Saturday, October 27, 2012

Watson Lakes - September 16, 2012

The Noisy-Diobsud Wilderness at 14,133 acres is a comparatively small wilderness area as wilderness areas go.  What it lacks in size, it makes up by proximity to Mount Baker and North Cascades National Park, but more so in the shear impenetrability of its dense forests and steep slopes.  One single trail enters the Noisy-Diobsud and it is actually a pretty easy trail that ends at Watson Lakes, a pair of just beautiful classic North Cascades lakes.  A couple side trails lead off, one to Anderson Butte and the other to Anderson Lakes.

I decided to do this hike after perusing maps and wondering about potential hikes.  Watson Lakes stood out as being a little isolated from other potential hikes.  A little googling and searching of trip reports sealed the deal.  A perfect weather weekend was in store and that's all I needed for the go decision.

Getting to the trailhead involves driving up the Baker Lake Road off of Highway 20, the North Cascades Highway.  Off Baker Lake Road, right turn on Road 1106 to Kulshan Campground, and cross over the Baker Lake Dam.  After crossing Baker Lake Dam, which is pretty cool, pavement ends and you continue relentlessly uphill on a well-graded unpaved forest road (Road 1107).  The road is narrow so I was strategically and mentally logging potential pullouts for negotiating any opposite downhill traffic with some comfort knowing that uphill traffic has the right of way obligating downhill traffic to backup hill.  That's the theory anyway.

I finally reached the trailhead at 11 am, two hours after pulling out of my driveway, excluding the Starbucks stop at Cooks Road.  Plenty of parking at the trailhead, even on a sunny Saturday, maybe a dozen cars parked or less.
The trail starts out meandering through some shady old growth forest eventually breaking out into open meadow.  Here you hit the junction to Anderson Butte.  I stopped to take photos of the last of the season's meadow flowers.  My dog Ranger, as he always does, took the opportunity to gently squat down in the meadow streams to cool down.
 Climbing out of the first meadow, I turned around and was rewarded with stunning views of Mount Baker, the sleeping volcano.  At the other end of the first meadow, the trail again entered forest, crossed over a saddle and dropped down into another meadow.  The junction to Anderson Lake bore right here but I continued on toward Watson Lakes.

After crossing the meadow the trail entered forest again and climbed more steeply to another saddle.  The trail then dropped down into the Watson Lakes basin crossing the official Noisy-Diobsud Wilderness boundary.  The forest eventually opened at some large boulders offering a breathtaking view of the Watson Lakes pair  and beyond to glacier-draped Bacon Peak in the North Cascades National Park.
 I followed the trail around the northern side of the upper Watson Lake.  I paused and watched a gentleman fly fish from a float tube.  At the far end of the upper lake, I crossed its outlet stream and came to the lower lake.  This is as far as I went.  I turned around here stopping for lunch at a viewpoint overlooking the lower lake.  From here I retraced my steps back to the trailhead.  Approximate mileage was about 4.2 miles roundtrip.

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