My hiking partner and I spent an incredible four days in the Entiat River trail network. First off, many, many thanks to the pro crew and volunteer teams at WTA for your incredible work this summer! It did not go unnoticed and is most certainly appreciated. Even with the fire damage this valley is an incredible asset to the outdoors community and we are grateful for your efforts.
Day one took us four miles up the Entiat River trail (#1400) to Myrtle Lake, then up to Cow Creek Meadows for the night. There is one excellent camp in the trees just on the outskirts of the meadow, and if you meander into the meadows there is another camp about 3/4 of the way towards the back. While bugs were nonexistent, there was a resident deer that gave us quite the scare at night by coming far too close to camp before we realized what it was. (Rangers told us there is another friendly deer at Myrtle Lake they have named "Dorothy." Please do not feed the wildlife!)
Day two was spent climbing the Cow Creek Meadows Trail (#1404) up above Cow Creek Meadows to the junction with the Garland Peak Trail (#1408). Excellent work by WTA folks to clear this trail of almost every blowdown. While steep, the larches and views afforded by the Garland Peak Trail are excellent, in particular once you round the corner to look over the entire bowl surrounding Larch Lakes. After stopping at Upper Larch Lake for lunch (at a great campsite on the western edge of the lake) we descended back down to the Entiat River Trail via the recently cleared (yay WTA!) Larch Lakes Trail (#1430), continued up the Entiat River Trail, and then camped at an excellent site just shy of the river ford of the Ice Lakes Trail. We had originally intended to go over Pomas Pass to get there, but having done that bushwhack last October and knowing WTA didn't completely clear the trail we were not eager to do that again. (Note: While the Pomas Pass Trail affords amazing views towards Glacier Peak once you gain the ridge between Larch Lakes and Pomas Pass, the trail has a couple short bushwhack sections as you descend to Ice Creek, followed by at least a half-mile of total bushwhacking in a burn section followed by some forest as you get to the mouth of the valley at Ice Creek. It is not worth it until the trail is completely rebuilt. See WTA's article on their work and previous trip reports about how rough this section of trail is.)
Day three was spent day hiking to lower Ice Lake (#1405). The trail was in excellent condition and clear of almost all blow-downs. While the Entiat River does need to be forded from the main trail (about ankle-deep this time of year), the two crossings of Ice Creek can be made just fine on logs. The Ice Lakes trail is steep but doable! We decided not to scramble to upper Ice Lake due to incoming weather and cold temperatures (it started snowing on our descent). On our way back to camp on the Entiat River we noticed fresh cougar tracks and cougar scat that was not there in the morning.
Not particularly wanting to be around a cougar tracking us we hiked out on day four instead of day hiking to Entiat Meadows. As we packed up camp we heard a pack of wolves howling for several minutes no more than a few hundred feet from camp. On our way out we met USFS trail maintenance crew (thank you for your work!) who told us there is a pack of four wolves in the valley (we saw their tracks on our way out) as well as several cougars.
All in all it was a fantastic trip, but do be aware that wildlife is coming back- meaning the forest is recovering from the fires! The larch trees are peaking right now but winter weather is around the corner. We had temperatures in the upper 30s overnight and upper 50s during the day, but colder in the high meadows and at lower Ice Lake.