Web Analytics Made Easy - Statcounter

Enjoy the beauty of autumn at Snow Lake, even in the rain

Share this Post:
Photo by Lindsey Anderson
Photo by Lindsey Anderson

A bucket-list item of mine is to travel to New England to see the autumn foliage. Basic, I know. But as it turns out, there's a charming and colorful adventure just outside of Seattle that would bring Vermont to her knees.

Just an hour from the city, in the foggy woods of Snoqualmie Pass, is a trail that leads to the hidden Snow Lake. An adventure pass is not required to access it, but all guests must pay a $5 parking permit. Trust me, the views are worth the price of a bad cup of coffee.

My adventure dog, Benji, and I arrived at the trail around 1 p.m. Snow Lake is a real hike, about a seven-mile round-trip, so I had been hoping to make the drive to the mountains on a blue-sky day. However, as October settles in, those are becoming more rare.

I wouldn't have traded a thing about our trek into the mountains that day, though. The emo clouds looked like smoke rolling off the peaks of the distant hills and provided a beautiful contrast to all the gorgeous fall colors.

Now, I have to admit that this hike intimidated me. The terrain is not too difficult, but I worried about what dangers might lay ahead in the woods for a solo gal hiker and her 18 lb. dog. I grew up watching a lot of Dateline. So, armed with the Birdie alarm my mom got me for Christmas (she watches even more Dateline), I embarked, even if I was still worried about predators — both human and animal.

While I would still urge all solo hikers to take caution, I eventually found I had nothing to fear. All the others we passed on the trail were cordial and encouraging. The most dangerous animals we encountered were North American pikas, which squeaked and squealed along jagged rocks. Despite their diminutive size, Benji still attempted to protect me and chased them off. His protective nature eased my worries.

The path to Snow Lake was winding, twisting through sprawling forests of amber vines, climbing up steep hills, and weaving past divots. About halfway through, we were caught up in a downpour. Soaked to the bone, Benji and I continued nonetheless, more determined than ever to make it to the famed lake.

A dog's tips for serenity
As we climbed higher in elevation, I noticed my dog behaving strangely. Each time we came to a clearing, he would peer out into the vast forest. I've never seen a dog contemplate life before. He seemed just as thrilled as I was to take in the autumnal sights, yet aware that the beauty of fall is fleeting.

Despite not knowing where we were going, Benji became more determined to lead the way. He grew impatient with the winding switchbacks down the mountain, and despite signs that warned not to verge off the trail, he did take a shortcut or two.

The most breathtaking part of the hike came several yards before we arrived at the lake. Hidden behind trees and marsh is a crystal-blue inlet. A small waterfall feeds the lagoon, framed by orange- and yellow-leaved trees. I let Benji off his leash for a moment, and he happily pranced in and out of the water, climbing along the rocks lining the edge of the falls.

I took in a breath and let the serenity of nature engulf me. My damp clothes, my writing deadlines, and even the fear of a mountain lion stalking us all lifted from my body like the steam coming out of the hills. Standing at the hidden shore, with just my dog, I felt at peace.

After nearly three hours of hiking, we made it to the lake. The trees reflected on the surface like a mirror. Benji dashed in and out of the water, not even noticing the frigidity of October. I skipped flat rocks across the mirrored surface, shattering my own reflection. Though I could have spent hours at the lake, the evening was creeping up on us, and I did not want to get caught on the trail in the dark.

The nice part about Snow Lake is the hike is one way. Once we reached the lake, we retraced our steps. Going back the way we came prevented me from getting lost (again) but also allowed us to take notice of things we'd missed the first time. The whole way to the lake, I had had my nose pressed against my camera, trying to preserve the moment to microdose for serotonin later. On the way back, I stashed the camera in my bag and enjoyed the wilderness with my whole body.

I noticed so much more. Benji continued looking back at me, ensuring I was still with him. Droplets of water provided percussion for the songs of woodpeckers and grouse. Pikas scurried through holes in rocks, gathering grass for their ground nests. Red leaves fluttered to the ground as a gentle wind brushed through my hair.

By the end of the hike, Benji and I were sore, soaked, and ready for a ten-hour sleep. While it took a day or two for my body to recover, a trek to Snow Lake was just what my soul needed.