Dodging Storms at Pete Lake

Dodging Storms at Pete Lake

By: Shelby April 21, 2015 11:34 am 5 comments

Our mild winter and warm spring has left us dreaming of summer camping trips. We want to do more quick overnighter trips this summer, because they don’t require any time off and, while they can’t replace longer camping trips, they can be a quick fix and are certainly more memorable than weekends at home. For a bunch of reasons, we haven’t been able to go on any camping trips yet this year, but are looking forward to weekends we can.

One such quick trip that we went on last August was to the spectacular Pete Lake on the other side of the Cascades, near Roslyn, Washington. It was glorious, remote, and just barely far enough away that it was more worth it to camp than just hike. It was also a super easy and quick 4.5 mile hike in, with only 400 feet elevation gain.

Pete Lake header

We actually made it up early for this trip and left apartment at 7:00. We had kind of a rough start getting on the road, and by the time everything was sorted out, we were back on the road by 8:30, and parked at the trailhead at 11:00am. The trailhead is pretty far back down FR-46, which is miraculously paved almost the whole way.




We started our hike shortly after 11:00am. It was fairly easy and was basically straight as an arrow through the valley, and the beautiful Cooper River bumped into it on occasion. We ran into few other hikers, some of whom were coming down from multi-day trips up in the mountains. A storm was moving in, but looked like it was going to stay to the south of us. Thunder shook the huge ponderosa pines as we walked underneath.

The beautifully calm Cooper River

The beautifully calm Cooper River




Aptly named.

Aptly named.

We hiked and hiked and ended up hiking past the lake looking for a good spot to set up camp, hoping the trail would wrap back around the lake, but luckily we ran into a friendly wilderness ranger who pointed out a campsite we missed. Though thunder was intermittently rolling through the valley, he assured us we’d be okay in that spot. We decided it would be alright for just one night, despite the fact that the area was surrounded by tall grass and had no shade (big mistake) and set up camp and made lunch.

Mammatus clouds

Mammatus clouds

The clouds quickly broke apart, blue sky returned, and out came the bugs. We escaped to the tent to seek refuge from the ridiculous amounts of flies, and as I was getting into the tent on my side, I saw the source of the plague of flies… a huge, steaming pile of dog crap. Who lets their dog crap in the woods?? I’ve never seen a cloud of flies like that. It was like one of those swarms from old cartoons. I was waiting for it to take the shape of a big cartoon fist and beat us to death.

our first miserable campsite

our first miserable campsite


We tried laying down in the tent but the sun was beating down on us and we had no shade. The tent was like an oven. Spenser rolled out of the tent in a huff and decided to save us from our miserable existence. He took his backpack and hit the trail. I laid there and hoped to die. It was so hot. There was no shade. Uuugghh.

After what felt like an eternity, he came back successful. He found a new spot! We hurriedly and haphazardly packed up camp. The adventure wasn’t over though. I waddled over behind Spenser. He led me to the large group campsite that we had passed by earlier. There was a WTA sign hanging up, denoting that the group would be camping there between certain dates, but they weren’t there yet so we took a spot.


We set up our camp in the heavenly, wide, shaded spot, recovered, and shortly after, the storms rolled back in. We set up our tarp between two trees and our trekking poles, and read books while the rain and hail dumped on the campsite. Everybody around us retreated to their tents, but we enjoyed having the tarp to relax under.

the hail that fell on our camp

the hail that fell on our camp

Eventually the storm passed on again and the sky opened up to a beautiful sunset. We lazed around camp with a couple of other groups, watching a friendly deer come and go, and walking along the lake shore, looking at Summit Chief mountain to the west. There was a group of people near our camp that belonged to a backpacking class at Bastyr University (sign me up!!). They were an interesting bunch. One of the things that they did was go on a foraging adventure. We watched them march back into camp in the evening, holding different foraged roots, which they promptly made into tea, which they then offered to us. It turns out they had been foraging valerian root, dogwood, and vanilla leaf. The valerian root is great for sleeping, and the dogwood and vanilla leaf combo (sweetened with a bit of honey) makes a great analgesic. I’ve never slept so well nor woken up feeling so pain free on a camping trip.




After stumbling around in the dark to find a suitable tree for a bear hang (why didn’t we do this while the sun was up?!), we retreated to our tent.

A screaming child woke us up. The joys of group campsites.

We eventually got up and around. It’s always so hard to get up and pack up camp. We had a leisurely breakfast of our favorite blueberry granola (with added fresh picked huckleberries, of course) and Trader Joe’s instant coffee. Our curious deer friend was still hanging around in the morning, along with some chipmunks chasing each other around trees. After basking in the beautiful morning sunshine, we remembered it was Sunday and groaned about having to go to work the next day. We slowly packed up camp and sighed a goodbye to the beautiful lake.


The huckleberries were out in full force

The huckleberries were out in full force

Curious deer kept wanting to hang out

Curious deer kept wanting to hang out







We hit the trail, and actually ended up having our fastest 4 mile hike ever, charging down the trail to the car that was loaded with beef jerky. We ran into a couple of horses (and their riders) on the trail. We ended up taking the long way back to the car, walking along the road in the hot sun, covered in dirt and sand from the dusty trail.




We ended up learning a bunch on this trip:

  • The first campsite is not always the best campsite.
  • Don’t camp next to huge piles of poop.
  • Having a tarp to keep you out of the rain and hail is amazing.
  • That tea was amazing
  • Put the bear hang up before dark
  • We want to learn more about native plants and their names and uses. Shortly after this trip I bought us an awesome guide.
  • All in all, it was an absolutely amazing, eye-opening weekend. Next time we visit Pete Lake, which I hope is soon, I want to continue on up the trail to Spectacle Lake, just another few miles up the trail.

    Northwest Forest Pass required.
    Driving directions: From Seattle, drive east on I-90 and take exit 80 (Roslyn/Salmon la Sac). Turn left (north) on WA-903/Salmon la Sac Road and continue 16.8 miles through Roslyn and past Cle Elum Lake. Turn left (west) on FR-46 and follow 4.7 miles. Turn right on FR-4616 and continue 1 mile to the trailhead.

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