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by Sarah Shaffer

The Huckleberry plants getting ready for Autumn at Al Lake. Picture 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. Momma’s who work hard at jobs that are beyond 40 hours per week. Momma’s 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.

Once a year we try and make it a tradition to get into the high country with other mom’s we hold dear. To fill our cups with nature and to rejuvenate our minds and bodies so that we can continue being the giver’s 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 twenty minutes from Wenatchee in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

Friday evening we all piled into the car and headed for the trail head 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.

Even Banana Slugs have obstacles. Photo by Sarah Shaffer.

Snack time at Jade Lake. Pictured from left to right are Mandy McLaren, Liz Dunham and Bridget Kamen. Photo by Sarah Shaffer.

Once on the trail we were greeted to 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. A couple of hours later with 3,300 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 further we wanted to go for the day and where we should camp.

Reflection on Locket Lake. Picture by Sarah Shaffer.

We started to follow the trail around the lake and took an off shoot to find Al lake a quick 20 minute hike from Jade Lake. Should this be camp or should we go further? 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 ten 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. 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 thirty 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 for 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.

Black Bear friend across from our camp. Picture by Sarah Shaffer.

That night went off without a hitch, other than a chilly nights sleep all went well. 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

Evening light from our camp next to Al Lake. Picture by Sarah Shaffer.

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 momma’s 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. A trip to be talked about for years to come.

Always happy in the sub-alpine. Pictured is Sarah Shaffer.


Trip Stats: 21 miles round trip and 3,300 feet of elevation gain.

Skill Level: 2

Fitness Level: 3

Dogs: Dogs allowed on leash.

Camping. Al lake, Jade Lake and Locket Lake are in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and fires are prohibited here. The area gets a moderate to high amount of weekend traffic.

Driving Directions: From Wenatchee drive over Stevens Pass for 20 minutes keeping your eye out for Foss River Road (Forest Road 68) on your left. Turn sharp left onto this road and follow it for 4.2 miles to the trailhead parking lot. The trailhead is on your left. A pit toilet and map sign are located at the trailhead along with a registration box for a wilderness permit.

Permits. A Northwest Forest Pass is needed to park at the trailhead. All of your travel will be within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and visitors are asked to carry a wilderness permit (obtained by self-registering at the trailhead, no fee).

Reporter (and date). Sarah Shaffer 9/5/18.

Leave It Better than You Found It.
 This should be every user’s goal. Pick up trash left by others, pull noxious weeds along your route, throw branches over unwanted spur trails, etc.

Disclaimer. Treat this information as recommendations, not gospel. Conditions change and those contributing these reports are volunteers–they may make mistakes or not know all the issues affecting a route. You are responsible for yourself, your actions, and your safety. If you won’t accept that responsibility, you are prohibited from using our information.

About The Author

Executive Director

Sarah is fortunate to have her dream job as the Executive Director for Wenatchee Outdoors. Her interests include people, nature, wildlife and getting her sweat on outside. Alpine rock climbing, mountain biking and skate skiing are her outdoor passions. Sarah enjoys gardening, baking and home remodel projects. She is the mother of one, which keeps her busy and happy on a daily basis. Activities she would like to pursue that would be new to her are kayaking and backcountry skiing.

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