Last July, I led an overnight hike to Ferguson Lake in the Pasayten Wilderness. This is a very good place to get away from the crowds. We only saw one other party all weekend!
One reason for this is the remoteness. The Pasayten Wilderness is east of North Cascades National Park, and is bounded by Canada on the north and the Methow Valley on the south (basically it’s north of WA-20). To get there, you have to drive almost 20 miles on a dirt road, which can be intimidating because the road can be a little rough, and there are a couple of places where you drive right next to a sheer dropoff with no guardrails. An ordinary car can make it there as long as they drive slowly.
Once you do get to the end of the road, you are rewarded with astounding views of the north Cascades, because you are at the highest point in Washington that you can drive to (7200 feet). The place is called Hart’s Pass. There is even a no longer used fire lookout there. For reference, it’s about 30 miles from the Canadian border, and you can see some of the mountains in Canada from there.
We weren’t there to sight see, though. We wanted to camp at Ferguson Lake, which was a 7-mile hike to the other side of the valley. So, everybody put on their backpacks and got on the trail. This wasn’t as easy as it sounds, we had to descend 2000 feet into the bottom of the valley, ford the river, and then ascend 1300 feet to the lake.
I have to confess that I wasn’t much of a hike leader, because the extreme heat drained my strength, and I ended up lagging behind. The temperature was probably in the 90’s, despite the fact that we were at a high elevation. Anyway, I did make it to the lake.
One thing that was nice, was the fact that campfires were allowed. Usually, fires are forbidden in wilderness areas, but I guess the Pasayten Wilderness is an exception. BTW, fires were banned there later in the summer, since we had an exceptionally dry and hot summer.
Another thing that tells you that you are in a wilderness is the lack of bridges. As I previously mentioned, the lake was on the other side of the valley, and valleys usually have rivers flowing through them. This was no exception. We had to take off our boots and socks so that we could ford the Middle Fork Pasayten River. There were lots of rocks in the river (nothing sharp, though). It was an “interesting” feeling to walk in bare feet over rocks while carrying a 40-pound backpack! After the hike was over, I made a bee line to REI to buy some sandals for the next time I had to ford a river (they also make excellent camp shoes, which lets you take off your boots in camp!).
A couple of my fellow hikers brought a rod and reel and caught a few fish, which they shared. Yum!
All in all, it was a pleasant hike. I will definitely go back to the Pasayten Wilderness to explore some more of it. It is huge!
On to the pictures!
This gives you a rough idea of where we hiked. Ferguson Lake is on the opposite side of the valley looking straight ahead, about halfway up the slope.
Looking northwest from the trailhead
Looking southwest at the trail’s start
We had to go through a little snow
The trail leading us down into the valley
Fording the river
Avalanche lilies. These grow for only a short time after the snow melts.