top of page
  • amputeeoutdoors

Solo Camping at Pete and Spectacle Lakes

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

Man sitting with a beer looking over Spectacle Lake

I started my hike to Pete Lake around 2 pm and arrived there around 4 pm. It's only about 4 miles and the trail has very little elevation gain. Once at the lake, I found that I was the second party to arrive for an overnight stay. Within about an hour, three more parties arrived, so I wasn't the only one getting a late start. :)

Camping hammock with an integrated bug net set up in a forest

The plan was to spend the night at Pete Lake, get an early start in the morning to beat the heat and make it to Spectacle Lake in the early afternoon. Spend the night at Spectacle and on the following day, hike the approximately nine miles back to Pete Lake Trailhead. Once I'd relaxed by Pete Lake for a while, I set up my new hammock with an integrated bug net. The bugs at Pete Lake this time of the year are nasty. By about 7 pm I'd had enough, (bug spray only dissuades the lazy bugs), and retreated to my hammock to try and get a full night's sleep before starting the next hike around dawn.

I had tested this hammock at home before going on this backpacking trip, but that was in near-ideal conditions. I found that in less-than-ideal conditions, the hammock has some problems. For one, no ridge line to control the hang angle and length. Another is that the straps stretched in the night so I went from hanging at chair height to about 12 inches from the ground by morning.

Wooden sign bolted to a tree reading, "Pete Lake Trail No. 1323 Spectacle Lake".

I woke at first light, had some porridge, packed up, checked around to make sure I'd not left anything, and then started my trek to Spectacle Lake. The trail starts much like the trail to Pete Lake, with not much elevation gain along a well-groomed path. Along the trail, there are several logs that have fallen across the path. Most are easy enough to get over and even those that are a little more challenging didn't stop me, and I have a prosthetic leg. The trail will lead you to Lemah Creek where you're supposed to ford the stream. I wasn't going to do that. It was about 2-3 feet deep and running fast. Fortunately, in addition to trees across the path, there are also trees across the creek. I continued along the trail to Lemah Meadows and on the left found a cairn marking the unofficial trail (a little bush-whacking is needed) that leads to two sets of logs that cross over the two branches of Lemah Creek. It was a little tricky, but with good boots, balance and hiking poles, I was able to make it across easily.

A trail in the woods with a stone cairn indicating the correct path to take.

It's not long after crossing Lemah Creek that you leave the forest shade and enter the burned remains of the forest. Nature has started reclaiming the land, but there's little to no shade so sunblock, long sleeves, wide-brimmed hat, are strongly recommended to prevent sunburn.

A trail running along the side of a mountain that suffered a forest fire several years ago is now starting to come back.

There are several streams along the way and a waterfall. Take some time to relax and enjoy those. I replenished my quickly depleting water supply at them and doused my hat in the streams to cool myself down.

The author of the blog post (Glenn Barfield) wearing a hat and glasses next to a mountain waterfall on the trail to Spectacle Lake.

After a lot of switch-backs and elevation gain, you'll attain the ridge where you can look down to Spectacle Lake. The trail down the basin to the lake starts off steep but manageable. As you get closer to the lake you'll find that the trail starts splitting off into several different paths to various campsites. To go to the peninsula that almost divides the lake in two, stick to the paths going left. They are a little hard to find, the one I took went over a massive flattish rock outcropping and down a steep path. This took me to the peninsula and even more social trails to explore. At this point, I just started exploring the peninsula looking for a good campsite.

A high elevation view of Spectacle Lake in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state.

I found a great spot next to the lake and rigged up my hammock. Testing it I found that it was sinking down to the ground. The distance between the trees was too great. I relocated it to a couple of trees that were closer together but still had to pull it so tight that I was getting badly squeezed at the shoulders. Fortunately, I always carry a ground tarp and using that, my rainfly, hiking poles, and some line I always carry, I was able to set up an open-ended A-frame tent. I positioned it so the breeze coming off the lake would go through the tent. This helped cut down on the bugs and with a few sprays of bug repellent, I was able to avoid all but the most determined bugs.

The sun setting behind the Cascade mountains with Spectacle Lake in the foreground.

After dinner, I spent some time wandering around the peninsula, chatted with a few other campers and then settled down to watch the sun go down behind the mountains. One of my favourite things to do when camping is to sit and just look at the view.

The next morning I woke up a little before dawn and so enjoyed my morning porridge watching the sun come up.

Early morning view of Spectacle Lake with no wind so the lake is a perfect reflection of the trees and mountains.

It was going to be a hot one again so I made sure to fill all four of my one-liter bottles with fresh (filtered) mountain lake water, packed up and hit the trail before 7 am. The hike out of the basin in which Spectacle Lake sits is really the only hard part of the hike back. Once that's done the trail is generally a relaxing hike back.

54 views0 comments


bottom of page