Stone Lake, 11/22/13
6.5 miles of hiking • 1750' elevation gain •
Yet another beautiful day in the PNW saw two of her aging sons head out into the sun kissed brisk fall air planning to head up to Townsend Mountain. With a 4WD truck for conveyance we were certain we could make it to the fisherman's trail leading to Eagle Lake and head up without difficulty. Hah! declared the winter witch with wanton disregard for our desires. The road leading to the trailhead was teasingly bearing the imprint of recent travel but would soon peter out at a fork. Having already passed some spots where the cliffs along the road waited impatiently to rid itself of snow and rocks and fearing entrapment by Mother Nature's mischievous siblings, we decided not to risk leaving the truck and walking up the road; instead, we turned around and headed to Barclay Lake, the plan now to head up to Stone Lake, then cross over the meadows to Eagle Lake, with a final ascent to Townsend Mountain from the northwest. Hah! A gorgeous autumn day lifted our spirits as we traveled the moss draped trees of the forest beside the babbling Barclay Creek. Arriving quickly at the lake we stopped for a quick snack and enjoyed the views of imposing Baring bearing down upon us. As the sun warmed the frozen lake sounds akin to crashing panes of glass filled our ears and demanded our attention but it was only the lake fissuring beneath solar rays cast upon its surface like rocks thrown against the windows of long abandoned urban edifices. We were quickly off again and reaching the northeast edge of Barclay's shore headed north into the Wild Sky Wilderness. The trail is marked and can be found if one pays attention but the angle of ascent casts all attentions to one's legs and breathing. Emerging from the forest into a talus field the way is now marked primarily by cairns but being stone on stone these are well-camouflaged and easily missed. The snow covered rocks made for slow going as each step had to be weighed and measured to make certain it could support each of us. We traveled northeast and passing around some cliffs stretching down from Merchant's brawny shoulder we crossed an ice covered creek and soon emerged on the western shore of tiny Stone Lake which we traveled along before heading NNW to come out in Paradise Meadows, in summer a mosquito's muddy paradise now a virtual winter wonderland. With Townsend staring down on us bidding us welcome, we came to the realization we had reached our turn-around time for the day. The nearly two hours lost when we were forced to change our initial plans had caught up to us and, less than a quarter mile from Eagle Lake, we succumbed to Father Time's demands and began our descent, staying in the woods at the eastern edge of the talus filed as long as we could, then heading southwest through the rocks until we reached treeline whence we descended at a rapid pace to Barclay Lake as the light of day bid farewell. Back on well-defined trail, we returned to the trailhead mid-twilight and headed home, determined to return again to fulfill our plans of mounting Townsend's summit.
Pacific Northwest Outdoor Adventures