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Conrad Meadows

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There are 2 trip reports for this hike.
Surprise Lake, Conrad Meadows — Jul 10, 2010 — Eric Jain
Overnight
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Water on trail | Snow on trail | Bugs
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Started out around 9am. There were just a few cars in the parking lot, but quite a few groups with h...
Started out around 9am. There were just a few cars in the parking lot, but quite a few groups with horses camping in the area. But we encountered only three parties on horseback on the way up, and only one of them went all the way up to the lake. Saw three other parties (all hikers) camped at the lake, and one camped a bit further up.

The trail was in good condition, no blowdowns, but often quite dusty, and muddy in a few places. There were several stream crossings, all of which either had a bridge or were shallow enough to be waded through easily, or hopped and balanced over with some care. No snow on the way up to the lake (clockwise on the loop trail), but patches of snow were lingering around the lake, especially on the south and west shores.

Got swarmed by mosquitoes in a few spots at lower elevation (met one party that turned around because of that). The mosquitoes weren't quite as bad at the lake, mostly.

The following morning we attempted to complete the loop clockwise, but turned around after hitting sketchy snow that was undermined by a series of streams at 5,400ft. Couldn't find any tracks that continued beyond that area, either.

The trail shown on the USGS map wasn't quite accurate, should have checked with the Northwest Trails map (http://www.switchbacks.com/nwtrails/) which (at least in this case) appears to be up to date. I couldn't quite reconcile the trail with the description from the Day Hiking book, either: There was nothing "gradual" about the switchbacks up to the lake, nor were there "alpine clearings" upon approaching the lake. Perhaps the description holds better when hiking the Surprise Lake loop counter-clockwise, but that isn't clear from the text.

Lots of wildflowers were blooming at the lower elevations, especially Lupine, Larkspur, and False Hellebore.
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Conrad Meadows, Surprise Lake — Jul 04, 2010 — Ginger
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Bridge out | Mudholes | Water on trail | Snow on trail | Bugs
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We selected the Conrad Meadows area in hopes of avoiding snow, and for the most part we were success...
We selected the Conrad Meadows area in hopes of avoiding snow, and for the most part we were successful. However, we were unable to avoid the annual Fourth of July horse camp at the trail. Still, we managed to start earlier than most of the animals and had much of the glorious Conrad Meadows to ourselves give or take a riding party or two. These meadows are simply stunning fields of kelly green grasses sprinkled with Lupin, Bistort,False Hellabore,Larkspur, Greek Valerian, Mountain Violets, and all kinds of pine/fir trees. For about 4 miles or so, the trail meandered through largly flat meadows and stands of pines, crossed numerous creeks (with and without bridges),and occasionally allowed us brief views of snowy peaks.

Although we had debated about about continuing on to Surprise Lake, the trail kept tugging us along. This part of the hike may contain something like 18 switchbacks according to a passing rider who kept count. You gain 1000 feet in two miles, crossing lots of cricks, mud, and some snow. Unfortunately,mountain views are short during this part of the trail. Still, we proceeded to the lake, crossing a few snow patches. Being our first longish hike of the season, we declined to explore the lake further and took a short rest instead. People were camping up there, but we didn't see their site. Half of the lake was surrounded by snow.

The journey back through the lower meadows in the late afternoon light was fabulous. A few bugs began to emerge, although not clouds, at least not yet. We heard a lot of birdsong as well.

Overall, you could also describe our journey as two completely separate hikes: a meadow hike and a climbing hike. If we had to choose, we would choose the luscious meadows over the steep climb to a what amounts to a small, brushy lake.

All and all a unique area for us West Side folks.
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Location
Eastern Washington
Features
Wildflowers/Meadows

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