7.5 miles round trip / 1400′ elevation gain
What happened to the winter in the Pacific Northwest this year? I’m not complaining by any means, but once again the weather felt more like spring as we headed east on I-90 towards the Cascade mountains. Two weeks ago my husband and I tried to beat the crowds by leaving early, only to grab the very last parking space at the trailhead for our day hike. Knowing the situation would be similar, we left even earlier waking before the sunrise. After a quick stop to pick up a fellow hiking friend, our car was the third to reach the parking lot for the Annette Lake trailhead just after 8:00 am. As soon as we stepped out of the car the sounds of Humpback Creek were thundering in the near distance. Although the sun was shining and the Puget Sound area was unseasonably warm, in the higher elevations near Snoqualmie Pass a chill lingered in the morning air. After reading recent trip reports for what is usually a snowshoe hike this time of year, we were prepared for a small amount of icy snow covering the trail at times but hoping for an unobstructed hike. With anticipation for our first visit to a frozen lake, our boots hit the trail as fast as our feet would allow. Almost as soon as the three of us started our way along the Annette Lake trail we came to a bridge crossing Humpback Creek with the backdrop of a beautifully cascading waterfall.
The trail to Annette Lake is filled with steep switchbacks most of the way climbing upwards towards our destination. Although we started the morning bundled up to keep warm, after climbing only a few switchbacks we were already stopping to shed layers. With the sun shining in a cloudless sky on unseasonably warm winter day, we couldn’t keep from smiling in spite of the exhausting push upwards along the trail. As the trail ascended alongside the mountain it would occasionally cross a creek or river with very well maintained natural bridges to guide our way.
We had to slightly navigate our way around hard packed ice once or twice, but it was hardly worth mentioning. The snowpack was almost non existent and when it was on the trail the ice was so hard it was like hiking on small boulders. On a few occasions we stopped to rest our aching legs and enjoy the wide open views across the valley and Humpback Creek beneath us. Even with a few stops we made good time arriving at Annette Lake in one hour and forty-five minutes. As we walked up to trail and the view of the lake came into sight, the sun was just peeking its head up behind the mountains as if to say good morning.
We spent the morning exploring the lakeside with the warmth of the sun upon our faces. We took turns throwing giant rocks towards the lake in hopes of cracking the ice, but they only bounced and skipped across the thick, frozen surface. As we paused for brunch we enjoyed listening to the soundtrack of a waterfall flowing into Annette Lake in the distance. At times the sun would dip back behind the mountain peaks leaving us cold and eager to make our way back down the trail.
With the sun still hiding behind the peaks and the trail descending, our warm layers came in handy once again. The ease of the hike as we made our way back down the trail allowed for great conversation amongst friends. Day hikers were pouring into the trail as we journeyed along making thankful for the decision to get an early start. We were stopped several times by red faced hikers inquiring about the remaining distance and time to the final destination of Annette Lake. In no time we reached the nearly full parking lot in the early afternoon. Once again, our journeys in the Cascade mountains left us with the feeling of great satisfaction. Blues skies surrounded the Puget Sound as we left Snoqualmie Pass behind. Another beautiful day in the Pacific Northwest will hold a special place in our memories.