Getting Eaten Up at Rampart Lakes

Getting Eaten Up at Rampart Lakes

By: Shelby January 5, 2017 7:34 pm 8 comments

Rampart Lakes are awesome. Rachel Lake was awesome. Rampart Ridge is glorious.

Okay, that’s out of the way.

Our friends Zaq and Amanda wanted to go on their first real backpacking trip with us. We were doing the Enchantments later that fall and they wanted to have a couple trips under their belt before undertaking such a journey. We let them pick the spot, took them to REI and showed them our favorite gear, and then when the day came we loaded up in our Subaru and headed out to exit 62 off I-90.

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It was supposed to be an exceptionally hot weekend in Seattle (in the 90s!) so we were especially excited to hike up to some lakes… us and everybody else in the Puget Sound region. The forest road that leads up to the trailhead also leads to the Kachess Lake campground, and the traffic jam at the gate was pretty crazy for a remote dirt road. Parking at the trailhead was also insane. Spenser dropped us off and turned back to find a spot – what a kind-hearted soul he is. It was 11am by then, and the air was scorching hot and the bugs were swarming.

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Trailside yoga

Trailside yoga

Luckily the trail starts out nice and flat so we got a good warmup in before dragging ourselves up the mountain face for the last mile. We stopped for a break at this glorious little fairy pool that had a perfect waterfall flowing into. I threw my pack off and stuck my face in the cold running water. My head was pounding, and I was exhausted from getting hardly any sleep the night before. I’m glad we stopped when we did, because after that the trail just kept going up, up, up. It was very steep and rooty in some places, and very rocky and slick in others. It was hot and dusty all around. We passed dozens and dozens of people, and in some places it was like rush hour in downtown.

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We eventually made it up to Rachel Lake, dropped our packs, and made it down to the water. There were tons of people jumping in, swimming, and some had even hiked pool floats up. The guys stripped down to their boxers and jumped right in. Amanda and I were fine dipping our tired, hot toes in and sitting on the rocks. After stretching out for a while and cooling off (and a little bit of acroyoga), we put our packs back on and started our hike again.

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I like to awkwardly stand in the background

I like to awkwardly stand in the background

We quickly made it up the 400 feet gain and mile hike along the ridge to our destination, the Rampart Lakes. The trail started to split off into many social trails going off into each direction, and we heard voices from up in the trees. It was time to make a decision. We dropped our packs at the first sort of suitable spot we found, started swatting at the mosquitos, and then kept exploring around the lakes for a better spot, maybe one with a view.

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it was like walking into an REI ad

it was like walking into an REI ad

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After combing through all of the possible tent spots and visiting all the beautiful lakes, we spied an isolated area at the far side of the biggest lake. Amanda ran around to make sure it was as good as it looked, and to her excitement, it was. We made it back to our original spot as quickly as we could, grabbed up all our gear, and made our way back up the hill to the stunning lake.

The mosquitos instantly got friendly with us, so naturally we jumped in the lake to escape. It worked for a while; the water was warm, but the sun was starting to slide behind the ridge, and we had only barely made camp. Begrudgingly, we put our clothes back on and slathered ourselves in picaridin and DEET to maybe get SOME relief from them. The clouds of the insects were unbelievable. After making dinner (and breaking my spork !!!!), the boys put together a makeshift bear hang between two trees with some paracord, and then we retreated to one of our tents to escape the buzz of the biting bugs.

As the sun set, the mosquitos went to bed or whatever they do at night (hopefully just die… who knows), and the stars came out. It was a gloriously clear night, crisp and cold with just the first hints of autumn, and the stars were bright. We laid awake watching each star pop out, until eventually the Milky Way was visible before us.

Lakeside bakasana

Lakeside bakasana

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Lakeside stagging headstands

Lakeside stagging headstands

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The next morning Zaq and Amanda scrambled up to the top of the ridge to catch some views, while Spenser and I stayed down at camp to drink coffee, sketch the lake and take another dip to wash off the previous evening’s bug spray. Hikers were streaming by, admiring our campsite, calling it the jewel of the lake. The weather was beautiful. It was another hot, sunny day, but there was no better place to be than by an alpine lake. But we had to go. By 11:00, we had broken camp, and were on our way back down to Rachel Lake.

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Descending down to Rachel Lake

Descending down to Rachel Lake

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On the way back down, we stopped for a break back at the magical fairy pool to have a snack and splash our faces. We heard people yelling up above us on the trail. After a few minutes of yelling and confused hikers passing by, a group of us determined that there was an injured hiker off trail, who had fallen and couldn’t find the trail. Moments later, hikers were gathering around, and the couple that had cell signal were attempting to connect to 911 to get search and rescue started. Eventually, the person stopped calling for help, which was incredibly eerie for us. A few hikers went off trail to call for the injured person, but after 20 minutes or so, and no luck finding anybody, we decided that the best course of action was to hustle down the trail to get to cell service and call 911.

Two hours later, we were back on the road, and when I had signal again, I called 911 and relayed all the info that I had. The dispatcher said this wasn’t the first call she had had on this trail today, and would relay the info to the sheriff’s office. I posted on the WH&C facebook group afterwards, and a few hours later, got an update from a hiker who had run into the man coming down the trail who had fallen while climbing on the ridge. According to the poster, he was little shaken up, but otherwise okay.

Aside from the stressful injured-hiker scenario, the weekend adventure was fantastic.

Afterwards, I counted 110 mosquito bites. Thanks for existing, Tiger Balm and Benadryl cream.

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