Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Solo Camping at Takhlakh Lake

Takhlakh Lake is probably my favorite campground in all of Washington. That honor used to belong to Bumping Lake, which is now used for military air drills. File under worst surprise ever when I arrived last Summer to my special place just in time to witness two fighter jets appear and drop mere feet above the lake for target practice, breaking the sound barrier. *Immediate panic attack*

Making it to Takhlakh was much easier this time than the last, as the forest road from Cispus has been (mostly) repaved and Google now lists the correct directions. There's usually only a small, sweet gap between this kind of progress and overcrowding, so I'm ecstatic to have made it this Summer before Takhlakh (inevitably?) goes the way of the Enchantments or even Bumping Lake.

I could pen furious diatribes about the militarization of wild spaces or the harm that geo-tagging and overcrowding have caused outdoor recreation, but we'll table those topics in favor of something positive and light. It's okay to be playful and bright sometimes in the midst of a dark and trying world.

I had such an amazing time solo camping at Takhlakh and I absolutely intend to make this a regular practice. Though I was in a campground rather than some far-flung, empty BLM land, I had plenty of space away from others. The sites here are much larger than most, with ample tree coverage and impressive privacy. Despite my last minute booking, I was able to snag a site at the end of one of two loops, so I only had one neighbor (unless you count the hoards of mischievous chipmunks).

Tent reads
 
A stellar gift from Pops

Takhlakh Lake is nearly unparalleled when it comes to mountain views. The lake and adjacent campground sit at nearly 4,500 feet elevation and less than 8 miles northwest of Mt. Adams. Its proximity to the second highest mountain in the state gives it a very short recreation season, with both late and early snowfall.

The natives knew Adams as Pahto or Klickitat. Depending on the tribal language and spelling, this meant "beyond, high up, very high, standing up, or high sloping mountain." Today, the Eastern side of the mountain is Yakama Nation territory, while the rest sits within the borders of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Lewis and Clark thought that Adams was "perhaps the highest pinnacle in America" when they came across it during their exploration. (Wikipedia) 

The various tribes of the Columbia Plateau and East Cascades have individual creation stories and  legends regarding Mt. Adams and its volcanic neighbors, including Wy'east (Mt. Hood), Loowit (Mt. St. Helens), and Tahoma (Rainier). Some involve love triangles between the mountain ranges. Others offer explanation for the broken, flat top of Pahto. Pahto does indeed have quite the unique summit; the post-eruptive cooling has settled into a flat, mile long snow field that can be walked across fairly easily.

Sunset

Venus at dusk



Watching the sun set and beyond, posted in hopes of catching a glimpse of the Perseid meteor shower, I got to chatting with the only other human who seemed willing to spend hours in the dark. He was also my campsite neighbor, a retired mountaineer who happens to live in Olympia. He told me that he summited Adams 2.75 times in his life- the third attempt was thwarted by an incoming electric storm. He caught wind of the threat when the metal ice axe on his back began emitting a high pitch BUZZZZZ from the immense static electricity.

We passed the time with intermittent bouts of trail talk between comfortable silence. We compared our love for lookout towers and the beatnik writers who inhabited them. Chatting about Kerouac, he asked if I had ever been to Hart's Pass in the North Cascades. It's the highest point in Washington accessible to vehicles, and looks like an absolute heart (hart? ha) attack waiting to happen. He did promise that the campground at the end of the road was one of the most beautiful and remote of his lifetime.

Sunrise
 

On Friday, I spent the morning reading by the fire before heading out to hike one of the only trails in this remote area- Takh Takh meadows and lava flow route. 


High Noon

 

Of all the stratovolcanos of the Cascades, Mt. Adams has produced the second largest amount of eruptive material behind only Mt. Shasta. The trail departs from Takhlakh Lake into a forested area that opens up to a meadow, which was probably impressive earlier in wildflower season. From there the lava flow route emerges, with huge boulders of volcanic rock piled in every direction as well as a handful of lava tubes. Despite being in a rather remote area with only one gravel road nearby, the trail was well developed and maintained. I made my way to the top of a cluster of boulders for a gorgeous 360 degree view of the surrounding peaks. 

On my way back down, I hit the crux of my solo camping journey when I encountered a rattlesnake. The inherent, ancestral recognition of that rattle was unmistakable and I immediately jumped back. Instantly my knees were weak! It was my first time being up-close to one and it was incredibly thrilling. Here in Washington, rattlesnakes are the only native venomous snake we have to worry about.

Aside from the rattlesnake sighting, I also came home with an insane spider bite that swelled massively with broken blood vessels all around. No idea what got me out there, but it won't stop me from setting out on another solo camping adventure. As it is, I see gnarly spiders on a regular basis here in my bungalow in the trees. I do my best to chalk up these fear inducing interactions to spiritual warrior training.

@fungalparty

@fungalparty

Entering the Takh Takh lava flow zone

Ascending the ancient lava rock



Tahoma and Goat Rocks peaks in the distance

Atop the lava flow
 

Amazing & informative podcast episodes on:

VOLANOES!

MOSS!

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