Forum Index > Trip Reports > Cooney Lake (Sawtooths) Day Hike - October 8-9, 2017
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HermitThrush
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PostMon Oct 09, 2017 10:16 pm 
If A.A. Milne were writing this report for me, he likely would have called it "In Which Joe Realizes He Needs to Buy Better Gear." My planned Carne Mountain larch trip was postponed due to a number of things that came up. I scrambled to complete my school work so that I could head up to the Methow Valley and do the Sawtooth Lakes Loop, also known as the Golden Lakes Loop, in larch season, something I've been dreaming of doing for a while now. I had a weather window, with the only chance of precipitation happening as I would be walking out on Wednesday. My brother and I rolled into the Foggy Dew Campground at 4:30 PM on Sunday night. We decided to drive up and stay the night there before driving the remaining 5 miles to the Crater Creek trailhead, from whence our adventure would commence. We ate dinner, read, and then darkness and a growing chill in the air forced us into our sleeping bags at about 7 PM. I am going to guess that no less than 20 cars, and maybe more, passed the campground heading down all throughout the evening. Our sleeping bags are rated to 20 degrees. We both had extra clothes and managed to get a good night's sleep. The creek running behind the campground provided some much needed white noise. I woke up slightly shivering in my sleeping bag at 4 AM. I guessed the temperature was about thirty degrees or just below that. Then, it occurred to me that if it was this cold at 2600 feet, how cold would it be at 7000+ feet? I had wool clothing, but I didn't think it would be enough. It was at that moment I knew our planned loop would be turning into, at best, a couple of day hikes. One can't really get hypothermia at night when the car, and its associated heater, is sitting right there next to your tent. We ate breakfast and headed up toward Crater Creek, having decided to do Cooney Lake as a day hike (about 16.4 miles) and then to take it from there. It was cold enough that the car barely started. First we mistakenly drove down the wrong road and only when we reached the sign for the Foggy Dew trailhead did we realize our mistake. Back up the road to Foggy Dew campground, and up to Crater Creek we went (thank heaven for my GPS, that's the second time it's gotten me out of a mistake like that). Once on the trail, at about 7 AM It took quite awhile to get our momentum going, due to shedding a few layers of clothing as we got warm, and getting hydrated, but we managed to reach the Martin Lake turn off at about 10:15 AM or so. We saw some larches far off, but did not actually encounter them on the trail until just after this point, about 2 miles from Cooney. And it was heavenly, as the pictures below will show. We reached Cooney Lake at about 11:15 AM, and the freezing cold wind coming off of the Sawtooths firmly convinced us we had made the right decision. After taking many pictures at the lake and in the basin, we marched off down the trail and left the basin by about 12:15 pm. Fighting blisters, sore knees, and sore ankles, we reached the car by 4 PM. We had originally contemplated maybe staying another night at Crater Creek and doing Boiling Lake as a day hike the following day, but having seen the larches we drove all the way from Steilacoom to see, we loaded up the car and drove home, 5.25 hours away. Had my brother and I brought zero degree bags, we likely would have done the loop. But we didn't want to chance freezing to death. We were prepared, but not prepared enough. Oh, and the larches weren't too bad either, LOL. The trail was a bit of a slog, and really wasn't scenic until about 2 miles from the lake. But these prospectors were really happy at the gold we found up there (metaphorically speaking, of course).

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NorDub
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PostTue Oct 10, 2017 11:07 am 
Awesome photos! That lake basin is gorgeous.
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I've been wanting to get out that way. I was in Winthrop Friday/Saturday morning, and we almost did Eagle Lakes. We opted for Blue Lake + Cutthroat Pass instead, but I do plan to hit that area next Larch season. How was the road to Foggy Dew, and then to the Crater Creek TH?

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Brushbuffalo
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PostTue Oct 10, 2017 11:43 am 
HermitThrush wrote:
woke up slightly shivering in my sleeping bag at 4 AM.

It can get quite cold in the Chelan Mountains in early Fall. I was camped at 7000' below Abernathy Peak at Scatter Lake on Oct. 7th one year, slightly shivering in my bag with down sweater on. I was shocked to check the temp in the morning....+7F ! Pretty colors, though.

Passing rocks and trees like they were standing still
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wanderwild
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PostTue Oct 10, 2017 11:53 am 
Great to get clear weather, despite the cold. Work during the week and crappy weekend weather kept me from my Sawtooth hikes this fall. Coldest I've had the displeasure of experiencing was 14 F on the PCT north of Cutthroat a few years back - there was ice forming on the outside of my sleeping bag, inside the tent. Ugh. Brushbuffalo - Got snowed on at Abernathy one time too!

"Whatever your mountain, climb on."
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HermitThrush
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PostTue Oct 10, 2017 12:27 pm 
NorDub wrote:
How was the road to Foggy Dew, and then to the Crater Creek TH?

Road was paved right up to Foggy Dew, one lane in many places, but in good shape. From Foggy Dew to Crater Creek TH it was in decent shape. Washboardy in a few spots, a couple potholes, but I'd say travelable by any careful driver in any car. Just one big pothole to watch for as of yesterday, and I could go around it with a Suburban.

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HermitThrush
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PostTue Oct 10, 2017 12:29 pm 
Brushbuffalo wrote:
7F !

Now I'm really glad I didn't try to overnight it. I only had a 20 degree bag. *sigh of relief* Someday, hopefully, I'll do the full loop with the proper gear.

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Brushbuffalo
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PostTue Oct 10, 2017 12:59 pm 
HermitThrush wrote:
Now I'm really glad I didn't try to overnight it.

Never fear, that frigid early October temp was several years ago, not during your trip. eek.gif

Passing rocks and trees like they were standing still
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HermitThrush
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PostTue Oct 10, 2017 1:55 pm 
Yeah I know, but if it can get that cold up there that time of year....brrrr.

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