Saturday, July 12, 2008

Packwood Lake is NOW a Wilderness Icon

When you think of the words, Packwood Lake, you have to think “icon“. It is a local icon, just like the iconic photo of little Angus Island and the beautiful pure waters of the lake itself. I visited Packwood Lake over the 4th of July weekend and enjoyed my stay thoroughly. When I arrived there were about 25 cars in the parking lot, 4.5 miles distant from the lake itself on what I thought would be one of the busiest weekends of the year. As I hiked in, I met family after family who were there just for a day hike. They accounted for almost half the visitors that day.

Agnus Island on Packwood Lake is associated with in a most unusual fashion (like Wizard Island at Crater Lake in Oregon), the first-time memories of a lot of visitors to Packwood Lake.

The rest found campsites among the lakes 15 to 20 “dispersed” sites. Of course you can’t just drive in. Most pack their materials on their back like me, but I suspect a few took advantage of the “other” route.

There are actually two trails leading to the lake. Both are about 4.5 miles long. The hiker’s trail is the high road. A modestly undulating, gentle trail that leads the hiker behind the old ranger station at the north end of the lake. The low road is the remnants of the old right of way that led vehicles to the old Packwood Lake Resort now open to all kinds of traffic including ATVs and motorcycles. The lower road is still a considerable bone of contention with locals. It was washed out, never to be reopened by the U.S. Forest Service causing the demise of a legendary resort. Perhaps a few haul their gear in on the right of way that is now open to ATVs, but there is no reason to be judgmental.

Every campsite available has a high quality view of the lake!

To get to Packwood Lake, take Highway 12 and then turn right on Snyder Road and drive to the end (about 5 miles) where the U.S. Forest Service maintains a large parking lot. You will need a federal parking pass (Northwest Forest Pass or equivalent).
About 1/2 mile into the trail, I saw my first blooming Beargrass of the season!

I was warned that spending the night on the shores of Packwood Lake could be a noisy affair. I was pleasantly surprised to find nothing but respect for the landscape in hushed tones. Only the sound of children playing around the shores of a lake even remotely sounded disrespectful of the environment.
Playing with the timer on my camera....

For hikers of a more hard core nature, Packwood Lake is a good jump-off location for other Goat Rocks Wilderness adventures once the snow melts away. The 78 trail continues to the east where you can pass Lost Lake and the lovely little Lost Hat Lake on your way to the Clear Lost Trailhead at Highway 12 near White Pass itself or the Clear Fork Trailhead at the terminus of the USFS 46 road. It would make of an excellent two night, three day back packing adventure. I would suggest starting in the east and working back towards Packwood Lake for more moderate elevation loss and gain.
If you continue on the 78 trail above Packwood Lake, a steady climb puts you at little Mosquito lake. On this trip, this was the end of the line due to snow.

By traversing the 81 trail (Upper Lakes) a hiker can traverse to the top of the “Packwood Saddle” and have a host of choices before them. They could make about a 16 mile loop by returning to Packwood Lake via Chimney Rock and the 78 trail, or they could pass the dreaded glacier crossing at Elk Pass and hike into the heart of the Goat Rocks high country.

Regardless of your reason to visit Packwood Lake, it will clearly fill your senses with beauty and perhaps emotions that you had not felt in a while. I know I found my solo mind hard at work enjoying the scents and coming up with new philosophical expressions inspired by a piece of iconic wilderness.


Todd B said...

You weren't lying about the mosquitos starting to get bad. Packwood Lake was an excellent suggestion. Glad I went.
The "blue" may have just been the sky reflecting? Here's a few select pics.

The Princess said...

Nice blog about Packwood Lake. The Island is actually Agnus Island, named after my great grandmother. If you know the history of the lake, Ralph & Agnus Neeley ran the water front there off & on for a total of 32 years. I haven't had a chance to get up there in years. It's good to see that it's still as beautiful as all the years I packed up there as a child/young adult!

Contessa (Neeley) Desser

The Princess said...

Oops, typing error... Agnes Island. Sorry about that.

Gregg P said...

Thank you for dropping by Princess. I knew that the island name was Agnus Island, but I too had a typo and nobody until now alerted me to it!

Thanks and I appreciate you dropping by!

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