Backpackers: Charlie, Matthew, Suzanne and Jeremiah
Packing Up at the Trail Head
Trip Report: We set out and headed up to the trailhead on Friday, July 16. Someone had recommended the Deception Creek Cutoff trailhead at the end of the road rather than the Tonga Ridge trailhead, and that did look closer to Fisher Lake to me, so that’s where we went. Man, is that a looooooooong road! We didn’t expect an official trailhead with a register, but the forest service must have put one there in the last few years. At least we didn’t need a parking pass.
Set off up the trail around 1 p.m. This trail doesn’t mess around – really steep and hot this afternoon. Grass was growing in the trail in some places, so it didn’t look like the trail is used much. We were the only ones on the trail today.
Reached the top and a big meadow area after about an hour. Is this Sawyer Pass? No signs for Fisher Lake, but we didn’t expect any either. Found a major trail headed South, so took it. The trail started climbing another hill immediately and we hoped it wasn’t just a trail to a view point or something. We noticed another small trail cutting off to the South, but decided to keep following the main trail as we thought maybe the smaller trail went to lower Fisher Lake. Crested the top of the hill into another grassy meadow area with trails all over the place. Where do all these trails go? Maybe to Jewel lakes?
Located another small tread headed South from the meadow, so took it. It went back into the woods and down a small ravine for a ways, through more meadows, intersecting more trails, until we finally reached Fisher Lake. Took about 2.5 hours from the car, but we were going pretty slow. Met a guy who had day hiked in to do some fishing. Also walked through a camp with lots of stuff but nobody around. We set up camp near the outlet and inflated our rafts to do some fishing.
Awesome lake, but not many fish biting this afternoon. My dad caught a few, but the rest of us were skunked. The other campers returned while we were fishing – a party of 4 adults and about 6 kids. We returned to camp where we had burritos and fresh trout for dinner. Found out the other campers had done a day hike to Ptarmigan lake. They said it was hard to find. They also told us that the trail from Tonga Ridge was a fairly flat, easy hike, so I’m wondering if that would be the best way to come in next time.
Saturday morning we decided to break camp and head over to upper Ptarmigan lake. We had thought about having a base camp at Fisher and day hiking around the area, but decided it might be too crowded at Fisher on a weekend.
Lower Ptarmigan Lake
The trail over to lower Ptarmigan was good for a ways, but we lost it in a rocky area once we started descending on the other side of the hill. Found it again after a few minutes. I got stung by a hornet here – not sure if I walked on a nest or what. We didn’t see anybody at lower Ptarmigan and kept on going to the upper lake. Set up camp and headed back down to lower lake to do some fishing through the afternoon.
While we were fishing off the rocks on the West side of the lake, a party of three came in and set up camp on the East side of the lake. My sister caught the first fish, but it proceeded to get the line tangled around a log underwater so I got to go for a swim to untangle it. The water was cold but felt good. A fighter jet flew over during the afternoon – not real low, but low enough to be exciting! Turned sideways over the lake. Pretty awesome. My 10 year old nephew especially liked it. Another bigger plane also flew over quite low – I have no idea what kind. I’d read about low flying planes in this area in trip reports on the internet.
We headed back up to camp on the upper lake and enjoyed another dinner of trout and pasta. We didn’t see any sign of fish at the upper lake, but couldn’t understand why there wouldn’t be any fish so headed out in our rafts after dinner anyway. Didn’t get any strikes or anything. My dad thought maybe fish can’t reproduce in this lake. It rained a bit while we were out in our rafts, but not much.
After that we spent some time sitting around camp watching squirrels and camp robbers try to find any crumbs we may have dropped. We got some close up pictures and videos of the critters. My nephew pointed out that the rock slide across the lake combined with its reflection in the lake made the image of a sideways bat – complete with eyes, wings, and head – anyone ever notice that before? He now calls the lake “Bat Lake.”
Noticed a small fish swim by la
te in the evening, and then we heard a couple of fish jump, so I guess they’re just too smart for fishermen like us.
Sunday morning we packed up and headed for the car. The party of three was still at lower Ptarmigan along with another tent that must have come later in the day. Also met several parties at Fisher Lake.
On the way out we stuck to the Eastern-most trails and shortened the trip by quite a ways and a pretty big hill climb. The trail actually turned out to be the one we had thought went to lower Fisher Lake. Took about 3.5 hours to reach the car, again hiking pretty slow. It rained on us part way, so we got out the ponchos and hung them over our packs.
Overall it was a great trip and we all had fun. Will have to go back and hike to some of the other lakes in the area. Thanks to everyone who gave us tips on the area. For more pictures of this trip, click here.