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HELLO, OLD FRIEND: Momma hikers rejoice in the beauty and peace of sub-alpine Necklace Valley

By on September 24, 2018 in Outdoor Fun with 0 Comments

Jade Lake: “The first lake reached after climbing 3,300 feet to get there. We were hooting and hollering when we saw the beautiful water! A much needed lunch break was taken here.” From left are Mandy McLaren, Liz Dunham and Bridget Kamen.

story and photos

by Sarah Shaffer

There is something to be said about trekking high into the mountains to take in the sub-alpine country.

It may be the heather flowers, the huckleberries, or the pine and dry dirt smell. It may be the brilliance of the Autumn colors illuminating in red, yellow and orange when the sun hits the leaves just right.

For me, there is a stillness, a calm that occurs when I make it into the sub-alpine. It is like meeting an old friend again and the joy it brings to spend some quality time catching up.

Labor Day weekend this year was filled with anticipation to get into the mountains with some lovely ladies.

These aren’t just any ladies, these are mommas. Mommas who work hard at jobs that are beyond 40 hours per week. Mommas who are stay at home parents who have more than one kiddo, and who work hard at teaching their kids to be good people and to ignite their passion for learning about the world.

A morning hike to Locket Lake before hiking out. “It was a quick five minute hike from our camp at Al Lake. We were hoping the sun was shining at Locket Lake as we were cold, but alas it was not quite yet.”

Once a year we try and make it a tradition to get into the high country with other moms we hold dear. To fill our cups with nature and to rejuvenate our minds and bodies so that we can continue being the givers that we are to our kids and to society.

This year our goal was the Necklace Valley located in the mountains above Skykomish about an hour and 20 minutes from Wenatchee in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

Friday evening we all piled into the car and headed for the trailhead after saying our goodbyes to work and to our families.

We found a camp spot in the dark about a tenth of a mile from the trail head and laid ourselves down to rest, anxiously awaiting a strenuous and fun day in the mountains for the following morning.

After what seemed like too long, the day came and we broke down camp and headed for the starting location.

Once on the trail we were greeted by large Aspen trees, many creek crossings, the East Fork of the Foss River, ferns and banana slugs. The air was saturated with humidity and the temperature was a cool 60 degrees.

After five miles we reached a log crossing and started the uphill climb into the high country. Boulder hopping ensued along with a stair master slog up a drainage.

Crawling along: “I almost peed right on this banana slug while taking a bathroom break. He was plugging along going under and over obstacles along the fern laden path.”

A couple of hours later with 3,400 feet gained we hit our first lake, Jade Lake.

This was a spot of celebration as we knew that the climb was very much over once we hit the lakes. Hoots of joy took place, followed by snacks next to the lake and being greeted by a butterfly. We then consulted the map and started to plan for how much farther we wanted to go for the day and where we should camp.

We started to follow the trail around the lake and took an offshoot to find Al Lake a quick 20 minute hike from Jade Lake. Should this be camp or should we go farther?

We kept following the various trails around Al Lake, which was a light green beautiful color, with tiny plants growing in the water that helped to give it that green tint. On the map we saw that Locket Lake was much larger and not far from Al Lake so we continued on.

Locket Lake was a quick 10 minute trek from Al Lake and was gorgeous, but had very limited camp spots available and the shores around the lake were either scree or rock cliffs.

View from the Al Lake camping spot: “I am so glad I stayed up to see these pink clouds and the light on the peak behind the lake. Half our ladies group was already in their tents getting warm in their sleeping bags. But I held out to watch the light and eventually the stars.”

We consulted and decided to retreat back to Al Lake as there was more available camp spot wise and the sun was shining there, as it was a bit chilly mid afternoon already.

We made the jaunt back to Al Lake and found a fantastic camp spot, flat, next to the gorgeous lake, in the sun, surrounded by delicious huckleberries. Camp was claimed!

Within 30 minutes after setting up camp a black bear was noticed scampering across the scree directly across the lake from our camp. The bear seemed disinterested in us and continued on, likely in search of more huckleberries or snacks.

It did give us pause when considering our food for the night and we decided we would hang our food in a tree to avoid any temptations by the bear.

That night went off without a hitch, other than a chilly night’s sleep. We woke early the next morning and meandered around the various lakes so close together, noticing some bear scat full of berries, admiring frogs, and picking huckleberries to take back to our children while we each taste tested the berries.

We dried out our tents and sleeping bags, as we all made the mistake of not staking out our tents the evening before. The tents overnight accumulated quite the dew on the moist side of the mountains, which then dripped dew onto our sleeping bags through the night.

A leisurely breakfast with coffee and oatmeal was enjoyed and once the tents and sleeping bags were somewhat dry we hit the trail. Headed back to the trailhead and then for home.

We made it back to the trailhead by mid afternoon and stopped in Leavenworth for a late afternoon coffee before parting ways at the park and ride in Wenatchee.

I can’t say what the other mommas experienced, but for me the conversations that ensued on our trip, the quality time spent together, the star gazing that took place, the animals that were spotted, the laughs, the sweat and stink from the miles that were hiked, all made the trip a very memorable one to be talked about for years to come.

Sarah Shaffer works as the Executive Director for WenatcheeOutdoors.org. You can find this story, along with over 600 guidebook posts on trail outings for human-powered outdoor sports at their website along with a slew of other articles about conservation, gear, and much more.

The camp spot next to Al Lake: “Huckleberries were all around camp, we had a flat spot with little debris next to the beautiful Al Lake and got to see a bear across from our camp on the other side of the lake within 30 minutes after arriving.”

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