Forum Index > Trip Reports > Williams Lake, Williams Butte, Camels Hump - Okanogan - 10/1-3/21
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geyer
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Joined: 23 May 2017
Posts: 427 | TRs | Pics
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geyer
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PostTue Oct 05, 2021 8:07 pm 
Dates: October 1-3, 2021
Distance: 22.7 miles
Accum. Elevation Gain: 8k'
Peaks: Williams Butte, Camels Hump
Lakes: Williams Lake
Total Humans Seen: 6

I'll save you the snoozer of a background story and just say that larch season could not have come at a better time because I was in dire need of a mental escape. Oddly enough, it wasn't the solitude of peakbagging that got me that escape for once, but a lot of base camp shenanigans.

This area wasn't too prominent on anyone's radar, but it seemed to fit the group's collective (lack of) fitness level and checked all the boxes of a solid larch season ramble. This would be the fifth annual fall frolic between some combination of Eve, Surafel, and me. Somehow the year 1 TR never got written on NWH but here's Eve's report. Also Year 2. Year 3. Year 4.

Day 1: Williams Lake + Williams Butte
Distance: 9.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 4680'

I met Surafel dark and early for the long drive over to Twisp River Road. And the first words that pop out of my mouth are "I'm hungry." Being the legend that he is, he says "Oh I made breakfast!" and pops out of his house with a bowl of scrambled eggs and cheese, garden grown tomatoes, seasoning, and perfectly cooked thick cut bacon. Already this is the best start to a trip ever. After a quick detour at the WA Pass Overlook, we stopped at the Thriftway in Winthrop for some snacks before starting the trail.

WA Pass
WA Pass

The trail is so mellow. Obnoxiously mellow. The average gain is 500 vertical feet per mile and there are 55 switchbacks! After what seemed like ages (but was really more like 3.5 hours and 7.5 miles) we reached Williams Lake. No one else was there, so we set up camp and Surafel got to work right away on trout fishing. In a matter of hours he'd lost count of how many he'd caught. We kept two of them, built up a nice fire pit and stoked a fire. Thank goodness fire season is over. The trout was amazing!

reynolds fire burn zone
reynolds fire burn zone
hello larches
hello larches
Larch needle tide line
Larch needle tide line
dinner
dinner
dinner
dinner
dinner
dinner
dinner
dinner
Chef hard at work
Chef hard at work
THAT TROUT WAS THIS BIG
THAT TROUT WAS THIS BIG

After dinner, we hiked up to Williams Butte to catch a sunset, but it was mostly blocked by clouds. The walk was worth it for the stroll through "Larch City".

Reynolds
Reynolds
Reynolds
Reynolds
Ridge walk
Ridge walk
Glacier and Bonanza behind Wy'North and Camels Butte
Glacier and Bonanza behind Wy'North and Camels Butte
weak sunset with minimal color
weak sunset with minimal color
weak sunset
weak sunset

Day 2: Camels Hump+ trout dinner #2
Distance: 6 miles
Elevation Gain: 3400'

The next day, I woke up a little before sunrise and the clouds to the east looked promising, so Surafel and I walked up to a ledge north of the lake. the colors died off pretty quickly. Somehow, the pictures came out better than I remember in real life...

twinning
twinning
morning at Williams Lake
morning at Williams Lake
Sunrise from just above the lake
Sunrise from just above the lake
Sunrise from just above the lake
Sunrise from just above the lake
Sunrise from just above the lake
Sunrise from just above the lake
Sunrise from just above the lake
Sunrise from just above the lake
Williams Lake Reflections
Williams Lake Reflections
Williams Lake Reflections
Williams Lake Reflections

After sunrise, Surafel went back to work with his fishing rod and I ate breakfast with the thought of climbing Reynolds and Camels Hump. To get there, you basically have to climb Williams Butte again (both ways). I started up and my legs felt tight, but that went away after the initial climb. After passing Williams, it became pretty obvious how isolated I was out there.

Alone.
With nothing but my thoughts.
And not good thoughts.
Trying to understand all the turns that life had thrown my way lately but not having any answers. All my life, I'd figured that a little logic and reason could make sense of anything, but lately that didn't seem to hold true. In my head, the same questions kept regurgitating themselves again and again with no real answers in a hopeless feedback loop. In the wilderness, a place I'd only ever thought of as being symbolic of "freedom", I felt trapped by these relentless, insufferable thoughts. There was too much freedom. I needed a distraction; I needed my friends.

Somewhere in my mind, I thought if I just pushed on to summit in spite of how I was feeling, it would be a symbolic triumph. But with the amount of distraction going on in my head, I knew I didn't have it in me to make it to Reynolds safely, not to mention the fact that I was enjoying literally none of it.... Ok that's not true - the larches looked nice  wink.gif . I walked up Camels Hump and was treated to some pretty great views of the southern tip of NCNP and the Sawtooth's golden larch-speckled ridges and along with a lot of burn zones.

Shear cliffs over to Reynolds
Shear cliffs over to Reynolds
Tony Basin
Tony Basin
McAlester with Boston, Buckner, Goode, and Logan in the background
McAlester with Boston, Buckner, Goode, and Logan in the background
Reynolds-Camels Hump basin
Reynolds-Camels Hump basin
bluebies and larchies
bluebies and larchies

On the long up-down-up-down-up walk back, I ran into a party of two who was going for Reynolds and possibly Camels Hump. I told them it looked like a sh##ty route, but maybe I was just projecting. Who really knows?

Upon returning to Williams Lake, I saw two orange figures at the lake. Eve must have made it! She had been delayed a day due to some leaky plumbing in her house. I decided to take the direct route down from Williams Butte, aka scree skiing! I was smiling. It was honestly the happiest I'd felt in weeks. I'd like to say my mood and the thoughts went away when I finally got to see my friends again, but no, they were still there. I sat on a log as Surafel meticulously cast his line, thinking "If the one thing in my life guaranteed to bring me joy can't even do that anymore, what else is there?"

old larch
old larch
coming down from Williams Butte. Surafel and Eve at the lake
coming down from Williams Butte. Surafel and Eve at the lake

Luckily Surafel was having a hell of a day on the lake and had caught some absolute units (over 50?), which made for good entertainment. He had saved two for dinner, but the wind was beginning to pick up and he was struggling to catch a third fresh one so that each of us could have our own trout. "Just one more cast" he said... 50 casts later....

Eve and I separated to start the fire. Surafel had built up the pit earlier in the day so that we could make a bigger fire tonight and not worry about embers. We collected a metric sh## ton of wood and flame-throwered the kindling with my camp stove (aka a real life cheat code). Surafel came back a while later, triumphantly holding up fish #3. Alright! Fish dinner for everyone! (And this one was even more delicious than the first night's).

evening catch
evening catch
here fishy, fishy
here fishy, fishy
Cooking dinner! Night 2
Cooking dinner! Night 2

As the night wore on, the wind continued to howl even stronger and we had to put out the fire a little earlier than we would have if it were a calmer night. After we went to bed, the wind continued to pummel our tents and the clouds opened up, dropping sleet on us. It was not a quiet night's sleep.

I awoke the next morning just before sunrise and saw some nice colors to the SW, but failed to take any decent pictures. Eve went up to Williams Butte for the first time, only to be socked in clouds. Surafel fished some more. I ate breakfast. Then we all packed up, too cold to wait for the sun any longer, and hit the trail by 9 am. It turns out those switchbacks are even more annoying on the way down.

See ya later War Creek Ridge!
See ya later War Creek Ridge!

If you've made it this far, you probably noticed how ambiguous I was describing the mental troubles as I plodded on to Camels Hump. I don't feel the need to share that here - have to draw the line somewhere. And I'm not looking for sympathy either, so none of that in the comments, please. But I will say, with this being my fifth full year on this site (and 49th TR) I can trace so many of my life's highs and lows by looking back at these trip reports. In the outdoors community, there's a certain pride that forces a lot of people to hide their mistakes or mental state, and I've tried to do the opposite when I write these reports. Not every trip is always a sick adventure. Mistakes are made. And some days you're just not mentally in it. And that's ok. But there's probably a story behind it. And that's why I write.
So thanks, NWHikers.

Matt, Midnight Slogger, Gabep, rubywrangler, raising3hikers, Nancyann, BeardoMcGrath, Walkin' Fool, jaysway, jstern, Route Loser, RichP, ONELUV1, kite
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neek
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neek
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PostTue Oct 05, 2021 8:22 pm 
I think the mountains are how some of us keep our sanity. Can't imagine what we'd do without them. Those larches are going to sleep now, but they'll wake up again soon.

outsider_bulu, geyer
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Fletcher
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PostTue Oct 05, 2021 8:38 pm 
I appreciate you sharing your feelings while on your way out to Camels Hump. I’ve been there so many times. Those fresh trout dinners look awesome!

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Worthington
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PostTue Oct 05, 2021 9:11 pm 
Any fish larger than 10-12"?

Gorgeous photos!

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ozzy
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Joined: 30 Jul 2015
Posts: 392 | TRs | Pics
Location: University place, wa
ozzy
The hard way
PostWed Oct 06, 2021 4:30 am 
Looks like the best way to get out and clear your head!! Thanks for the report and putting this one on my radar! That place looks amazing and the pics are great as usual. Can't believe y'all had it to yourselves! rocker.gif  Cheers!

--------------
“I don’t know what’s gonna happen, but I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames”-Jim

geyer
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jaysway
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jaysway
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PostWed Oct 06, 2021 7:58 am 
Beautiful pictures and words. I hiked to Maple Pass for sunset hoping to capture some good color, but likewise didn't see much of any. I should have gone up for sunrise instead it looks like! Appreciate your honesty throughout, there is a healing to being out in nature doing what we love.

geyer
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hbb
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hbb
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PostWed Oct 06, 2021 10:27 am 
That has to be the most tedious trail in the Twisp River valley. Mostly burn zone, and what should be a 2 1/2 hour hike takes close to 4 hours due to the unnecessary switchbacks.

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Gwen
LO Girl-of-the-Month



Joined: 14 Feb 2010
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Gwen
LO Girl-of-the-Month
PostWed Oct 06, 2021 6:52 pm 
geyer wrote:
"If the one thing in my life guaranteed to bring me joy can't even do that anymore, what else is there?"

So much this. Just to say you are not alone. Friends do help. Life should be shared, anyway.

--------------
Tomorrow's not promised to anyone, so be bold, scare yourself, attempt something with no guarantee of success. You'll be amazed at what you can achieve. -Olive McGloin

outsider_bulu  geyer
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geyer
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geyer
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PostWed Oct 06, 2021 9:46 pm 
Fletcher wrote:
I appreciate you sharing your feelings while on your way out to Camels Hump. I’ve been there so many times. Those fresh trout dinners look awesome!

Dude, the trout was absolutely the highlight of the trip!

Worthington wrote:
Any fish larger than 10-12"?

Yep, Surafel caught a few hogs out there

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rubywrangler
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PostWed Oct 06, 2021 10:21 pm 
Also jealous of those trout dinners. 50 fish! I think Surafel was channeling some fat bears this weekend. But no camp chair on this trip? What a slacker.

Appreciate your reflections in this report, and the previous 48. It's tricky relying on the mountains to buoy us but they usually come through in my experience. And mistakes make more interesting trips, and reports.

Other people's reports, I mean. All my trips are sick adventures with no mistakes  moon.gif

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geyer
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geyer
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PostThu Oct 07, 2021 7:19 am 
rubywrangler wrote:
All my trips are sick adventures with no mistakes  moon.gif

We all know you were happy as a clam and never had a single introspective thought while living out of the back of your CR-V on your solo year long western US road trip. And you never second guessed yourself, right?  wink.gif

rubywrangler
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Prosit
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PostThu Oct 07, 2021 4:30 pm 
geyer wrote:
But there's probably a story behind it. And that's why I write.

up.gif  up.gif

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