Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Trip Report: Necklace Valley Overnight

Jade Lake
A couple weeks ago I headed out for a quick overnight in the Cascades. I wanted to do a short solo trip, but I didn't want to drive too far, since I hoped to hit the trail Friday night after work. I ended up choosing Necklace Valley, which is accessed from the Foss River trail in Wenatchee National Forest. Here's the WTA page on the hike. Below is a screenshot of the area on topo. Overall it was a very successful trip, with great weather, some great photos, and even a little fishing.

The trail is divided into two pretty distinct sections. The first section between the trailhead and the Foss River crossing is about 5 miles, and climbs very gently upstream. I hiked this portion on Friday evening, starting from the car at 7PM on the nose and arriving in camp just as it got too dark to hike without a light, at 8:45PM. I quickly pitched my tent and got to sleep. The hike in was average - not difficult, but also not many views through the trees. However, there is a photogenic bridge over a stream about a mile in.

Notes on Gear: I was excited to do a solo overnight and see how my gear selection was for one person, since most my gear was purchased as a two-person kit. It turns out my tent is much too big for 1 person. I'd like to look into getting a solo tarp/bugnet setup for when I'm by myself, and reserve the tent for when my wife is along. Also, out of habit, I carried my BV500 canister, which was definitely overkill for one night. I've got to get myself some cord and stuffsack suitable for bear bagging. I was very happy with the GoLite Jam 50 that I used, though. It carried very well with the 24 or so pounds I had in it (including a DSLR).

On Saturday morning, I was up at 6:00AM, and after wandering around taking some photos of the stream next to my camp, I packed up, ate some breakfast, and headed uptrail toward the Necklace Valley. This second part of the trail climbed 2600 feet in about 3 miles according to my GPS, so it took the wind out of me to be sure. It climbs steeply over cobble, roots, large stair steps, and occasionally nice trail, but the reward is worth the climb. I averaged 1.5 mph on the way up, so I hit Jade Lake at 9:00AM. The photos that follow do a better job describing the valley than I can.

The last picture above is Lake Ilswoot, which apparently gets its beautiful blue color from the glacial minerals in the rocks/soil around the lake. I spent about an hour fishing Ilswoot with my small telescoping spinning rod. The trout were small, about 4-6 inches, and I only managed to hook two, both times on a small size 16 dry fly as it floated about 10 feet from the rocky shore. I ended up a few hundred yards around the lakeshore when I caught these two little guys, so I wasn't able to snap a photo. I released them; hopefully they'll be a bit bigger next time I make it up there. The photo below shows all my gear drying while I fished. While it didn't rain on my on Friday night, I had some condensation under my rainfly that wasn't able to dry before I hit the trail. The climb up to the valley wetted out my tshirt.

After eating some trail mix and Justin's Chocolate Almond Nut Butter for lunch, I headed back out of the valley. The climb down was more tiring than I expected, and I made good use of the trekking poles. When I got back down to the Foss River and Friday night's camp at 2:00PM, I quickly pitched the tent and dozed off for almost two hours. When I woke up, I hit the trail again and was back at the trailhead by 7:00PM. In all, about a 14 mile day, which definitely felt a little longer than that.

I'd like to visit the Necklace Valley again, it's beautiful. Next time I'd wait until late August or September to try and arrive after the bugs, but that's about my only gripe. I'll also probably stick with flyfishing gear next time. About two miles in along the Foss River, there were some good spots I'd like to fish next time. And the lakes up in the Necklace Valley are shallow and clear -- the biggest fish I saw was about 6 inches, and they all seemed to be feeding near the surface along the shore.

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