Have you experienced a perfect Fall day? Sky brilliant blue, breeze soft and warm, colors aglow in a golden flame?
Finding a perfect day to hike is always difficult in the Fall in the Pacific Northwest. The weather changes from day to day and it is hard to predict. But more often than not, you will find good weather round the third week in September and the first week in October. The first week in October can be glorious. It is also between a couple of major hunting seasons so it can also be less crowded.
The forecast was for good weather on Wednesday so we planned to head for the hills. The only challenge was to figure out where to go. Last year we went hunting golden larches in the North Cascade National Park. It was larch season so one possibility was to go up to the Teanaway. I reviewed the recent trip reports on NW Hiker and WTA. The color has been great along the crest and one report caught my eye - Lake Valhalla off of Stevens Pass. It would be an easy drive and not too difficult from the Smithbrook trailhead.
The morning was foggy and gray but it was sunny at the Pass when we checked the traffic webcams at Snoqualmie Pass. The fog was thick along the Snohomish River at Monroe and it wasn't until almost Gold Bar that the sun appeared. The maples were turning yellow and there were broad swatches of red on the hills above Stevens Pass.
It took us about 2 hours to drive to the trailhead. The Smithbrook road is in great condition and there were no other cars in the parking lot. We put on our boots and headed up. The trail climbs along the road and stream. The devils club was brilliant yellow and the forest floor dotted with mushrooms of various colors. The trail switch backs through the forest for about 1 1/4 miles until it joins the Pacific Crest Trail at Union Gap. Turning south, it follows along the crest mostly level opening up to red hillsides of huckleberries and mountain ash and vistas to the east. It reaches an overlook down to the lake in about 1 1/2 miles. There below sparkling in the sun was Lake Valhalla.
We continued on and down to the meadows at the foot of Mt McCausland and on to the warm sandy shore overlooking Lichtenberg Mountain. The hillsides were aflame in fall color - Valhalla was burning in color.
We enjoyed our lunch and fed the chipmunks. We could tell the shadows were already lengthening so we headed back to the car. Overall, one of the best hikes this year.