A Unique Summit Lake Experience
I have a new toy and this weekend was all about giving it a test run. My search requirements: perfect blue lake, dog friendly, 8 miles or less, and a view of Mount Rainier. This led me to Summit Lake which is a little over 5 miles round trip and the most amazing shade of blue.
So, what was I testing? My new Advanced Elements Packlite Kayak! It weighs four pounds, has a pretty compact foot pump, and the paddles can breakdown into four separate pieces for easy packing. Here is a picture with my gear for this weekend:
Inside my bag I have the kayak and foot pump, a sleeping pad, Jetboil, granola bars and soup, headlamp, dog food, water reservoir, and my sleeping bag. Then outside and in the top pockets are my tent and the paddles, extra clothes, my Kindle, first aid kit, and various other small items. It wasn’t heavy at all! I initially had the kayak on the outside of my pack and that wasn’t comfortable, but once I put it in the bottom of the pack, the weight was hardly noticeable.
Summit Lake is a fairly easy hike that most anyone can (and should) do. The path is lined with wildflowers and the lake is set into a basin with the most incredible backdrop. And oh, that blue! So beautiful! There are nine established camps around the lake and even one on the ledge above. If you are a night photographer, I highly suggest getting there early and grabbing that spot! It has a view of sunset, sunrise, and at night the Milky Way is right over Mount Rainier.
When I arrived the first night it was cold and windy despite the sun. I hiked up to the ridge behind the lake and basked in the glory of Mount Rainier looming nearby. Nym did some rather adorable posing and I captured what is probably my favorite picture of her.
We headed down to the lake to set up camp, play fetch, and make some dinner. Sunset is opposite from Mount Rainier, but it still turned the mountain a lovely shade of pink. One of my favorite parts of camping by a lake is that you get double the views. Not only do you get to see the mountain and stars in the sky, but you get to see them reflected on a beautiful, sparkling surface as well.
The next morning it was much warmer with no wind, so I decided the time had come to try my kayak. The process took me around 15 minutes. Five to inflate the kayak, ten to try and fail to get Nym to accompany me in it. After being rejected, I set off while a friend kept Nym entertained with fetch.
***Proud parent moment: Nym wouldn't get in the boat with me BUT for the first time ever, she swam! We played fetch in the water's edge and typically if the water gets above her head she won't go after the stick no matter how obsessed she is with fetch. This time though, she worked up her courage and took the plunge! She would do this adorable little jump at the last second and then doggy paddle with the most singularly ungraceful strokes I've ever witnessed. My little one is growing up! ***
To keep the nose of the kayak from being too light, I put a good-sized rock in the bag. This was perfect! No more swaying at all (in a test run in Lake Washington earlier in the week there was a bit of extra work trying to keep the nose straight). The kayak handles well, you don’t feel the cold of the lake seep through, and it is surprisingly comfortable.
I paddled across the lake and enjoyed my breakfast with a view. One of my favorite parts of this lake is how absolutely clear it is. I could see to the bottom in all but the deepest spots. There were logs strewn about, big rocks, and little schools of fish. What an amazing way to spend a sunny Sunday. I can’t wait to take the kayak to some of the other alpine lakes (Blanca comes to mind first).
Further Trip Tips:
Bearhead Mountain is a great add-on to this hike as they leave from the same trailhead. It is 6.5 miles round trip but a mile of that is shared with Summit Lake. It is a bald mountain with unobstructed views of Mount Rainier. You can see it pictured below.
Bring bug spray and a jacket! Though most of Washington has been unseasonably hot recently, it was still very cold by the lake. This is mostly caused by the trees making most of the lake's edge shaded. There were a lot of flies and while they did not bother me, other's had bite marks on their legs.
*Note: I was given a kayak by Advanced Elements to test backpacking into alpine lakes and I am now a Brand Ambassador for them. However, all views and opinions of the kayak are my own and in no way influenced by Advanced Elements.