Sometimes I just need to get outside. Most of the time that means I want an adventure to shake out the monotony of day to day life, but sometimes I just want the company of my dog, pretty scenery, and a pleasant trail. It’s sort of the difference between wanting to waterski and just wanting to sit on the beach.
The hike to Pete Lake is most definitely a meditative hike devoid of adventure. Yes there are a couple of balancey creek crossing but if you know how to walk then they are fun surprises that nature has added to keep you awake. That said I did see a guy donning Gore-Tex head to toe (including the $60 hat) with one of those super-fancy seam-welded Arc’teryx pack that crossed a stream as gracefully as jello rolling down stairs. Don’t be that guy.
The relaxation starts on the drive there. The road follows the shore of Cle Elum Lake which offers spectacle views at the cost of ten steps from your car. Often times I am in such a hurry to get to the trailhead that I forget I am driving through one of the most beautiful states.
Once at the Pete Lake trailhead it is a short jaunt (about 5 miles) to Pete Lake. I went in early July and the trail was just about fully melted out. I didn’t really mind the early season mud or the random puddles blocking the trail because the forest is calming on a level that only an ancient place can be. This is not a trail for solitude though; rather it is a trail to find a little offshoot, sit on a rocky perch, and just soak in the moment.
The trail had quite a few downed trees that required a bit of bushwhacking. It was still early season so the downed pine trees had not had a clear path trampled through yet. I was fortunate enough to meet two rangers out there doing trail maintenance and stopped to have a chat. It was drizzly and gray in typical PNW fashion but all of us agreed that it was a beautiful day to be outside.
Pete Lake proper offered me solitude on a wet weekday in early July. I highly doubt this is the norm because there are numerous well-established campsites and plenty of fire pits set up for drunken storytelling late into the night. There are campsites all along the north side of the lake that are a little off the trail. I didn’t check out the south side of Pete Lake but there may quieter camping over there.
Two final notes. If Pete Lake is just a pretty view on your way to Lemah Valley or Spectacle Lake and for some reason you don’t want to wade Lemah Creek at the primitive crossing, the signs for bridge crossing aren’t correct anymore. According the rangers two years ago an avalanche took out the bridge. Also if you’re using a GPS with a map from GPSFileDepot.com the Pete Lake Trail doesn’t match up perfectly with the actual trail. Use some common sense when trail hiking and you’ll be fine. I have posted my Google Earth kml file that shows me wandering off trail trying to “find” the trail via GPS. My GPS was also having issues with low batteries so if you check out the kml file I didn’t actually walk through the lake, though that could be kind of cool.