Thursday, August 3, 2017

Backpacking: Copper Ridge to Egg Lake & Copper Mtn Lookout

Copper Mountain Lookout
Dates Backpacked: July 28-30th, 2017
Location: North Cascades National Park
Miles hiked: 20.4 miles
Elevation Gain: over 3200 ft, but I am not too sure
Difficulty: Moderate

North Cascades National Park started a new lottery system this year with their backcountry permits. You submit a form, where you can prioritize the permits you want and put down a few backup options, pay $20, and wait to hear back a few weeks later. Doing an overnight at Sahale Arm was my first choice and I didn't get it. Copper Ridge was my backup and I was kind of bummed at first when I secured an overnight permit for Egg Lake on the Copper Ridge Loop instead. I mean, none of my friends had really heard about it. No one was envious I got this backcountry permit for some random lake. But looking back, I'm really happy I got the Egg Lake permit and got to experience something I didn't know existed out there till now. Also, one of my other friend's secured a Sahale Arm permit for September, so I still get to do it.

So back to planning this backpacking trip. I originally wanted to do the entire Copper Ridge Loop, which is a 35 mile loop that goes from the forest, to the mountain ridge, and drops down into the valley and follows the Chilliwack River. Well of course I don't have enough paid vacation days at work, and with Cody having started a new job 2 months ago, he doesn't have the vacation days either. So we settled and agreed on just doing part of the loop and only taking 1 day off from work. The permit I secured was to camp one night at Egg Lake. We decided we would try to obtain a 2nd night at Egg Lake if there was any opening when we went to pick up our permit from Glacier Public Service Center (aka the ranger station), and if we couldn't secure the 2nd night, our back up was to camp at Hannegan Camp. Hannegan Camp is 3.7 miles from the trailhead, in national forest territory so a backcountry permit isn't needed. You need a backcountry permit to backpack overnight in national parks. We got lucky and scored a 2nd night at Egg Lake for Saturday!

Friday July 28, 2017:
Cody and I left Seattle a little after 5 AM Friday morning and got to Glacier Public Service Center by 7:30 AM. Service Center opens at 8:00 AM. We were the first ones in the parking lot so I thought I had time to wander around and just wait till the station opened. But by the time Cody noticed others showing up and waiting in line, by 7:45 AM, I was the 4th party in line. I should have been paying more attention! It's ok though, the 3 parties in front of me didn't affect our plans. 2 of them were looking for climbing permits for Shuksan, and the 3rd group was doing Copper Ridge Loop, but ended up picking an itinerary that went the opposite way than we did. The ranger was kind of discouraging, saying "Trail is 70% snow to Egg Lake, and 40% snow to Copper Mountain Lookout". We still went with our itinerary anyways and I am so glad we did! We brought ice axes, gaiters, and microspikes, and none of it was necessary. We did take out our spikes for a short snow crossing but it wasn't really needed. So get to the station early if you don't have permits secured! I am pretty sure because we got the 2nd night's permit for Egg Lake, it affected the itinerary of the group behind us. Early bird catches the worm as they say!

Right before we left the ranger station, we asked where there was a quick bite to eat nearby and they pointed us in the direction of Wake n' Bakery just down the street. It was a cute little coffee shop with some tasty breakfast burritos! Definitely worth swinging by here!
Our hike started at the Hannegan Pass Trailhead. We hit the trail at 10:50 AM.

These were the most notable places on trail to keep mileage:
3.7 miles in is Hannegan Camp
4.2 miles in is junction to Hannegan Peak
5.1 miles in is Boundary Camp (first camp that requires backcountry permits)
8.2 miles in is Egg Lake (our destination for the first night!)

It took us 7.5 hours to get to Egg Lake from trail head, but we also stopped for a 45 minute lunch when we got to Boundary Camp. We hit snow 7 miles in, and it was a snow field that was not hard to cross. There are only 3 campsites at Egg Lake. When we got there, 1 of them was taken already, so we looked at the two that were still available and chose the one that was closest to the bear box. Yes, there are bear boxes provided by the national park at this camp! So bear canister is not required here. We actually brought one anyways, and wished we hadn't. They are so bulky! Another great thing they had were compost toilets. These were probably the nicest backcountry toilets I have experienced. Usually the toilet is a bush or a wooden box, and the boxes usually smell. Well these had actual toilet seats on them and the smell wasn't too awful! It is beginning of the season though for this trail, so the compost toilets might not be as nice come end of August lol. Anyways, we set up camp, ate dinner, hung out, and headed to bed.

Miles hiked: 8.2 miles

Campsite at Egg Lake


Saturday July 29, 2017:
We slept in, had a lazy morning and then decided to hike to Copper Mountain Lookout around 10 AM. It's about 2 miles from Egg Lake one way, and we reached it in less than 2 hours. It was such a clear day up there at the lookout! We only had the lookout for 5 minutes to ourselves before 3 trail runners showed up. Kudos to them! They were in trail runners and only carrying hydration packs, and were running the entire 35 mile loop in one day! We took pictures, ate snacks, chatted to other hikers who showed up and just enjoyed being at the lookout. We actually ran into a guy who started at trail head with us but went the opposite way of the loop, and had already circled to us! Go Devin! We headed back to Egg Lake after hanging out at the lookout for almost 2 hours and made a late lunch of instant mashed potatoes and noodles. We took cat naps in our hammock and just enjoyed lounging around for the rest of the day. We filtered water, made dinner, and went to bed. Really didn't do much besides hike 4 miles this day lol.

Btw, you cannot stay in this lookout, it's not open to the public. The rangers use it still to monitor the area.

Miles hiked: 4 miles

Sunday July 30, 2017:
We woke up, made breakfast, packed up camp, and hit the trail by 8:30 AM back to trailhead. We knew it was going to be a long hot day and we wanted to get back to the car as fast as possible. With minimal breaks, we actually made it back to trail head in 6 hours! We were definitely proud of ourselves since the first day took us 7.5 hrs to get to Egg lol.

Mile hiked: 8.2 miles

Overall, Cody and I had a great time. the views were amazing, the skies were clear, and the sun was shining! What was there to complain about? (Besides the annoying mosquitoes and flies of course lol) We were remembering last summer, and how the weather wasn't always this nice. I mean, the first backpacking trip I took Cody on was to Rachel Lake and it had rained on us lol. So we are appreciating this warm weather while it lasts!

Notable gear that we had that came in handy: Bug nets for the head. Yes they look silly and it gets hot wearing them, but it prevented bugs from flying up our noses, ears, and mouth, and it prevented getting mosquito bites all over our faces!

Until next time North Cascades!

Pictures don't do it justice
Shuksan and Mt Baker in the center
"The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark" - John Muir
Trail going towards Silesia Camp
Hannegan Peak in front of Cody
Cody and our campsite
Site was big enough for 2 tents
Compost Toilet
 Wild flowers were in full bloom!
Copper Mountain Fire Lookout
The mountains are calling!
 Egg Lake on Friday, by Saturday the ice in the middle and on the right had melted
Sign for the 3rd campsite
View of Egg Lake from the Copper Ridge Trail up to the lookout

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