Regular D and I headed out about 10am driving East on 84 and crossing the Bridge of the Gods over to Washington's side of the Gorge. I got a bit of a late start heading out to get him as I was researching options and trying to print maps to the trailhead that morning. We got to the Thomas Lake trailhead, loaded our packs on, and headed up the Thomas Lake trail toward Blue Lake. Tall D had found the hike for us the night before and the general map/route can be found here. The entire trail has a diverse terrain from forested areas, open meadows, a view of the mountain at one point, and gorgeous lakes. There are more lakes/ponds than are named on the trail map.
We covered about 8.5 miles the first day before camping at Bear Lake in a great lil spot. (The mileage on the map is slightly off I must say as I measured distance with my GPS watch....) It's always fun to hike along parts of the PCT and on this particular stretch we met quite a few section hikers and many other campers/dayhikers. The majority of the increase in altitude occurs heading up toward Blue Lake, although you continue to climb until you reach the top of the Lake Loop at Clear Lake. The beauty of that was that most of the 6.5 miles back on Day 2 were all gradual decline :) Honestly, the hike was gorgeous, the route wasn't too strenuous, and I have to say that it was probably one of the most enjoyable backpacking trips I've been on yet. The lakes were warm enough to swim, fish were biting, and the general surroundings were very pretty. The only real downside: mosquitoes, which are to be expected in most marshy lake settings especially this time of year, but even with a hefty spraying of repellent I came back covered in bites from the 24hrs of exposure.
On an open section heading toward Thomas Lake, 2-3 miles into the hike.
Lemei Lake, where the "lollipop" or lake loop starts
Wildflowers along a section of the trail
Wide open meadows nearing the top of the loop
Bear Lake from near our campsite
The grassy point at Blue Lake where I swam and sunbathed, while D fished and lounged on our way back down trail
Photo taken by a lost dayhiker that we rerouted back uptrail using the maps.... :)
Seriously a great time and a great mid-week outing. This trail is a busy one so the mid-week ventures continue to allow us to have a bit less exposure to others. Although with how busy this one was, I'd almost hate to see what it can be like on the weekends!