to press on a little further, climbing up the bluff above Lightning Creek to get a great view of the lake.
We turned around and headed back down the trail, making it back to our campground by about 3 pm. This gave us time to relax a bit in our beautiful campsite as well as explore a trail down to a beach along the lake before making a gourmet backcountry meal.
While I cleaned up from our delicious dinner, Dan laid a fire. After two busy days of hiking it was great to enjoy the warmth and comfort of a roaring fire.
The next morning we were up around 7:30 to enjoy breakfast and strike camp. We hit the trail around 9 and were moving surprisingly well. We took a brief break again at Rainbow Point Campground to chat with another couple we had met along the trail. It’s funny how easy it is to talk with fellow backpackers!
Back up and over Hidden Hand Pass and then a dreary last few miles along the river before making it to the car. Our time check surprised us – it was just after 2, which meant we had hiked out in around 5 hours, beating our Saturday time!
All in all we feel that our first weekend backpacking trip was a great success. We had decent weather, empty trails, wildflowers, lakeshore and mountain peaks to stimulate us. We got 33 miles under our feet and only had complaints of sore calves. Our packs were comfortable and our gear is in great shape!