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Photograph of Pete Lake in Washington State with the sun about to go down behind the mountains.


Amputee Outdoors isn't just for amputees, any lover of hiking, backpacking and camping will find value in this site.  But, if you are an amputee, I hope the videos, advice, and gear reviews educate and inspire you to enjoy the beauty of nature.

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This was a last-minute situation.  I’d wanted to go camping over the weekend before my house became torn apart while we have the kitchen remodeled and my outdoor adventures are postponed. However, the schedule didn’t seem to allow that.  But on Saturday afternoon my schedule opened up and the opportunity to do an overnighter became a reality.

                I chose Annette Lake as it’s just over a half hour drive from my home, only about 3.5 miles to the lake from the trailhead and the elevation gain is a paltry 1,800 feet. The highest point is 3,600 feet so I could have a campfire.  Assuming I could find any dry wood.

                Arriving at the trailhead at 4:30pm I quickly started the ascent.  We’ve had quite a bit of rain lately and the trail has a lot of mud where small streams and brooks flow over the trail.  The hike up to the intersection with the Palouse to Cascades Trail, (formerly known as the John Wayne Trail) has some elevation gain to it but nothing too challenging.  As you make your way up to the Palouse to Cascades Trail, keep an eye out for an unusual concrete artifact on your left.  I’m assuming this is a remnant of the railroad system that once went along the P to C Trail, but I could be wrong.  

Once past that intersection you’ll find the trail steepens.  Volunteers have built stairs and bridges up some of the steeper parts and across the riskier stream crossings.  A note about the stairs, each step is a puddle when it’s been raining and it’s nearly impossible to avoid stepping in them.  So, make sure your boots are waterproof if it’s been raining.  

         Not too long after crossing the P to C Trail, you’re going to be doing a section of about eight switchbacks where the elevation gain is greatest, which may be why All Trails rates this as moderately challenging.  But I’m a 60-year-old amputee and consider this to be a moderate trail, so there’s a lot of subjectivity to their rating.

                After that, it’s a steady climb to another switchback after which the last half mile or so is a slow descent to the lake basin.  With the mud the downhill portions can be a little treacherous, so I recommend having hiking poles to help prevent slips and slides. In the last mile or so, there are also a handful of lingering snow patches next to or on the trail, but they aren’t enough to bother putting on crampons or even micro-spikes for.

                I arrived at Annette Lake at about 7:45pm.  Normally a hiker is expected to take about 2 hours to get to the lake, but with shooting video for my Amputee Outdoors YouTube channel, it usually adds 30-45 minutes to the expected hike time.

                On the way up several day hikers coming down had informed me that at the T-intersection when you arrived at the lake, there were a couple of campers that had set up camp to the left.  I veered right at the T-intersection to see if I could find a quiet spot by the lake.  Sure enough, there was a perfect spot for a hammock camper.  This being the Pacific NorthWET, and rain was predicted, the first thing I did was set up my rainfly.  I have the OneWind 12x10 foot rainfly and set it up in its asymmetrical diamond form to give me lots of room for my hammock and a fire.

                As if on cue the rain started as soon as the rainfly was up.  The smattering of rain falling from the trees on the rainfly as I set up my hammock, chair, and firebox was, honestly, relaxing.

                I wandered around the forest for a while gathering dry wood for my firebox, it’s one of those little metal boxes you assemble and feed twigs into.  I have a review of it on Amputee Outdoors if you’re interested in getting one. Once I had a good bunch of wood, I got the fire started, cooked up a meal and relaxed with a beer or two.  Sitting by the lake, listening to the rainfall and the crackle of the wood in the firebox was very relaxing.  I sat there as the light faded and the night grew colder.  Letting the fire burn down after the second beer, I cleaned up my camp for the night and cocooned in my hammock. 

                This being June in Washington, first light is at 5am.  Much too early.  I pulled the hood of my sleeping bag over my head and slept until 8am when nature forced the issue.  As it had rained all night, trying to start a fire with the twigs laying around was going to be a challenge.  Anticipating this I had brought along my Esbit alcohol stove and fired it up. Using that I enjoyed a breakfast of blueberry porridge and hot cocoa.  I took some time to admire the view of the lake, the wispy clouds moving back and forth across the mountains and the cool dampness my Californian wife can’t seem to acclimate to.

                The rain stopped for a while, so I took the chance to break camp.  Once done, I checked around for any left-over items, garbage, etc., (Leave no Trace) and headed back down the trail. 

                The overnight rain had increased the size of all the puddles and made the mud patches larger.  So, again, waterproof boots are a must.  I extended the length of my poles once I had hiked up the trail that leads to the lake basin.  It was going to be all down hill from that point and having the poles taller gives you the ability to connect with the ground in front of you easier and with more control.

                Even with the rain, there were quite a few people heading up to the lake, I counted perhaps two dozen folks going up as I was going down.  This included a group of about six trail runners, one of which had a couple of bells attached to their backpack.  This was probably to alert any mountain lions or bears to their presence, but they also work to let slow, one-legged hikers know they’re coming so they can get out of the way too.

                If you live in the Seattle-Bellevue area this is a great little hike with a few good campsites.  It’s right off exit 47 on I-90 and has a large parking lot at the trailhead with a toilet. 

Recommended Gear Used on This Overnighter

·         Camping Stove – G4Free Portable Wood Stove

·         Shock Absorbing Hiking Poles – Ahoye Anti Shock Poles

·         Rainfly – OneWind 12ft Ultralight Silnylon Rainfly

·         Camp Chair – G4Free Folding Chair

·         Waterproof Boots – Free Soldier Waterproof Boots

·         3 Season Sleeping Bag – Geertop Lightweight Sleeping Bag

·         Alcohol Stove – Esbit 5 Piece Cook Set

·         Overnight Backpack – G4Free 50L Backpack

The Trail

First things first, you need a National Parks Pass for this trail.  You can purchase one online or at places like REI.  You can also pay for a day pass at the trail head. 

The Carbon River Trail used to be a road.  So, this means that the hike is probably one of the easiest trails you’ll do.  The elevation gain is only about 600 feet and the round trip from trail head to Ipsut Creek Campgrounds and back is 10 miles.  The trail is well maintained, but there are a few areas where the Carbon River has washed over the trail. 

There are three sturdy bridges (two are wood, the last is concrete) and two log bridges (one is a log with one handrail and the other is a partially washed-out bridge patched with two logs and handrails.)  Along the trail you’ll mostly encounter other hikers, but there are the occasional jogger or bicyclist sharing the trail with you.  There’s plenty of room for each to get to one side and keep out of each other’s way.

At the start of the trail there’s a couple of well-maintained bathrooms and at the Ipsut Creek Campground there are two more toilets and a cabin, (more on the cabin later).  Since there are several streams flowing into the Carbon River, you could get by in the summer with just two water bottles and a water filter.

What’s Along the Trail

The trees!  Most of the forest is second growth trees, meaning they’ve grown up in the last 100 years.  However, along the trail and further into the woods you’ll see some old growth trees measuring 20-30 feet in circumference.  These trees are 200-300 feet high and range in age from roughly 200 years to about 500 years depending on the species and growth rates. 

It’s strongly recommended that you stay on the trail and not go tramping into the forest to check out the bigger trees.  This will cause damage to the local environment and can disturb the local fauna as they go about their business. Not to worry though, there’s plenty of old growth trees alongside the trail to admire.  You can check out my video ‘Hunting Old Growth Trees’ on Amputee Outdoors on YouTube to see them.

There’s a short side trail on the right as you go up the Carbon River trail which will take you to Green Lake.  I didn’t take this trail as I was running short on time, but it’s on the list for next time.

Ipsut Creek Campgrounds

The last bridge you cross is a concrete bridge and the last remnants of the original road that folks traveled up to the campground.  Since it was once a drive-in campground, there are bear boxes at several sites, some picnic tables, solar powered toilets, and fire pits. It is important to note that fires are prohibited, as it is now a backcountry site.  There were some trees blown down last winter so some of the campsites are occupied by those trees.

There are no reservations required for the campsites, meaning this is a first come, first serve campground.  If you’re a hammock camper the options seem limited at the campsites but if you walk up to the cabin past the toilets, there were a few trees that would work for you.

The cabin is locked down but around back there is a porch with a picnic table making it a good spot to get out of the rain and have lunch. 

From the campgrounds you can continue on to several destinations, however, you should check trail reports and ranger station reports regarding washouts, bridge closures and weather reports. 

This was a thoroughly enjoyable hike and if you’re looking for family friendly hike, this will suit you perfectly.

Enjoying nature requires that you include two crucial things, knowledge and tools. This is true if you’re an experienced backpacker or a newbie.  Today, we’re going to discuss the five ways newbie hikers can skip past the newbie stage and go right to the “has a pretty good idea they know what they’re doing” stage.

  1. Preparation: Just tossing a sandwich, some sunblock, and a bottle of water into your backpack and then hitting the trail will increase the chances of becoming a news story. Every year there are cases of folks that have to be rescued when things go wrong on their journey into the wild. Dig into those cases and you’ll find that, had they done some research into the weather, trail conditions, trail reports, etc., they would have had the knowledge needed to properly equip themselves and be able to make wise decisions on the trail.  Remember, we’re not the dominant species on this planet because of our claws, wings, camouflage, teeth, etc.  It’s our knowledge and tool use that got us here.

  2. Over-packing or Under-packing:  A pack overloaded with luxuries, “you never know” items, and “just in case” stuff, can slow you down, tire you out, and increase your risk of injury. Start with the Ten Essentials and only add items that you really need. You can use a scale to weigh your pack and aim for no more than 10% of your body weight for day hikes, and 30%-35% for multi-day backpacking adventures. There was a recent news story about a woman lost in Maui for 17 days.  She wandered off the trail and had no water, food, or cell phone. This is an extreme case, but you get the idea.  Bring the Ten Essentials.  Bring clothes that will allow you to adapt to anticipated changes in the weather.

  3. Bad Feet Decisions: Your feet are going to be dealing with inclines, declines, rocky terrain, slippery mud, ambushing roots, etc.   Add to that you will be carrying a backpack that will be adding 10% to 35% of your body weight to every step. Jogging shoes and cotton athletic socks are not recommended. The shoes won’t have the traction, protection, and support you’ll need and the socks will hold the sweat, increase the chances of blistering, and tend to bunch up in the boots. Set your feet up for success. Let’s start with socks. Thin over skin, thick over thin.  I learned this in boot camp to reduce blisters.  First put on a thin, moisture-wicking sock, then a merino wool sock.  As your feet move inside your boot, the majority of the rubbing will be between the wool sock and the moisture-wicking sock.  This isn’t a 100% blister preventative, but will reduce the chance of blistering by 95% in my experience. Boots, I strongly recommend high ankle boots, (trail runners are ok if your pack is less than 10% of your body weight and you’re young and foolish). High-ankle boots will reduce the chance of sprained ankles, reduce the amount of mud, dirt, and dust getting into your boots, and keep your feet drier when crossing streams. Boots that have a “hiking boot” style are not hiking boots. Buy real hiking boots.

  4. Sharing Your Music: Nothing screams “NEWBIE!!”, like the hiker with a Bluetooth speaker strapped to their backpack blasting out their tunes. Doesn’t matter if it’s a soothing Celtic ballad or the latest folk metal from Korpiklaani, don’t do that. User earbuds.  And honestly, I recommend you don’t even do that.  To help your mind reset, allow the subtle sounds of the forest, wind, streams, and birds to play through your mind.  It’s also advisable that if someone is shouting “Bear!”, you can hear them.

  5. Makeup, Perfume, and Cologne: OK, maybe you’re on a hiking date and want to look and smell your best.  But honestly, if you’ve been asked on a hiking date, they want to know what you’re like without all that and want you to know what they are like without all that.  Also, and this can be a major problem on the trail, perfumes, scented conditioners, and shampoos, colognes, all smell really interesting to wasps, bears, coyotes, etc.  You can avoid their attention by not using colognes and perfumes and using unscented shampoos and soaps.  And if you are wearing makeup, and it’s a hot day and you’re sweating, well, sweaty makeup doesn’t look good. It’s also good to be courteous to other hikers.  They are there to experience the sights, sounds and yes, smells of nature.  Don’t be the hiker other hikers talk about when they get home.

I hope these tips help you enjoy your time on the trail and keep you from being labeled as a newbie. See you out there!

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