Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ouzel Lake.

Two weeks ago I set out early with the goal of summiting Mount Copeland. This would be my third attempt and third failure. I got to the trail head relatively early. Early enough at least to see no one else until I arrived at the lake around 9 am.
Early in the morning on the Thunder Lake trail.
Below Calypso Cascades.
Calypso Cascades.
Besides the lack of people, it was different to hike the trail that I had done so many times before so early in the morning. Very peaceful.
Ouzel Falls, a neat destination in its own right and a nice place to stop and have a snack on a hot day.
I found these rusty cans off trail shortly after the cliff face Ouzel Falls dumps over.
It was overcast above me and had rained a little on the drive up, but I was hoping that slim section of sun would come my way. No luck.
After you skirt the cliff face, you will come to the intersection of the Bluebird Lake trail. Go left here to head to Ouzel Lake as well. The trail gets a little steep here before flattening out on a plateau. The plateau is part of the area burned by the forest fire in 1978 and is highly exposed to the sun. Be sure you have enough water, sunscreen, and clothing before proceeding.
I came across these two deer on this section of trail.
The female deer on the left above ran away as I approached, but this male deer would not budge. He was acting undeerlike and this kind of worried me. I kept my distance and tried yelling at him and he didn't move. I blew my whistle and he stared me down. I was considering just going up right and refinding the trail, but I still didn't like the idea of having him behind me with my back turned. I finally picked up a rock and threw it to hit the ground a few feet in front of him. That got him to run away.
Copeland Mountain, Ouzel Peak, and Mahana Peak as seen from the forest fire burn area.
Interesting looking burn patterns older than me.
Unfortunately right around the time I reached the intersection of the trail with the Ouzel Lake trail it started to rain. It was gentle at first, so I kept going.
I used this log bridge east of Ouzel Lake to cross in preparation for Copeland.
Ouzel Lake in the rain. No less beautiful and just a little wetter.
I decided at this point I could either turn around or keep going. Since I had come this far already and it was still early, I decided I would keep going and try to get to tree line before reevaluating and either heading on or going back. And up I went.
Copeland is different from all of the other peaks I have done because there is no trail to it and you have to start well below tree line, necessitating a arduous bushwhack. I started up the hill, picking my way as best as I could. I kept this up for around 45 minutes. Since the rain was still falling and all of the plants were wet, my pants got soaked and the water ran down my legs, soaking my feet. I was getting wetter and colder. While I had brought a rain jacket, I did not think to bring rain pants.
I stopped to reevaluate. I was wet and cold already, and things were definitely getting slippery. The rain didn't show any signs of letting up and even if it did, my legs would still have gotten wetter from bushing through the wet undergrowth. Every step I took up was a step farther away from the trail.
The view from where I turned back.
Really, there was no other choice. I headed back down the the lake, and back to the car. I saw a few other people heading up, including two with no additional gear wearing only a hoodie and a tshirt. Not the best choice.
I got back to the car and blasted the heat. Nothing ever felt better!
Copeland 3, me 0. But I'll be back!
Ouzel Lake is a pretty fun hike in itself. It is a good distance but not too far and doesn't gain too much elevation, making it accessible to most everyone. There are some great views from various parts of the trail of Meeker, Longs, Mt. Alice, Chiefs Head, Tanima Peak, and of course Copeland, Ouzel, and Mahana peaks. You also pass a few good sights- the cascades and Ouzel Falls. The lake is very pretty and scenic. For something else neat, head overland north once you reach the lake. This will take you to Chickadee Pond, which is entirely covered in Lily Pads.
Ouzel Lake:
5 miles one way, 1520 foot gain. Moderate.

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