After weeks of hitting the slopes at The Summit at Snoqualmie along with a couple of intermittent and non-noteworthy snowshoe treks, we decided this weekend was the time to challenge ourselves with a difficult hike/snowshoe adventure. Our original plan and destination was thwarted by inclement weather along Stevens Pass resulting in chains being a requirement for travel through the pass. Not having chains and already an hour from the city we pulled over and began researching our options. Using the Washington Trails Association (WTA) website we found just the thing for us. the Lake Serene/Bridal Veil Falls Trail. The hike to Lake Serene is 7.2 miles long with 2000 feet of elevation gain. The trail also offered an optional 1/2 mile spur trail to Bridal Veil Falls.
The beginning portion of the trail is referred to as the “railroad grade” for good reason. It is a wide and flat portion of the trail that proved to be a good warmup for what lay ahead.
This first section is rather unremarkable in beauty but was pleasant enough. We reached the junction of the spur trail just as the trail began to get more interesting and a little more difficult, 1.7 miles into the hike, and opted to take the slight detour to look upon the waterfall.
It was remarkably beautiful and proved the perfect opportunity for a quick rest and lunch. Just before reaching the falls, Latigo was incredibly pleased when he retrieved a shiny new tennis ball from the woods. He carried it proudly to Bridal Veil Falls only to set it down while he rested as we supped on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to have the shiny new toy roll down the slope he had chosen to perch himself upon and watch as the ball entered the fast moving current of the water just below the falls. He watched sadly and anxiously as the ball was swept away and out of sight. We could see that he was seriously considering jumping in after the ball so we clipped on his leash and kept him close, he’s not as replaceable as a tennis ball! While the spur trail did add on additional mileage for our trek the falls were beautiful and definitely worth the extra effort!
During the summer months this trail is crowded but due to the time of year mixed with the low hanging clouds and the occasional rain/snow/sleet showers we only rarely encountered other groups along the trail. This was in stark contrast to the last snowshoe trek we endeavored upon a few weeks ago where we were constantly surrounded by large groups. Opting for a slightly more challenging trek in the winter can provide you with the seclusion you seek.
The trail was challenging not just because of the steep inclines we often faced and the countless switchbacks, but also due to the rapidly changing ground cover. I would say that a quarter of the trail was covered with either solid ground or mud, half of the trail was covered in a slushy/muddy snow, and the other quarter was covered in fresh, deep powder. I had strapped my snowshoes to my pack using some rope we had in the car while Bobby had opted to leave his snowshoes behind and hope that his traction devices would suffice. Bobby was the wiser one. The snowshoes may have been helpful in the powder on the steeper slopes we faced near the apex of the trek in order to provide me with additional traction but the trail was so narrow that I opted to forego them and simply follow in the solid footsteps Bobby was creating for me. So, alas, I had strapped the bulky and weighty snowshoes haphazardly to my pack and trekked with them for over eight miles and never once used them! Bobby’s traction devices, a Christmas gift from his parents, proved to be the perfect alternative, offering him additional traction without the bulkiness of a snowshoe.
The snow was incredibly deep near the apex of the hike but thanks to those brave hikers before us the trail was well trodden and we rarely post-holed.
Reaching Lake Serene after some nervous moments along steeper, snowier slopes made the long and exhilarating hike worth it! The usually crowded and popular destination was deserted. We had passed over the mountain we were climbing and finally found ourselves in the quiet. Sadly, the majority of the hike is along a mountain not far from the freeway below so the sound of traffic and trains was a constant companion. There, at Lake Serene, we sat at the end of the trail eating orange slices and chocolate (our favorite midway point treat!) and took in the glory and beauty that surrounded us. The lake was mostly covered by snow and ice but the few patches that remained still water gave us a glimpse of the incredibly clear water that comprises the lake. Mount Index rose behind the lake like an incredibly overprotective big brother. The snow-covered crags that comprise Mount Index resulted in the creation of a sight both imposing and beautiful. As we sat we listened to the cracks and rumblings of the numerous avalanches on Mount Index. Some were so loud it sounded like thunder or fireworks being set off. We were at an incredibly safe distance and often couldn’t see the avalanches but could only hear them. We would see small snow falls as the end of the avalanches would reach cliff edges and a white powder would sprinkle down.
It had been a long time, possibly too long, since we had set out on a physically challenging hike and this one proved to be not only exhausting but was also picturesque, rejuvenating, and, to use John Muir’s favorite word, glorious.