I was in Seattle for a conference at the University of Washington and linked up with Holly for a quick overnighter at Gem Lake. Mountain Forecast (or MFMF – “motherfucking Mountain Forecast” as we affectionately like to call it) suggested the evening would be clear and the chances of catching a great sunrise and sunset were pretty high. Gem Lake is one of those hikes that’s been on my list for ages now. Back in 2015 when I found out that Washington’s Cascades actually had some of the best alpine hiking in the country, my 23-year-old self scoured the internet for the most scenic hikes I could do in a day. Snow Lake topped all of the lists for its scenery and accessibility, and as I gradually became more experienced in the outdoors, the objective changed to nearby Gem Lake and Wright Mountain. Somewhere along the way, this area got relegated to the list of “easy hikes to do on a lazy weekend” – except bigger and better things kept filling my trips to Washington and this one was left on the wayside.
Finally though, I decided to knock this one out as a season opener. We arrived at Snow Lake a little after 3pm and found ourselves in a wonderfully thick layer of clouds. Well, hopefully the afternoon sun would cause the cloud layer to rise, we told ourselves. This was both of our first backpacking trips of the season so truthfully, we were both just glad to get outside.
The route to Gem Lake was wet and dreary but when we arrived, we found the peaks to be drifting in and out of the clouds. Stoke for an epic sunset returned. We found a muddy campsite with a great view and quickly set up camp before eating an early dinner and snapping some photos. Afterward, we found the route (really, a trail at this point) up to Wright Mountain and headed up. When we summited, the sun miraculously broke through the clouds for a few minutes but was just as quickly enveloped once more. After waiting for an hour, we realized sunset just wasn’t meant to be. Perhaps we’d have an opportunity for redemption at sunrise.
Both of us woke up around 4am and realized that the cloud level was even lower than the day before. As we cooked breakfast, it only continued to get lower until we were fully engulfed in the clouds with a nice drizzle to add insult to injury. We quickly broke down camp and made the long slog out to the car before the hordes of day hikers began their ascents. The trail was busy but much less so than it could have been had the entire length of the trail not been socked in the clouds. This was a fun little trip but I’ll eventually have to get back out there when the summer weather is more favorable.