I was so excited for this trip I had trouble sleeping the night before we left. I did a small section of this loop last year, and have wanted to return to do the full loop, and this time we did. I have not been alpine above 8,000 ft, minus snowboarding since last October. So needless to say, I was amped all the way to Hwy 12. We left about 6 pm on Thurs the 2nd of June to head south for our first alpine backpacking trip of the season. On this trip we had Chris, Collin, Mike, David, Muskie, Robbie, Laura Hadar (Pro Snowboarder for Capita) and 5 dogs. We arrived about 11 pm to Deer Creek Trail Head to set up a base camp for the night so we could get up Friday and pack it in. This was an amazing spot to camp, a few adult beverages, a fire, and then we all crashed out. Woke up to sunny skies and warm but mild temps. We woke up and had breakfast, then broke camp. After setting our return shuttle at the Chriss Lake Trail Head, we headed in the Deer Creek Lake Trail. It is a series of climbs, which just seem to go up and up. There was a lot of snow this year up there, so the trail in sections was muddy and running with water. After a nice walk in the cool breeze, we eventually ended up at the junction with the Great Western Trail. This is a lovely area, which I made a pit stop just to soak it all in. After some pics we moved on.
We climbed into a thick pine forest, with some drifts of snow to cross. The whole trail was pretty much melted off, but you did have to climb the occasional pile of snow. On our way to the Deer Creek Lake junction, we ran into a pond with a whole chorus of frogs just singing away. We arrive at the Deer Creek Lake junction, and we see this huge ice fall that was getting uplift winds which were coating the trees at the top of the plateau with a nice frosting. A nice walk in a pretty sweet mountain meadow and we arrive at Deer Creek Lake. This lake is huge, and seems like it just released its winter hold here. I got to pitch for the first time my new solo tent. I got the Big Agnes Seedhouse SL1, and let me tell you it is super light, but so roomy. 2.6 lbs with the footprint, and it is freestanding. How do they do that? There were still some pretty large drifts in the trees, but for the most part it was melted off. We set up shop and made a impromptu kitchen to cook on one of the drifts in camp, then proceeded to go fishing. Unfortunately, we found after walking around the lake, that there was a lot of winter kill, you could see fish on the bottom belly up. After a long hike all the way around the lake, we decided it was time for those beers we packed in and to get a fire going, because the temps were dropping fast.
It was a cold night, with all the snow in camp, we for sure were bundled up and had a very nice fire. I awoke to the place just above frost temps, and we fired up some coffee and the sun came out and within an hour you needed short sleeves. I decided that we should head for Chriss Lake, it was a bit lower in elevation, meaning that there was less chance of winter kill, and the overnight temps were sure to be a bit milder. Everyone was moving a bit slow, so I headed out to hike the Great Western Trail to Chriss Lake by myself, as I would meet up with everyone later when they made the trek over. It was awesome to be out there without a sound minus the breeze through the trees. It was much warmer this day, and I was just exploring the whole area to much delight. This was a treat for sure to just be on walkabout, and seeing some amazing things. I hit the Great Western Trail, then headed to Gresham Spring, took some photos and continued on. Then pushed through to West Deer Creek, which is the point at which you descend into Chriss Lake. This was a lovely section, and we were well below the snow line at this point, and the whole forest seemed to be just waking up from winter. I saw a huge Marmot run right across the trail in front of me, and a pretty decent size snake. Not a Rattler, just a Coach-whip or something similar. I finally, after a nice walk in the woods arrived at Chriss Lake. I decided to take a stroll around the lake. After a nice walk the crew eventually showed up and we all got shop pitched again and went fishing. Mike nailed a fish on his first cast, which was a good omen for our crew. They were for sure biting, and Chris got 3 nice ones for dinner. Evening set in and we had a fire and watched the Milky Way pop into view. A long night out, and we all went to bed.
I woke up to the sun just blazing over the ridge. I brewed my coffee and decided I wanted to hit it early, since the light was so good, and shoot photos on the way down to the car. It was an amazing hike out. Trees were just getting their leaves and it was the largest gathering of Daisy's I have ever seen. I just wandered for who knows how long, I was just so stoked to be in shorts, in my new Vasque Wasatch boots with a pack on not tied to anywhere. Eventually my blissful stroll came to an end when I got to the Chriss Lake Trail Head. The crew made it out about an hour after I did and we had celebratory Cutthroats for having such a kick ass weekend. I tell you I have missed the alpine so much, this was a great trip, for sure stoked and cannot wait to get out again. Enjoy the pics!