Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ross Lake

Diablo Lake from the Highway 20 Bridge at Colonial Creek

At the end of August we had our grandson staying with us and decided to take him and a friend on a short back-packing excursion and chose Greenpoint on Ross Lake in the North Cascades as our destination.  We chose Greenpoint for several reasons.

1) The hike to Greenpoint is only a couple of miles with very little altitude gain or loss.  This turned out to be a good decision since both boys were soon tired of the hiking, even though they had only their sleeping bags to carry in backpacks.

2) The campground at Greenpoint has picnic tables and fire pits since it is also used by boaters.  That also turned out to be a good decision since the boys had as much fun by the fire, roasting things and snacking and listening to stories, as they did exploring the area.

We left early in the morning and were on the trail by about 9:30 am after stopping in Marblemount at the Ranger station for an overnight backcountry permit, and were at the campground by noon where we set up two tents and had lunch.

Ross Lake is formed behind Ross Dam on the Skagit River and to get to Greenpoint the dam has to be crossed.  The boys were fascinated by the dam and we stopped there for quite some time for a drink, a snack and to see what we could of the dam.

Greenpoint is a small peninsula that juts out into Ross Lake and is reached by a trail that winds down a rocky cliff.  The area, though heavily used, is quite beautiful in its own right with splendid views up and down the lake and the mountains all around.

After setting up camp  we did some hiking further along Ross Lake during the afternoon , but also spent time in the campground letting the boys explore and play in the water and when it was dark giving them our headlamps and letting them run around and explore that way.

Along the trail we found some items of interest, including two native orchids in bloom, the Giant Rattlesnake Orchis (Goodyera oblongifolia) and the Long-spurred Piperia (Piperia elongata).  The Goodyera were everywhere, but the Piperia seemed more fussy about their location.

We almost always found the Piperias on the more elevated side of the trail (an indication that they like good drainage, I assume), and almost always in places where there was some protection from direct sun.  We usually found them as individual plants and not clumps of plants.

Not much else was blooming but we did find and pick and eat a lot of Salal and Mahonia berries which were plentiful.  There were a lot of the saprophytic plant, Candystick or Allotropa virgata, around, but they were finished blooming and spikes had turned black.

The weather was mixed the whole time and we even had a few sprinkles of rain, but the sunset that evening was gorgeous and the mountains were beautiful on the way out next morning and we took our time hiking out, both because the boys were tired and because we wanted pictures.

We hiked out the next morning and were on our way home before noon.  The boys were so tired from the hiking and running around that they fell asleep as soon as they were in the car, but both of them were sure that they would willingly do it all again.

Note: Many of these pictures were taken by my wife.


  1. hreat report. I have not ventured up here but the promise of Candystick is a magnet. I have only found once.

  2. Hi Marti. We're going back to see the Candystick as well - I've only ever found it on the Thunder Creek Trail sand it was everywhere here.


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