George Lake

July 30, 2005

George Lake is located on the southeast flank of Mt. Washington at an elevation of an elevation of 5700'. The Pacific Crest Trail passes within ¾ mile of the lake, but there are no maintained trails to the lake. Our group of five began hiking north on the Pacific Crest Trail from the Highway 242 trail head on McKenzie Pass at 5200'. Despite our early start, the Belknap lava flows were already warming under sunny skies. We took our first water and snack in the big lava vent on the west side of Little Belknap, where we found one of the few shady spots in the area. We continued northward, crossing our high point of the day between Belknap Crater and Little Belknap at 6100' for an up-close view of these two centers of recent volcanic activity. The PCT follows an older lava flow that is thinly forested as it descends into a shallow valley between Mount Washington and Belknap Crater. Near a point south of the lake, we left the PCT at 5400' and started hiking and climbing cross country up and over the 5800' ridge that stands between the lake and the trail. My map and compass navigation skills were somewhat off and I cheated a little bit too far east as we bushwhacked through significant amounts of blow-down trees. On our first attempt, we missed the lake, probably by a couple hundred meters to the east, and never even saw it as we dropped into dense forest to the northeast of the lake. I quickly realized our mistake, we regrouped, and started back uphill to southwest, where we quickly found the shore of the emerald green colored lake. Interestingly, while we were thrashing around in the woods to the northeast of the lake, we encountered a faint trail leading northeast from the lake, complete with sawed logs. This trail doesn’t show on modern maps, but may be one of the rumored horse packer’s trails that lead to the lake basin. Everybody but the leader went for a swim, and gave the lake high marks for swimabilty. Erik pulled an old soda pop can from the bottom, only to find that it had been home to a grey salamander. With Rob’s binoculars we spotted two rock climbers roped and climbing high on Mount Washington’s fractured southeast buttress. The summit of the mountain is less than a mile from the lake, and the view of the southeast face is spectacular. After a leisurely lunch and many photographs, we located a faint use trail that provided a relatively easy route back to the PCT from the south shore of the lake. Some large afternoon thunderstorms had brewed up over the south Cascades, and provided a very photogenic backdrop to the Three Sisters group as we hiked back south on the PCT and over the Belknap flows to the trail head. The total hiking distance for this route was about 12.5 miles with an elevation gain of about 2900'. Thanks to Erik for driving us all in his van. Hikers were guest Erik Muller and Obsidians Rob Castleberry, Rich Romm, Richard Sundt, and leader Brian Hoyland.

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