Eaton Lake, 13 Jun 2009

Not a hike we’d considered until Andrew mentioned it as we were trying to work out which lake him and Merewyn should swim in for June. A quick check of the stats (915 m: pfft that’s nothing after Mt Harvey… right?) and some research which found some gorgeous photos and we were good to go. We invited Anne, Adib, Victor and Jennifer along which made it the largest group we’d hiked in for quite some time. You get very used to keeping track of a small number of people.

A warm sunny Saturday morning saw us driving out east to Hope, and then south along the Silver-Skagit road for 16 km to the trailhead. We parked by the side of the road while Victor took his Tracker up the narrow road to the trailhead itself to bag the last good parking spot. We set off around 10am. The trail started out steadily uphill, soon reaching Eaton Creek. From there it wound its way up steeply before levelling off again (well, by level I mean not steep :-)

Eaton Lake, 13 Jun 2009

After about 15 minutes we reached our first crossing of the creek. There used to be a bridge across but it had been destroyed sometime in the recent past and now the only way across was a large well-placed log. It was quite daunting having to cross such a fast-running creek on a high log. Head height was at least 3 metres above the water level. Fortunately the log was dry, and slightly soft on top which made it relatively easy to cross by just walking (and not looking down!), though Jennifer opted to lower her centre of gravity :-)

Then there was the distraction of the gorgeous waterfall about 75 m upstream. It took some concentration to not look at it while walking! Once across we got our waterfall photos and carried on uphill, now heading away from the creek. Here we were in lovely open woodland with very little understory. Normally that means it has been logged, but this was untouched. It reminded Maria and me of the trails up to Flower Ridge and Crest Mountain on Vancouver Island.

We zig-zagged (quite steeply) up the hill, passing fresh bunchberry, oregon grape and abundant coralroot. After a while we came to a small bridge and a bench! Above the bench, nailed to a tree, was a sign which told us we were half way. We paused for a welcome break and made use of the bench. I found some nice False Solomon’s Seal to get macro shots of, complete with a handful of interesting beetles.

Eaton Lake, 13 Jun 2009

After a 15-minute break we continued on uphill, and soon came back to the creek and took a small side trail to admire it crashing down through the trees. The surrounding forest was verdant green, carved neatly by the wide white ribbon of the creek. Very pretty. Now the trail began to steepen and we slowed down as we plodded uphill. The trail stayed close to the creek, switching back and forth with peek-a-boo views down to the creek. The forest changed character becoming more dense with lots of huckleberry and salal. We passed several huge Douglas firs and, closer to the creek, Red cedar.

Eventually it looked as if the terrain was levelling off, which gave us a good idea of where we were on the map. Not too far to go, but still further than we were hoping for. The group had spread out a little on this steep stretch and we paused to regroup. Pushing on, the trail ambled through level forest. We met a pair of hikers who told us that we were really close (funny definition of really close that…).

Eaton Lake, 13 Jun 2009

Suddenly the forest opened out and we came to a pond. We expected to walk around this pond but soon realized that it was in fact the creek and though we turned away from the pool, we still had to cross the creek again using yet another broken bridge. This was trickier than the log crossing as the water was running high and we had to make use of numerous smaller logs jammed in the creek. Then we had to step off a crumbling bank to the remains of the bridge for the second half of the crossing. We all made it OK but it was a little bit hairy.

Not much further, surely? We followed the creek and came to the third crossing, this time over an intact bridge. Well, mostly. Only about a third of the handrail was still attached, but it was a bridge nonetheless! We then crossed a small boulder field and entered the trees again. We could see the sheer cliffs of Eaton Peak to our right (south) and wondered how it was that you got up there. Another day.

A few more minutes through the forest and then we were finally at the lake! It had taken us over two and a half hours, much longer than we originally anticipated based on the distance and elevation gain, but in line with what 103 Hikes had as an estimated time. By now the clouds had rolled in and we heard our first claps of thunder as we reached the lake.

Eaton Lake, 13 Jun 2009

We had been overheated on our way up but now as we came to the lake, we were quickly chilled by the cooler air. Several people were camping, and another group of hikers were already standing around all wrapped up against the cold and wolfing their lunch. Andrew and Merewyn decided that it would be best to get the swim done now in case it got any colder. An indeed in they went, while the thunder rumbled around. They did their best to persuade Maria to join them, but she wasn’t convinced. The two of them swam around for a few minutes and gave the lake a solid two thumbs up :-)

We made ourselves comfortable and munched our lunches. By now we were all quite cool as the wind increased, turning the surface of the lake very choppy. Fortunately the guys who were camped had built a nice little campfire and we huddled around gratefully, chatting with the campers. A few drops of rain fell but didn’t amount to much. However, they were enough to spur us in to heading back down. Before that, we had one last thing to do and that was visit the `outhouse’ which was just a toilet seat above a hole in the ground. No walls, not even a nice view and certainly not much in the way of privacy. If nothing else it gave us some amusement.

Eaton Lake, 13 Jun 2009

The thunder was still rolling around as we left, thanking the guys for the loan of their campfire. We retraced our steps, a little quicker than on the way up, and were soon back across one bridge, then the other crossing and making our way down. While we were in the trees we saw our first lightning and calculated that it was 3 miles away. We continued down and within an hour had reached the halfway point again, which we used for a leisurely break.

The second half of the descent passed very quickly and didn’t seem like half of the distance. We soon reached the big log crossing again and returned safely to the other side. We stopped here again to admire the waterfall which seemed even more impressive. Victor even found time to catch up on some sleep. From here it was only a matter of a few minutes back to the car and we were done.

We stopped off at a waterfall entering Silverhope Creek on the gravel road before heading into Hope and coffee at the Blue Moose. Merewyn had been saying how tired she was and she demonstrated it by falling asleep on her cup of tea :-) Of course Andrew got photographic evidence… A speedy drive home and another great hike under our belts.

Distance: 8 km
Elevation gain: 915 m
Photos on Flickr

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