So sit right down, and you'll hear a tale.................
Seven of us got together on a fine June Saturday to check another peak off our lists and enjoy a wonderful trip. We met at the Ross Dam Trailhead on Highway 20 at 7am. Given the long day ahead, we might have aimed for an earlier start but we were limited by the Ross Lake Resort shuttle boat that did not start operations until 8am. We made quick work of the trail that drops 400 feet to the lakeshore and found the resort phone on a pole a couple hundred feet before the landing. The shuttle only takes about 2 minutes to cross to the resort but it costs $2 per person. If you're renting boats like we did, you may be able to save the $2 by only having the boat operators ride across. They can come back and fetch the others.
The rental boats are 14 foot aluminum or wood boats with 9.9 hp outboards. I'd recommend the aluminum ones for the long haul to Desolation. They should be a little faster. The boats cost $76 plus tax for the day and that includes the fuel. Four people plus gear is a very full load and will cut your speed down enough to make it a 1.5 hour trip each way. By contrast, two people in a boat can probably make the run in 40 minutes. For real contrast, the shuttle boat can make the run in about 20 minutes, but that would have cost our group around $400. We were underway with our two boats by about 8:30.
As you cruise up the lake, the views just get better and better. Colonial and Ruby tower behind you and massive Jack slides by off your starboard. Soon the valley of the Big Beaver appeared off to port. One by one peaks popped up over the horizon; Prophet, Hozomeen, Mox, Spickard, and Desolation itself.
Big Beaver Valley
Just after passing the Cat Island campground we arrived at the Desolation trailhead. When the reservoir is full, there is a floating dock to tie up to, but today the float was high and dry so we found a spot a few hundred yards to the south where we could beach the boats. After unloading we pulled the boats well up on to the shore to make sure they would not float off. On our approach we were able to see that most of the snow was gone from the peak so we stashed snowshoes, ice axes, and crampons behind a log. By 10:30 we finally were on our way up the trail.
The trail is very well graded and maintained. Edward set a perfect pace for the group and we moved up with few breaks. Gradually, the views appear as the trees begin to thin. More and more we were left with jaws hanging open as we looked out at snow covered crags and down to the fjord like lake. We ourselves did not run into snow until we reached the ridge top at about 5,000 feet. Although soft on top, from the warm day, the snow was well consolidated and walking was easy.
From Desolation Camp, still covered by 2 or 3 feet of snow, we proceded up to the false summit. Hozomeen gradually came into view to the north. What an incredible mountain to look at. False summit behind us, we were soon at the closed lookout building.
The views were stupendous! The lake is so far below that it's hard to see boats on it. Instead you just see the v's of their wakes. A partial list of the peaks that we could see follows: Hozomeen, Spickard, Mox, Shucksan, Baker, Prophet, Snowfield, Ruby, Eldorado, Buckner, Goode, Jack, Crater, Daemon, Skagit, Spratt, Three Fools, Castle.....too many to count! To the north we could see well up into the Canadian mountains.
Mox and Spickard
With our slow boats in mind, we reluctantly began the descent. The hike down went well on the good trail and the boats were reached around 5pm. As Duane headed up to the gear stash, he was suddenly surprised to see a fawn, possibly only days old, huddled on the beach. It finally hopped up and wobbled off into the woods where, hopefully, its mother was waiting.
Off we went for the long slow boat ride back to the resort. At one point a boat like ours but with only two people aboard, skooted past like we were standing still. With two miles still to go, my motor began to sputter. Fortunately, we were able to tip our gas tank and had enough fuel to make it back.
By the time we had the boats checked in, had been ferried over to the trail, and hiked back up to the highway, it was after 8pm. A long day but a fantastic one! Kudos to Eric, Duane, Bob, Edward, Adam, and Craig, for making a great group for this hike.