Image Lake via Miners Ridge — Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012
Image Lake hike, 1-6 August 2012 For senior citizens like me, this hike reminded me that knees are not designed to last an eternity. The first leg of the hike is a 10.5-mile stretch of road from the closure on the Suiattle River Rd to the Suiattle River trailhead (TR #784). An easy stroll on a flat surface offering a few good stopping places — Buck Creek campground, and the old USFS horse barn and meadow (between mile post 18 & 19). Note the damage to the Downy Creek and Sulphur Creek bridges and be thankful they are still in place, because fording those two creeks would certainly be challenging. Good campsites are available at the Sulphur Creek campground which has been closed since the floods of October 2003. All one has to do is find their way through the brush and overgrowth, and fight the hordes of hungry insects. The presence of usable outhouses should not be underestimated. If after arriving at Sulphur Creek campground you have sufficient energy to continue, TR #784 will be happy to absorb your remaining energy. From the trailhead to the junction of the Image Lake trail #785 is about 10.25 miles and offers several viable campsites complete with convenient streams. The last campsite just before TR #785 has an outdoor privy box. But, again, for the hearty senior citizen, hiking 20 miles in a single day, might be a bit much. By the way,TR #784 is in good shape with only 3 trees to climb over. If you are of a mind for diversion, take a side trip on the new extension of the Pacific Crest Trail and checkout the new bridge over the Suiattle River. Hats off to the folks who built the bridge — its a beauty. From the last campsite before TR #785 to the top of Miner’s Ridge is a bit of a haul — approximately 5.0 miles, 36 switchbacks, and an elevation gain of 3,400 feet. If you are not planning to hike further east — to Holden, or Stehekin, or Buck Creek Pass, consider making your base camp at the campsite just west of TR #785 on TR #784. If you do this, you’ll only need to carry a small day pack up to Image Lake. Pack water, you’ll need it. TR #785 offers wonderful views of the Suiattle River Valley, Glacier Peak, and Ten Peak. As of this date (3 Aug), the trail has 3 trees across it. No problem for people, but would definitely impede horse travel. Upon reaching the top of Miner’s Ridge, a short hike to the Miner’s Ridge lookout is in order. The views from the catwalk are something to write home about. If the lookout is manned, be certain to ask for permission to come aboard. The hike from the lookout to Image Lake is 0.75 miles. There is no snow on the trail, the lake is ice free, but be prepared to share your lunch with black flies, horse flies, and mosquitoes. The unofficial restoration project (became official in 1971) I started in the summer of 1970 when I was stationed at Image Lake as the Wilderness Ranger has paid great dividends — no campsites around the lake basin, no fire rings, and no extraneous trails. After returning to base camp, contemplate a short hike (1.5 mi) on the Suiattle River/Pacific Crest trail to Miner’s Creek camp. From here, you will have an opportunity to view the damage caused by the floods of 2003. The old campsites below the PCT and the old high bridge crossing the Suiattle River are history — no campsites, no bridge, just rubble, dead trees, and sand cliffs. The return hike to the gate across the Suiattle River Rd. is a repeat. Be thankful for cool and shade, take advantage of an early morning start, use DEET.