Skills Hike I
July 18-22, 2010
Eight new Scouts led by two veteran trainer Scouts and two adult leaders ventured out on a 5 day, 4 night backpacking trip into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, northeast of North Bend, Washington. Our Troop takes this hike every year as a way to introduce new Scouts to our Troop and so they can learn lots of new skills. We hiked approximately 13 miles with packs on and also made a day hike to Melakwa Pass which was about 1.5 miles round trip. We changed elevation from 4,500 to 6,259 feet during the entire hike. We visited the usual Talapus, Olallie, Pratt, Lower Tuscohatchie, and Melakwa Lakes, and camped overnight at three of them. Scouts made many animal sightings and identified tons of plants. We had great weather during our hike too.
For our first day, we left West Seattle early, and began our trek from the Talapus trailhead after eating lunch and saying goodbye to our drivers. We stopped at Talapus Lake to search in vain for crayfish, then hiked on to Olallie Lake to camp for the night. We setup our tents, explored our site a bit, and took a quick swim before getting dinner ready. We made chili with cheese and carrots and had pudding for dessert.
In the morning, we got up early, and stowed our gear before eating a breakfast of english muffins, ham, and scrambled eggs with peppers and onions. Once we swept camp, we headed to the north end of the lake and made our way up to the main trail. We made it to Pratt Lake in time for lunch. We ate sausage and cheese on sailor bread as well as pickles and dried pears at a cool little campsite off the trail which had several logs and a nice flat rock for a table. From Pratt Lake, we made our way through the first leg of what we like to call “Devil’s Club Ridge”. The left edge of the trail falls off to a valley, and the right side of the trail is a wall of devil’s club, so no room for error there. We pulled into lower Lake Tuscohatchie in the early afternoon with plenty of time to setup camp and get in some exploring and swimming at the lake outlet. Dinner that night was teriyaki chicken with couscous, sugar snap peas, and pudding for dessert.
We began day three with a breakfast of granola, celery and peanut butter, and banana chips. After stowing our gear and cleaning up, we headed out of the lake basin and onto the second leg of “Devil’s Club Ridge”. Once we got off the ridge, the trail went up and up with switchback after switchback, but finally, we were rewarded with a view of Lake Melakwa. We hiked to the opposite side of the lake and setup tents near the rock table, throne, and jump-off spot. Lunch was hummus, pita, cheese, and cucumber. We had the lake pretty-much to ourselves on the first day, so we spent time swimming in the very cold water and playing in the snow that was still right near the edge of the lake. We also had time to get some skills requirements signed off for the new Scouts. Dinner for day three was chicken and bean burritos, dried apricots, and of course pudding.
Breakfast on day four was oatmeal, dried fruit, and cocoa, and then we took off on our day hike (thankfully, leaving our packs in camp). We climbed through rocks, creeks, and snow fields to Melakwa Pass, which is 1,000 feet above our campsite. We had some great views from up there so we sat down, ate snacks, and took pictures. We were able to do a little glissading on the way back down in places, so that was a big hit. Once we got back to camp, we were greeted by five dads who came up to visit their Scouts, and the members of Skills Hike II which started one day after we started. Fun to trade stories and work on skills together. Lunch was pizza bagels which is a long-time Scout favorite. After lunch, there was more swimming including a trip out to the rock in the middle of the lake and snowballing with more opponents. Three hearty Scouts (who were totally insensitive to climatic changes) took up the polar bear swim challenge to see who could last the longest in the frigid water. The challenge was won by a veteran Scout who stayed in for 62 brutal minutes! Dinner that night was the best of the trip with cheese tortellini in a tomato sauce, parmesan cheese, and rolls with garlic butter and dried mangos. The obligatory pudding topped off the meal, but on top of all that, one of the dads brought strawberry shortcake with him, and there was enough for both hiking groups! We stayed up late talking, star gazing, and learning to orient ourselves by using the stars.
We got up early on the last morning, stowed all our gear, swept camp, and said our goodbyes to the hikers from the second group. Our breakfast was yogurt granola bars and dried peaches which we ate while hiking around to the other side of the lake. We gathered at the start of the Denny Creek trail, and headed down to meet our drivers. We made it to the end of our hike, changed clothes, got into cars, and drove to lunch at XXX Root Beer Drive-In for some tasty burgers and shakes. Another super-fun Skills Hike for the books! – MHG