I started by taking the Little Quilcene, aka Dirt Face Ridge trail, up Mt Townsend which leaves the road just a few hundred yards from the Tubal Cain parking lot. The first couple miles are a bit of a grind, but soon was treated to panoramic views of gray wolf ridge, buckhorn, and the peaks on the far side of royal basin. Sunny and warm with gusty winds and a number of ravens riding the vents along the ridge. Clouds made the views that much more interesting in every direction including out across puget sound and over to Rainer.
Instead of dropping back down to the Silver Lakes junction, I kept along Townsend ridge over to the shoulder of Welch peaks. The scene on the ground looked much more like summer than fall with a number of flowers still going strong. The number of ravens increased and their chatter kept me entertained making my way up to Welch Peak. Along the way I got a better view of my options heading down towards Silver Lakes and was pleased that the ridge also seemed to go well the entire way over to Hawk Peak.
I dropped down the other side of Welch and instead of continuing up along the ridge, set my course cross country to an enticing grassy overlook above Silver Lake. (the ridge would have been a better option) I dropped down a scree gully and made my way across a rock garden with spotty flowers patches that looked like mid July. Having not kept in the best hiking shape this summer I was feeling a bit gassed. I didn't make the grassy knoll I was shooting for and instead schwacked my way back to the main trail just below silver lake. Two eagles were now circling overhead like vultures.
The lake was looking mighty inviting and there appeared to be nobody around. I dropped down to my skivvies and stood at the edge of dive in rock contemplating the temperature of the water. As I stood there like a weenie, I caught someone observing from the other side of the lake. Okay, in we go! The lake was far more refreshing than freezing. The gentleman and his pooch who were camping out that night came over to say hi. I shared a brew with them and looked over the map at alternatives for their exit tomorrow. Getting late, I made my way to lower Silver Lake which may have been the steepest portion of my hike. I thought there may be a way trail that connected the lower lake back to the Silver Lake Way Trail, but I was wrong. Skeeters and blow down were rough, but the low water level allowed me to rock hop most of the way. Once within ear shot of flow from the main lake, the trail was easy to find on the other side. The way trail was in good shape, weaving and winding back to the road where I had to walk about a mile back to my car. Spent and replenished.
Welch is a great destination for late-season hiking! (Coming from Bainbridge, I usually approach via the south Townsend trailhead.) It's definitely worth the last few hundred feet up to Peak 6030 (the grassy knoll above the lake) as the view up the Big Quil and of Constance is stunning. One of my favorite memories of this hike was on a chilly October day with solid high overcast and perfectly still air. All day, it was like the mountains were holding autumn's last breath. On the way back, passing the lake at dusk, the first silent flakes of snow began to fall.
-------------- "Forget gaining a little knowledge about a lot and strive to learn a lot about a little." - Harvey Manning
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