Today’s Alpine Lakes hike took me today a near-by gem of a hike and a so-so lake. My destination was Mason Lake, located on the Ira Springs trail, off exit 45 along I-90 highway. It’s a quick and easy 48 mile drive from my house to the trailhead. There was some lumbering taking place on the road to the trailhead which was interesting, but soon enough I was there and putting on my boots for the hike.
The guide books and the Forest Service rate this hike as “more difficult” and I would have to concur. Although only a 3 mile or so hike to the lake, the elevation gain is almost 2,000 feet so it’s a steep ascent. After a nice warm-up on the old logging road the hike gets serious and I definitely got that “why am I doing this” thought working in my brain. So far in my hiking trips I have been able to push that thought to the back of my mind. It was a little harder this time but I managed it. There were several rest stops that had me gulping for breath – feel the burn baby! It was all worth it as about halfway into the hike the trail opens up to open rock fields and amazing views of the I-90 corridor below and Mt Rainer in the distance. I personally love these types of hikes, getting above tree level, walking high Alpine meadows or cliff walls are my favorite types of trails.
As I crested the ridge and came up to the sign announcing I was entering the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, the trail descended on the back side and back into lush second growth timber, strewn with large moss-covered boulder fields, like a scene out of Lord of the Rings. Wow, an amazing hike with so much variety for three miles! A short bit of hiking and I came to a creek and BAMM! The lake was right in front of me, totally unexpected.
Mason Lake is a moderate sized lake, listed at 33 acres and holding rainbow trout. The shoreline is boulder-strewn making it tricky to easily work around the entire lake. You definitely need to watch your step! There were several nice looking campsites on the west side of the lake. As to the scenery, this lake is surrounded by forested hills and while nice enough doesn’t really have anything that makes it stands out. Fishing was dead slow with no surface activity. The one fish I caught had some very strange markings. I’ll post the picture and you can come to your conclusions. The fishing was poor, and I was surprised because I figured a nice October day would find these fish on a feeding frenzy before winter comes.
I hiked into this lake in total solitude and thought maybe on a week day I might actually do the impossible – not see anyone on the trail. But that I guess would be asking a lot considering how close this hike is to the Puget Sound area. I had about a half dozen hiking parties coming up as I went down. But, at least I had the lake to myself while I was up there!
Hiked on October 12, 2010. Total distance hiked: 8.9 miles, elevation gain 2,337 feet, maximum elevation 4,285 feet.
View from ridge trail looking back over I-90 toward Seattle
Mason Lake looking south.