Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Denny Creek / Lake Melakwa

This was a hard hike for me. I'm not sure why, but for two weeks now I've been huffing and puffing up the mountains. I'm going to chalk it up to a stressful couple of weeks and put it behind me. Although, besides crazy superman Del who for some reason had energy to spare on this trip, I wasn't the only one who thought this was a hard hike.

Honestly one of the most beautiful hikes I think I've done so far, The Denny Creek trail is an amazing 9 mile round trip hike that transports you to a whole other world; under Brave New World like freeway overpasses, water slides over granite rocks, alpine peaks, glacier like snow packs, a mountain pass and a beautiful alpine lake. It's crowded and there a quite a few kids on the beginning of the trail, but I have to say the crowds are worth it. It's such a beautiful hike you have to do it at least once.

The trail starts out very "manufactured nature trail" like. Wood outlines the path for you and there are quite a few sets of stairs and a couple little bridges going over small creeks. Then you start to hear the freeway and all the sudden you are under a huge overpass. I wanted to take a quick picture of it for reference in this post. You can see a blur on the left side, which would be a large fingerprint on my lens! Didn't catch that until halfway up the trail when Del was nice enough to clean it my lens and pointed it out to me. 
Del commented that he was tired of saying hello to everyone on the trail and it makes sense as usually we are on trails that aren't very crowded and at most we see 4 hikers that we have to talk to. I knew that there were two waterfalls on this trail and because we were passing so many families, I assumed that they were only going up to the first waterfall. I was almost right. This bridge crosses Denny Creek and above it is the Keekwulee Falls which is basically a water slide over huge granite slabs where families had parked themselves after the 1.5 mile hike. 

Del handed down his tripod to me, so for this trip I thought I'd try it out. The sun was really bright and the sky had a lot of clouds so I couldn't leave my shutter open for too long at the falls. I didn't like any of the pictures I took, but I included this one in the post to show you the scope of how big the Falls actually were. If you look on the top left hand corner of the picture you will see a pair of little legs. Those are some big rocks!

About .5 miles after the first set of falls we came upon a series of switch backs that opened up to look upon the mountains surrounding us. This is a view of Denny Mountain and the peak you see on the left is called The Tooth. Del took some great pictures on his site of this valley and the rock scrambles.

After heading up a rocky climb and a quick pass through some beautiful trees with their roots exposed on the trail (roots man, damn!) you come to a clearing with a large ledge overlooking Snowshoe Falls. The trail leads over to them and we were able to actually stand on the rocks above the falls where you can see the snow pack. There were a few couples hanging out on the rocks and I figured this is where most day hikers turned around instead of heading up to the lake. Turned out I was right. We didn't pass too many people on our way up to Hemlock Pass, of course it was getting late and I'm sure most people that were heading that way were camping out.

On the way up to Hemlock Pass I turned around to take a picture of the trail. As you can see there were many rocks  and three times we had to traverse through runoff streams and waterfalls that crossed the path. At one point we crossed Denny Creek again and laid across the creek was a large log to walk over.

Finally making it up and over the pass we come to a sign point the way to the two different lakes off the trail. We head to the left towards Lake Melakwa. There was still snow on the lake edges and it was very cold, but what a welcome feeling. I was exhausted from the hike and was ready to just sit as I knew it was going to be nightfall when we finally made our way down and I would need all the energy I could get. In this picture you can see the highest peak, Chair Peak (on the right), to which there is a scramble to get up to the top.

Del headed off to find a good view to shoot and I sat down at the side of the lake and took my tripod out to play around with the panoramic option on my camera. I had no idea how to use it and didn't realize that I would have to put the pictures together later in Photoshop, but I still think this one turned out pretty well. Hopefully, now that I know how to use it, my next outing I will have some fun panoramics.

Deciding he had taken all the shots he could, Del and I decided to head back down. He had purchased a head lamp earlier in the day thinking we might end up going down in the dark and boy was he right. I had an LED pen light that had been used as our only light as we came down Mt. Si in the middle of the night so I felt safe and prepared. Oh golly was I wrong. 
The batteries were almost dead in my light so we did a switch of batteries so we each had one good and one bad, but the light was so minimal that we were basically blind. The twilight was really nice and it was a cloudy night so the light pollution was bouncing off illuminating the trail. Once we reached the woods, however, it was pitch black. I twisted my ankle two or three times to the point of having to stop, and superhuman Del did it a couple times too but he just kept blazing the trail. He loves coming off the trail in the middle of the night. 
Finally we reached  Keekwulee Falls and it was at that point that we switched batteries back so his headlamp was at full power.After that it was a breeze getting back down to the trailhead. Per usual, we were the last ones off the trail and the seeing the truck almost brought tears to my eyes I was so tired. So lesson learned....bring light because you never never know.

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