Forum Index > Trip Reports > Brush Soaked: An overnight trip along the Meadow Mountain Trail (White Chuck) -- 8-9 Aug 2020
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BeardoMcGrath
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PostWed Aug 12, 2020 2:32 pm 
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For various reasons, COVID and otherwise, I really hadnít made it out for any overnight hikes yet this summer in WA, and with August moving right along that was a problem that needed solving. Due to the pandemic I was looking for an area likely infrequently traveled, and after the pleasant time I had had along Lost Creek Ridge two years ago, I wanted to give the Meadow Mountain area a try. The forecast was mixed, with a chance of showers transitioning to partly sunny on Saturday, with sunny skies on Sunday.

I got a relaxed start from the Meadow Mountain TH just after 10 AM, with overcast skies and a light drizzle. There were only two other cars parked there. The trail/old road up to the Crystal Lake jct is easy, and well brushed. A large tree had fallen recently heading down into the Crystal Creek valley but had been cleverly cut to allow dirt bikes or 4-Wheelers to go by.

To keep things interesting, I had decided ahead of time to climb up to Crystal Lake, and then follow the old trail over the pass to Meadow Lake and rejoin the Meadow Mountain Trail farther along. From the jct with the Meadow Mountain Trail, the old road/trail heading towards Crystal Lake is quite brushy, which was a real bummer considering the wet weather and continued drizzle/light rain. It wasnít long before I was soaked.

Meadow/Crystal jct
Meadow/Crystal jct

From the end of the road itís very steep for a section until you enter the Glacier Peak Wilderness, after which Crystal Lake is only a short distance away. The lake itself is pleasant, but nothing spectacular. Fair number of mosquitos, and despite the forecast it was still kinda rainy. I took 20 mins for lunch before the chill and mosquitoes moved me right along.

Crystal Lake
Crystal Lake

The boot path around the SW side of the lake was mostly easy to follow, and the old trail up and over to Meadow Lake was pretty straightforward, if steep. With some flagging it was easy to follow even where the footpath was indistinct. Considering the wet conditions it was actually more pleasant than the drenched brush on the Crystal Lake Trail!

Standard condition going from Crystal to Meadow Lake
Standard condition going from Crystal to Meadow Lake
Tarn near Meadow Lake
Tarn near Meadow Lake

It was still raining down at Meadow Lake, where I spotted a couple tents and a lot of jumping fish. It was then an easy climb back up to the Meadow Mountain Trail. At this point it was after 2 PM and still rainy, and I was really hoping for some improving conditions heading eastward along the ridge.

The ridge trail, even in poor weather, was quite nice, with lots of wildflowers and all the clouds and mist added a certain mystery. By the time I made the big climb up and over into upper Owl Creek, it had finally stopped raining and there were occasional patches of blue skies above. Owl Creek is the only water between Meadow Lake to the west and a small creek SW of Point 6421 to the east.

The farther one goes along the Meadow Mountain Trail the more appropriate the name becomes, which did unfortunately mean my shoes werenít getting any drier. East of the supposed trail to Diamond Lake there was some occasional clearing and tons of wildflowers.


Nearing 5 PM I reached the top of some meadow switchbacks and could see the knoll recommended for camping in Chiwakumís report from 2012. At this point there was some clearing so I was hopeful ceilings would lift sufficiently in the next 3 hrs to get some good sunset views. After getting camp set up, I read for a bit, and occasionally wandered around to get some pics when the clouds shifted around. Unfortunately, by 8 PM conditions were mostly socked in, so I went to sleep early hoping for better conditions at sunrise. Unfortunately there are a couple campfire scars in the heather near this site; hopefully future visitors avoid having fires up there!

Approaching "the knoll"
Approaching "the knoll"
Evening "views"
Evening "views"

After sticking my head outside at 4 AM and still seeing thick fog, I was pleased an hour later that clouds had cleared out prior to sunrise. It was a bit chilly but I enjoyed the next couple of hours watching the sun come up and clouds swirl around down in the White Chuck valley and farther west along the Meadow Mountain ridge. Interestingly Sloan remained in shadow of Glacier Peak for a long time thanks to a perfect sun angle.

Rainier, Monte Cristo Range, Sloan
Rainier, Monte Cristo Range, Sloan
Clouds roll over the ridge
Clouds roll over the ridge
Black
Black

Since Sunday was looking to be a much better weather day, I decided to get an early start eastward, with a potential visit to Fire Mountain. The south facing slope below camp was absolutely carpeted and the trail was almost obscured, and quite narrow in places. And wet, so my boots were quickly back to waterlogged.

Descending to the trail
Descending to the trail
Some friend is nearby
Some friend is nearby

I followed the trail around the south side of Point 6421, and down into the basin WNW of Fire Mountain. While the old Routes and Rocks guide recommends this area for camping (and there is likely good year-round water) it seems like it would be pretty dark and cold in there, even in the summer. Rounding the corner into the basin just SW of Fire Mtn., it became apparent the easiest route to the summit was farther around to the east, and given time constraints I decided to leave it for another trip and backtracked to the summit of Point 6421, which is almost as high. Due to the wet brush I put on microspikes to climb some of the steeper terrain to the ridge. While the main summit has some trees, I hung out for an hour and a half just east of the summit on a rocky outcropping, enjoying views interspersed with clouds as the valley undercast lifted to the ridgetops. While Glacier Peak was in and out of the clouds I had a good view north to Lime Ridge and the deep, remote valley of Lime Creek in between. If Iíd had another hour I might have gotten better views as the clouds began to disperse.

Climbing to Point 6421
Climbing to Point 6421
Clouds rising
Clouds rising
Viewpoint. There was a small area for one tent or a bivy sack here.
Viewpoint. There was a small area for one tent or a bivy sack here.
Lime Creek valley
Lime Creek valley
Lime
Lime
Glacier summit
Glacier summit
Friend
Friend

On my way down I had a nice interaction with marmot, and took some time to enjoy all the wildflowers before returning to camp right around Noon to pack up. The trip back west along the ridge was pleasant, as I got to enjoy all the views I missed on the way in and experience the brush in a dry state. I wasnít able to spot the trail to Diamond Lake either direction where it is supposed to be on the map, so maybe the easiest way down there is farther to the east than it appears.

Huge wildflower field below camp
Huge wildflower field below camp

I was envious of the group of 5 heading out to Fire Creek Pass and then Lime Ridge, for an exit to the Suiattle River; looked like great weather and probably great wildflowers throughout. Other than that one group and one other person west of the trail down to Meadow Lake, I didn't see anyone else on the long road haul back to the trailhead. I was glad to stop for water at the top of the steep switchbacks that drop down to the old road, given that all the creeks farther along were under old bridges and difficult to reach. As others have noted, the long road walk is not too bad; itís mostly in the shade with occasional views and some pretty sections through alders. Much less brushy than the Crystal Lake Trail as well. Though there wasnít much time for stops considering the swarming bugs. There were more cars at the TH when I was back, surprising for Sunday evening, but I suspected most were from the 5 person party I saw.

Snowking, Green Mountain
Snowking, Green Mountain
End of the old Meadow Mtn Road
End of the old Meadow Mtn Road
Peekaboo Sloan
Peekaboo Sloan

Overall, a great trip despite the poor Saturday weather, and perfect timing for wildflowers. A single overnight is probably not enough time to enjoy the area; personally Iíd be interested in linking this area with the Lost Creek Ridge area via the PCT west of Glacier Peak, and the Fire Mountain High Route.
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Chief Joseph
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PostWed Aug 12, 2020 3:36 pm 
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Great report and photos! I might actually attempt this trip someday, especially now that I have the necessary beta...well hopefully, I get lost easily!

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Go placidly amid the noise and waste, and remember what comfort there may be in owning a piece thereof.
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Damian
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PostWed Aug 12, 2020 5:49 pm 
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Excellent report.  Great work. 👍🏿
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Sculpin
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PostThu Aug 13, 2020 9:34 am 
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BeardoMcGrath wrote:
the old trail up and over to Meadow Lake was pretty straightforward

I was so happy when I stumbled upon this trail!  I had convinced my wife that it wouldn't be too bad bushwhacking between the lakes, but I knew there was a chance it could be an ordeal.

When we got to Meadow Lake, there was a Boy Scout troop there.  The scoutmaster was loudly holding forth about something when we walked up.  He turned around and saw us coming around the lake, his eyes got as big as saucers, and he said "where did YOU come from???"

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Between every two pines is a doorway to the new world. - John Muir
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Get Out and Go
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PostThu Aug 13, 2020 9:32 pm 
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Really, really nice TR!  up.gif smile.gif  I know what brush-soaked is from the Little Wenatchee.   Seems worthwhile to drive over from the eastside for a different perspective on Glacier Peak.   eek.gif

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