Forum Index > Trail Talk > Derrick Lake - too early?
 Reply to topic
Previous :: Next Topic
Author Message
ALW Hiker
lakebagger



Joined: 27 Jul 2021
Posts: 19 | TRs | Pics
Location: Redmond, WA
ALW Hiker
lakebagger
PostSat Jul 16, 2022 9:34 am 
My hiking group was thinking of doing a loop around Rock Creek / Wildcat Lakes / Tin Cup Joe Falls in a few weeks. The part that sounds most challenging, based on my reading of earlier reports, is the waterfall / rock scramble section just below Little Derrick Lake. Some folks have said that part would be difficult or impossible in higher water conditions. Also, while I had been to Tin Cup Joe Falls earlier this year, I had never been up the route toward Derrick Lake.

With that in mind, I set off for a recon hike yesterday, figuring I would at least make it up to the crux of the route, or maybe up to the lakes. It only read as 7 miles or so on the map, how hard could it be? Plenty hard, as it turns out! I did not make it to the crux of the route - only to the bottom of the section where the trail drops to the creek.

Here are some pictures of Tin Cup Joe to maybe give you an idea of the current water volume.

Lower falls
Lower falls
Middle and upper falls
Middle and upper falls
Upper falls, east fork
Upper falls, east fork
Upper falls, west fork
Upper falls, west fork

I found the trail to Derrick Lake fine, after climbing through a bit of devil's club left of the lower falls. The trail is in decent shape in the lower half, but gets increasingly more overgrown on as it goes higher. I lost the trail on the way up a few times. In the higher sections it's all but impossible to see it with all the berry bushes and evergreen branches in your face, but the tread is still there. I lost it plenty of the way down too, mostly in the same places. Here are a few trail shots.

Brushiness - the trail is there!
Brushiness - the trail is there!
Root ladder
Root ladder

After about an hour and 20 minutes of slow progress above the upper falls, I finally reached the spot at about 3450' where the trail descends to the creek.  This corresponded with what was on my map. This is where the real trouble began. Most reports I've seen said to drop to the creek and then climb up the creek. However, when I reached the creek this seemed all but impossible. With the volume of water, I would only go about 20' before having to climb out of the creek again to go around a large waterfall. I'd basically be hemmed in between dense brush reaching into the creek and waterfalls pouring over the rocks.

Descent gully to the creek
Descent gully to the creek
Cripple Creek at the bottom of the gully
Cripple Creek at the bottom of the gully
Creek and cliffy walls on the west
Creek and cliffy walls on the west

I tried climbing over rocks and through brush to about 50' above the east side of the creek, angling south, and found what appeared to be sections of path. However, it could easily just be game trails, and nothing was as well defined as what I had seen below. The terrain over there gets very steep very quickly.

Brush east of the creek
Brush east of the creek
Faint path sign
Faint path sign
Faint path sign, and STEEP terrain on east side
Faint path sign, and STEEP terrain on east side

So, with all that being said, is it too early to attempt this route? Being a late snow year, I expect the creeks are still flowing pretty good, but they're already a lot lower than they were a month ago. For those that have been on this route before, once you descend the gully to the creek is there any more bushwhacking needed? Or is the route literally scrambling the rocks in the middle of the creek the rest of the way up? Perhaps I just underestimated the amount of canyoning required!

Back to top Reply to topic Reply with quote Send private message
zephyr
aka friendly hiker



Joined: 21 Jun 2009
Posts: 3009 | TRs | Pics
Location: West Seattle
zephyr
aka friendly hiker
PostSat Jul 16, 2022 2:09 pm 
ALW Hiker wrote:
Middle and upper falls
Middle and upper falls

Such a beautiful scene here.  How was the trail getting up to this point?     The WTA reports describe numerous large blowdowns.    Thanks.  ~z

Back to top Reply to topic Reply with quote Send private message
ALW Hiker
lakebagger



Joined: 27 Jul 2021
Posts: 19 | TRs | Pics
Location: Redmond, WA
ALW Hiker
lakebagger
PostSat Jul 16, 2022 4:15 pm 
The trail is easy to follow, but the recent trip reports are right - there are a lot of very large blowdowns. Some of the blowdowns have blowdowns.  smile.gif  Many must be climbed over, some require the limbo to get under - I hate those ones. Some involve multiple trees that you need to walk, hop, or otherwise make your way over in creative ways. There are a few places where losing the trail is possible if you're not paying attention, mostly when detouring around blowdowns.

Here's a video of the middle and upper falls (left side):
.

To visit the middle and upper falls, it seems easiest to cross the creek and head up the Derrick Lake Trail first, then it's easy open woods with way trails to get to the basin below each fall. It is possible, but a bit trickier route finding, to get to the middle section of the right falls - you have to go up a gully to the right of the lower falls, then traverse left across the bottom of a talus field (NOT up into the brush).

To get to the Derrick Lake Trail, I found it easiest to cross the creek on a large log that heads right for the lower falls basin, then hop the rest of the way on a couple of rocks. From the left side of the lower falls, it wasn't too hard to climb up the hill and intersect with the trail, but you might want gloves for the devil's club!  There are some other big logs a bit downstream that may also work for crossing, but I didn't explore that option.

Back to top Reply to topic Reply with quote Send private message
zephyr
aka friendly hiker



Joined: 21 Jun 2009
Posts: 3009 | TRs | Pics
Location: West Seattle
zephyr
aka friendly hiker
PostSat Jul 16, 2022 6:42 pm 
Thank you for all the additional info.   Those falls are really something.

You had mentioned a loop that included the Wildcat Lakes.  I had never been to those so last year I made it to Upper Wildcat.  It was a long day since you have to first reach Snow Lake, then Gem Lake before you can even get into that drainage (from the other direction).  I remember having a distinct feeling once I started the descent below Wright Mountain that there wouldn't be any other folks around.  It looked and felt very remote all of a sudden.  I am a much slower hiker than you and I was mostly on trail until Lower Wildcat.   From there it's more of a boot path to the other lake.  Your trip will be even more work in very rugged terrain.  But I think you will have others with you.   I look forward to seeing that report.  ~z

Back to top Reply to topic Reply with quote Send private message
ImTheScientist
Member
Member


Joined: 26 Mar 2011
Posts: 248 | TRs | Pics
ImTheScientist
Member
PostSun Jul 17, 2022 8:24 am 
I would not do Derrick until later. The most difficult part of Derrick is right below the lake. You have to crawl down multiple logs that sit in the drainage. With high water that is going to be sketchy. Id give it a month.

Back to top Reply to topic Reply with quote Send private message
MackAttack
Member
Member


Joined: 31 May 2011
Posts: 101 | TRs | Pics
MackAttack
Member
PostMon Jul 18, 2022 7:34 pm 
Once you get in the creek, you stay in it until just before Little Derrick, no more bushwhacking. You don't want to do that approach with a lot of water.

I've done the loop you're looking to do. You're in for an adventure! Feel free to send me a message if you've got any questions.

Back to top Reply to topic Reply with quote Send private message
puzzlr
Mid Fork Rocks



Joined: 13 Feb 2007
Posts: 7050 | TRs | Pics
Location: Stuck in the middle
puzzlr
Mid Fork Rocks
PostTue Jul 19, 2022 12:45 pm 
We went up last year in September when it was very dry. We didn't have any issue with the water then, but it's a big watershed and I'm sure there's still a lot of snow melt coming down this year. It all has to funnel through a narrow gap. I'd guess the water would be flowing over the log in the photo below and that's what you need to climb to get through this gap.

Obstacle near Derrick Lake (Sep 2021)
Obstacle near Derrick Lake (Sep 2021)
Steep walls prevent exiting canyon or safely avoiding walking in the creek bed
Steep walls prevent exiting canyon or safely avoiding walking in the creek bed

It was a great idea to scout that lower part first though -- as you now know, it's hard to follow the trail in many places. We lost it a couple times both up and down. Thanks to GPS and a track from MackAttack we had some idea of where to look for it again.

--------------
Mid Fork Rocks flickr
Back to top Reply to topic Reply with quote Send private message
ALW Hiker
lakebagger



Joined: 27 Jul 2021
Posts: 19 | TRs | Pics
Location: Redmond, WA
ALW Hiker
lakebagger
PostTue Jul 19, 2022 11:51 pm 
Awesome, thanks for the great info everyone!

I'll reply in more detail later - just got back from a 3-day lakebagging adventure at Myrtle Lake.  Here is a teaser from today, which looks eerily similar to puzzlr's photo of the Derrick ascent gully.


Back to top Reply to topic Reply with quote Send private message
ALW Hiker
lakebagger



Joined: 27 Jul 2021
Posts: 19 | TRs | Pics
Location: Redmond, WA
ALW Hiker
lakebagger
PostWed Jul 20, 2022 9:50 pm 
zephyr wrote:
It looked and felt very remote all of a sudden. I am a much slower hiker than you and I was mostly on trail until Lower Wildcat. From there it's more of a boot path to the other lake. Your trip will be even more work in very rugged terrain. But I think you will have others with you. I look forward to seeing that report.

I'm not sure about you being a slower hiker than me! It partly depends who I am hiking with though - I tend to go faster when I'm by myself.

I have a friend who went to Caroline, so I think the route there is pretty easy from Upper Wildcat. Other than the bit below Derrick Lake I posted about, the rest looks straightforward in terms of terrain, so is mostly a matter of avoiding the brush as much as possible. Many older reports of that loop used a raft, which would be really nice to cross Derrick Lake vs. beating the brush to or from Hatchet Lake. Maybe we'll postpone the trip until next year so I can get a boat. smile.gif

Back to top Reply to topic Reply with quote Send private message
ALW Hiker
lakebagger



Joined: 27 Jul 2021
Posts: 19 | TRs | Pics
Location: Redmond, WA
ALW Hiker
lakebagger
PostWed Jul 20, 2022 10:04 pm 
puzzlr wrote:
We went up last year in September when it was very dry. We didn't have any issue with the water then, but it's a big watershed and I'm sure there's still a lot of snow melt coming down this year. It all has to funnel through a narrow gap. I'd guess the water would be flowing over the log in the photo below and that's what you need to climb to get through this gap.

Thanks for those photos, that's just what I needed. I didn't get anywhere close to that top part, as there was so much water in the creek right where I joined it, I couldn't proceed safely. Here's a video of the creek about where the trail "enters" it. The rocks in this video are about 2-4' in diameter, to give you an idea of the amount of water coming down.


puzzlr wrote:
It was a great idea to scout that lower part first though -- as you now know, it's hard to follow the trail in many places. We lost it a couple times both up and down. Thanks to GPS and a track from MackAttack we had some idea of where to look for it again.

I'm always amazed at how well the tread stays defined on old fishing trails like this one. Even though the brush completely obscures the view of the trail, it's still clear at your feet. Pushing aside the brush constantly is an upper body workout, ha ha. Next time maybe I should bring my safety glasses and just power through it.  smile.gif

Back to top Reply to topic Reply with quote Send private message
   All times are GMT - 8 Hours
 Reply to topic
Forum Index > Trail Talk > Derrick Lake - too early?
Jump to:   
Search this topic:

You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
   Use Disclaimer Powered by phpBB Privacy Policy