Day 2: Snow Lake to American Lake (12.9 miles)
Today was an absolutely perfect day.
We woke to a lightly overcast sky with a couple blue patches to tease us. It was nice to have someone else make breakfast (even if it was just oatmeal) and the company for my first night back on trail was certainly appreciated. Eventually it came time to hit the trail, which meant Dan headed south and I turned north.
My first few miles went gently downhill through forest and past beautiful meadows. I took a short break at a creek crossing. The downhill grade got steeper as I followed alongside the creek.
At one point I heard a very odd sound, something that I vaguely recognized. A few steps further along I caught a glimpse of an elk herd, explaining the squeaky door sound. Unfortunately they caught a glimpse (or scent) of me and trotted off.
The trail continued to drop until I reached Bumping River. There wasn’t a bridge in place but thankfully there was a wide log a few yards downstream, allowing me to cross without getting my feet wet.
The next few miles were a climb up and up through the forest. The forest changed from montane, to subalpine, to alpine as I climbed over 1600 feet, reaching my high point of the day at 5700′.
Climbing to that point gave views of the Crag Lake basin I had hiked through, Mt Adams and Goat Rocks to the south, and then Mt Rainier to the west.
The trail meandered along the west side of the ridge and then popped through a saddle to meander along the east side. Looking across the bowl I was lucky enough to spot a single mountain goat ranging on a hillside across the way.
I passed through another saddle and back onto the west side. This area gave me the best views of Rainier yet. I found a perfect place for lunch and whiled away an hour staring at the mountain.
My last few miles continued meandering on the west side of the ridge. I was actually having problems walking as I was spending too much time looking at Mount Rainier and not enough time looking at the trail in front of me.
I reached another saddle and a trail junction. Based on a recommendation from my guide book I decided to veer 0.5 mile off trail to spend my night at American Lake.
I was very glad to have made that decision. As advertised, the lake was beautiful. I arrived just before 3, giving me lots of time to set up camp, do chores and explore. I even had a dip in the lake (two days in a row!)
The bugs weren’t too bad and the hummingbirds were a riot to watch as they chased each other from bush to bush. Most surprising of all though was that I had the lake exclusively to myself. It was a real treat to have such a beautiful spot to sleep, rounding out a truly perfect day on trail.