Hitch 4 found, almost, all of our group up Icicle Road once more in the heart of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. Six team members, with one team consisting of Jesse, Erich, and Kenny and the other comprised of Nate, Austin, and myself headed up Chatter Creek trail on Day 1 together and split off at the end of the day to begin our separate itineraries. Levi and Susin returned to Ingalls Creek to inventory Falls Creek, which had been aborted the hitch before. Jesse’s team camped at Lake Edna, while our team continued onto Ladies Pass. Their team faced a minor hiccup when on Day 2 they discovered the GPS device, a required item for wilderness monitoring, had been left at the truck at the trailhead and so they completed a brutal roundtrip to recover it. On Day 3 they were able to inventory Index Creek Loop, where they encountered “luxury” horse campers for the first time in the season.
On the first day, Nate, Austin, and I were treated to awesome vistas as the sun set as we made our way over Ladies Pass and we continued on a couple of miles further to Upper Florence Lake, which served as our base camp for the next few days. Our hikes in the area over the next few days were to neighboring lakes, but the “bushwhacking” was beautiful as we clambered around in alpine meadows in their peak wildflower season and along ridgelines which provided panoramic views of the surrounding peaks. The lakes over the next few days were particularly memorable. Lake Alice was the perfect temperature for a lunchtime swim. Lower Florence Lake was a scramble down cliffs and was obviously rarely visited, so the fish were particularly unconcerned with our presence and we also stumbled across an occupied bear den. On the day before our resupply day we hiked over Frosty Pass, which featured more gorgeous scenery, and a great view of Glacier Peak and onto Lake Margaret which had the memorable element of a beautiful waterfall providing the inlet to the lake.
On Day 5 the entire team met up at the Lake Wenatchee bunkhouses to resupply and debrief about the next phase of Hitch 4. Unfortunately, Erich revealed that he was injured and would be unable to complete the rest of the hitch. Susin, graciously, joined Kenny and Jesse’s team so that they would be able to complete the rest of their manifest. Levi stayed in the front country to help Erich seek medical attention and the remaining six corps members headed up Icicle Creek Trail to once again split up at the end of Day 6 to complete our separate manifests. Kenny’s team base camped on Icicle Creek and completed the inventorying of Lorraine and Leland Lakes and Levi joined up with the crew on Day 7. Austin, Nate, and I spent the next few days attempting to inventory Square Lake and exploring our options for reaching the numerous surrounding lakes. Square Lake was particularly difficult to reach as a burn area has wiped out all trace of the trail for the steepest section of the journey. An elevation gain that should have taken under an hour on a trail took our team nearly 4 hours of scrambling to summit. Square Lake had the most administrative features of any of the lakes we inventoried this summer, including concrete walkway along the outlet and a helicopter pad, which is highly ironic, as it appeared we were the first people to successfully reach Square Lake this season. Levi joined me, Austin, and Nate on the morning of Day 9, as the other team had hiked out early that morning and we all reconvened at the bunkhouses after one of our fullest hitches thus far.