Originally, I planned to backpack all of Section J of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) with my dog but had to cut our trip short due to weather and time constraints.
Instead, I set my sights on Spectacle Lake, nestled at the base of Chikamin Ridge, and 16.9 miles along the PCT from Snoqualmie Pass (one way).
We planned this backpacking trip as an out and back, for a total of almost 34 miles round trip. I know my little dog was up for it.
Days before our trip I hit up REI for a ton of last-minute things and spent WAY too much money. It was all stuff I needed, or at least I convinced myself that I needed.
One of the things I picked up that I did need – and that Hubby absolutely insisted upon since I would be hiking alone with Gretel – was a Garmin inReach Explorer Satellite Messenger that would allow me to stay in contact with him via text and update him on how Gretel and I were doing.
He could also follow our progress on a map because the unit also has a GPS.
So Friday morning we arrived at the trailhead, packed up, and headed up the Pacific Crest Trail toward the Kendall Katwalk.
There were no weather surprises on the way up – I knew it would be raining on us all day and we wouldn’t be able to see much.
We hiked 6 miles uphill in the rain and fog. This is the only picture I got of that part of the hike – the Kendall Katwalk in the fog.
I had hiked to this point before but it was on a sunny day. The fog added a mysterious feel to it and I was actually more nervous than last time crossing this trail clinging to the side of the sheer ridge.
I am not afraid of heights so the sheer drop off didn’t bother me but the surrounding fog made it harder to get my bearings and gave me a bit of vertigo.
It’s totally safe though, I swear. The trail is very wide and there are rocks lining the outside edge of it).
My dog and I camped at Ridge and Gravel Lakes for the night, which made our hiking distance about 9 miles total for the day.
I picked a tent spot at Ridge Lake that was on a bit of a slope so the water would run off and not settle under the tent if it rained all night… which it did.
I set up Gretel on her camp bed with her camp blanket and the freeloader watched me to all the work to set up camp.
It was a bit windy that night. I could hear the wind blowing through the treetops like a freight train but our tent was sheltered so we only felt the wind shake the tent a few times.
We got a good 12 hours of sleep. I packed up all of our stuff and hit the trail the next morning as the sun was coming out.
We hiked back past Edds Lake and around Joe Lake to the trail traversing below Huckleberry Mountain.
This was the most memorable view of the hike for me. I just loved the view.
It’s here where I have to pause to warn you about this trail. The views are amazing. However, it is NOT a place to go if you want to be left alone with only your thoughts and the sound of the wilderness.
The trail to Kendall Katwalk starts at Snoqualmie Pass and Interstate 90. You can hear the roar of traffic for most of the way up to the Kendall Katwalk. Once that sound dissipates, it is replaced with something else.
Also, the military often practices flying fighter jets in the mountains.
I’m talking the super loud, sonic fighter jets and I am talking often.
I had seen one or two up there before on a day trip but I would say there was one flying nearby approximately every two hours (thankfully they didn’t fly at night).
On this trip, I was standing at the pass looking up at Huckleberry Mountain, a fighter jet came screaming by just over my head. Seriously, I felt like I was able to look the pilot in the eye.
I normally get a little disgruntled when my solitude was disrupted but it was such a cool experience that I shrugged it off.
Anyway, we made it a bit past Chikamin Peak and stopped for lunch. Even though there were still some high clouds, the views were amazing.
Until the fog and wind moved in that is.
It suddenly got bitterly cold – to the point where I started to reconsider if hiking in these temperatures was safe for my small dog (it was certainly uncomfortable for me).
As I waited for my hubby to report the mountain forecast to me (via the satellite messenger), my face started to hurt a little and my fingers got really cold.
The mountain weather forecast had changed and it looked like we would be in for a cold, miserable night.
We headed back to Ridge and Gravel Lakes to camp again. I if I had known we would turn around, I would have left my tent up and opted not to carry my big backpack!
Not knowing if we would have tree cover at Spectacle Lake, or how sheltered from the wind we would be, I chickened out.
I decided right there, with my fingers frozen and my nose dripping from the chill, that we would turn back to Ridge Lake.
We hiked back through the beautiful Chikamin Pass, where we ran into a couple of thru-hikers heading toward Canada to finish the entire length of the Pacific Crest Trail (it runs from the Mexican Border to Canada through California, Oregon, and Washington).
We hiked back along the ridge past Joe Lake.
From Ridge Lake to where we stopped and back was about 10 miles round trip.
It was a very long day but my little dog Gretel did great. Me on the other hand? My hips were getting sore from my pack and I started to get a pain in my foot.
We got back to Ridge lake just before dark.
The camp spot we used the night before was taken, as were most of them at the lake since it was a Saturday night and that is a busy trail, so we took one of the last campsites at the end of the lake trail.
I was too tired, and it was way too cold, to spend time heating up water for dinner so I choked down a snack bar, set up the tent, and we passed out.
As we did the night before, we slept for about 12 hours. It took some time for me to fall asleep because it was so cold – I was shivering a bit despite wearing long underwear, socks, a light down jacket and having a little doggie heater snuggled next to me – but Gretel had no problems getting some shuteye.
The next morning we woke to find everything covered with frost.
After breakfast, I snuggled Gretel in her little nest while I packed up camp.
After a nice chat with strangers that had camped next to us, we headed back toward the trailhead at Snoqualmie Pass.
I feel kind of like a wimp for cutting our trip short but, although I knew it would be cold, I wasn’t prepared for quite how cold it was.
I’m not a super experienced backpacker, and had never backpacked in the mountains with my dog that late in the season, so a lot of lessons were learned on this trip.
Unlike the when we hiked the Kendall Katwalk on the way up, it was sunny and clear.
I hiked to the Kendall Katwalk one other time and one of my favorite views was of Red Mountain just before you get to the Katwalk (or just after if you were heading the direction we were).
Although it was clear and sunny when I had hiked the Kendall Katwalk earlier in the summer, there were clouds on the horizon. The women I hiked with said Mt. Rainier was visible in the distance on a clear day.
I got the privileged of seeing it on this hike. You can see it to the right of the big trees (as is usual, this picture absolutely does not do it justice).
Our total backpacking trip distance, adding in the bit of backtracking we did and side trails we explored, totaled 28 miles in three days.
I highly recommend this trail for someone looking to take a dog-friendly backpacking trip.
We saw a couple of other dogs on the trail (but Gretel was the smallest) and they were clearly enjoying it.
The views are pretty amazing and there are a good number of camp spots.
I’m still trying to decide if I want train myself and my dog to thru-hike the entire 72 mile J Section of the Pacific Crest Trial, from Snoqualmie to Stevens Pass, in the future.