Lightning Creek Trail

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Review

From the popular Lightning Creek Landing on the eastern shore of Ross Lake, this trail provides an opportunity for those desiring a more wilderness hiking experience or continuing on to Hozomeen Camp. There is no other trail alternative to reaching Hozomeen from here. Some hardy souls may attempt to push further north along the lake shore but the terrain becomes dangerous and rather pointless to travel. Later in the summer when the "full pool" of the lake is attained not even the steep unpleasant muddy banks are available for travel.

The Lightning Creek Trail begins along the attractive flooded gorge of Lightning Creek, traveling deeper into the wilderness and quickly leaving the sights and sounds of the popular landing behind. The first part of the trail may be hot and dry in summer but it provides some nice views of the cool waters of Ross Lake. Circling widely to the east it provides a moderate climb around the base of Desolation Peak. Beyond the tread of the trail, the deep forests, wetlands, and rocky outcrops show little or no sign of man’s intrusion into this wilderness.

Before long the trail swings north and crosses Lightning Creek. Nearby a trail junction leads east into the Pasayten Wilderness and possible destinations including Manning Park in Canada or Harts Pass along the Pacific Crest Trail. The name, Three Fools Trail, makes one suspicious about taking this trail. Continuing north in this forested valley another trail junction is reached near a campground. The old and now abandoned trail also once led east into the Pasayten. Its former name Freezeout Creek Trail is a good warning to late season travelers of how quickly winter can arrive in this valley. The campground at this junction is named Nightmare, a strange name for a campground. The location appears pleasant enough, well protected in a deep valley and populated by beautiful ancient trees. Not many years ago, a group of three hikers spent a quiet night in this campground. Sometime around first light they were awakened by a tremendous boom that literally bounced them off the ground while still in their sleeping bags. Peering out of the tent in terror they could hear or see nothing living or dead that had caused such a disturbance. It was not until after leaving the "safety" of their tent and looking around that they realized the massive old tree that they had camped under had fallen and only barely caressed the corner of their tent. At the rotted base were signs of wood chewing insects. Not a breath of wind had been felt all night and morning. Could it be that one last nibble of a single tiny insect was the final act that brought this giant down? Maybe other similar incidents have occurred here.

Beyond the camp the trail turns west and makes a final climb toward a pass marked soon after by the attractive wetland of Willow Lake. From here the Hozomeen Trail leads down to the shores of Ross Lake and the Hozomeen Camp. Remember that camping along this trail requires preregistration and some camps are user designated (e.g. hiker only, stock only, etc.). Along the many miles of the eastern shore of Ross Lake, this trail segment offers a dramatically different experience of wilderness travel, ancient forests, deep stream valleys, and yes, even some mystery.
Written By: Bud Hardwick
On: 5/11/2010

Directions

The trailhead for the Lightning Creek Trail is located at the Lightning Creek Landing on the eastern shore of Ross Lake about midway north to south of the lake’s length. Arrive here by hiking from either Hozomeen Camp to the north, East Bank Trail from the south; or boat-in when summer lake water levels rise high enough to reach the dock.

Map

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