Hike to Dewey Lake in Mount Rainier National Park / Wenatchee National Forest
Mongo and Dad decided to take Spork on a hike to Dewey Lake. Actually, Dad does most of the deciding, but he still prefers to bounce these ideas off of Mongo, who is almost universally positive in his response. Over the years, Mongo has developed into an excellent “yes-man”.
Dewey Lake and nearby Tipsoo Lake are two excellent spots to take scenic photographs of Mount Rainier. Tipsoo Lake is right off HWY 410, and is on the agenda for many of the charter bus tours of the park. Dewey Lake is on the opposite side of the highway from Tipsoo Lake and down in the valley. It is a six (6) mile round-trip hike to the lake. It is about nine (9) miles round trip to hike from the highway and go all the way around the lake. Far less tourists ever make it to Dewey Lake.
It can be difficult to avoid the crowds at Tipsoo during summer. Early dawn is one of the few times when there is still a little solitude to be had on the lake shores. However Tipsoo is a very small lake which can be walked in just a few minutes.
Dewey Lake, however, stands as one of the monarchs of alpine lakes. This long, broad lake boasts scores of shoreline pockets that offer up the elusive solitude often hard to find in a mountain lake basin. Stunning scenery also awaits, with tall Naches Peak towering overhead and a rich forest cradling the opposite lakeshore. If that isn’t enough, Dewey hosts an impressive population of trout for the anglers among us. Indeed, the lake is stocked periodically by plane–fish are emptied from tanks in free-fall dives during low overflights of the lake.1
So early one morning, Dad bundled Mongo and Spork into the back of the truck, and set out for Dewey Lake. Once again, they left later than Dad would have liked to, but one makes do with what one has.
They arrived at the trail, and started on towards the valley. Dad had carefully researched the authorities in charge of managing this trail, and determined as long as he started on the trail in National Forest, he could avoid traveling within Mount Rainier National Park.
Not that Dad dislikes the park, but in the National Forest, Dad does not need a leash on Mongo. Spork gets a leash wherever she goes. Spork is a bolter. Bolters can make hikes extra exciting.
As they traveled down the path, Mongo explored all the little grottoes along the rock walls. He finally found one that had water in it. Dad had filled a bowl with water for the dogs in the truck, but that water was not worthy. This small puddle was serious mountain water, and that was what Mongo was after. Mongo slurped thirstily. Spork sniffed the pool and moved on.
At the crest of the trail, just before heading into the valley, Dad caught up to a woman with a labra-doodle, which is a breed of dog. Her dog was on a leash. Mongo bounded up to them. She recoiled.
“Is your dog friendly”, she asked in a quavering voice.
“Yep, that one is no problem” Dad affirmed as he continued to close the distance between himself and the overly friendly and bouncy Mongo and his new-found friend. Dad shortened Spork’s lead as he drew near to the woman.
“This one, however, is a rescue with a checkered past, and I don’t trust her for a minute off leash.”
“It’s a wise man that knows his dogs”, the woman said, nodding her head.
Dad chuckled as he walked past. He always found a bit ironic that huge terrifying Mongo with the mastiff head is the one who wouldn’t hurt a fly (except by wagging that gigantic otter tail), while the cute demur Spork with the sad eyes was always trying to disembowel the many dogs she met. But that was why she was on lead. Dad always kept a very close eye on her on those rare moments he let her off lead.
At the edge of the valley, the trio entered the William O. Douglas Wilderness. Dad started scanning the surrounding terrain for berries. The year before Dad had scored bags of huckleberries on this section of trail. Oddly enough, there were absolutely no berries. Dad was disappointed. The year before the area had been very productive. But then Dad perked up as he recalled that the area around the trailhead at the lake had been even more productive. He smiled at this thought and continued down the trail.
The crested at the edge of the valley, and Dad stopped to look over the vista before them. This was about as far as most tourists came, if they wandered down this trail at all.
After a long pause, Dad made to continue the hike down into the valley. “Come on buddies. Mongo, stay by Dad. The forest is a dangerous place.” They descended down the first switchbacks into the valley.
After a series of switchbacks down the side of the hill, they came to the lake. This was where Dad had scored huckleberries big-time the year before. Last year, this was the spot so full of huckleberries, that when Mongo rolled on a bush, he came up white with purple spots. Dad looked closely at the bushes. There were no berries here either. Dad studied bush after bush, but the result was always the same, no berries. After about fifteen minutes, Dad gave up.
“Let’s move to the lake. You two can go for a swim.” Dad led them to the shoreline. Mongo plunged into the water from a small bluff, dove underwater and then popped up, just like a dock dog. There were no people or dogs around, so Dad unleashed Spork.
As he let her go, he looked her in the eye and said, “Spork, don’t make me regret this.”
Spork dove in after Mongo. But Spork is not a water dog, and she is not designed to dive into water nor to swim very well once immersed. Spork went under like Mongo, but she did not spring right back to the surface. When she did come up, she was sputtering and flailing at the water.
She quickly headed for shore, and as soon as she reached dry land she bolted into the woods. Dad immediately envisioned Spork getting lost in the wilderness. What was he going to say to Kimi? How would he explain this to Mom-mom…?
“SPORK! Dammit”, he yelled after her. ” I knew I’d regret taking that leash off”, he muttered to himself angrily. “SPORK! Get back here! HERE! SPORK!”
Spork could tell Dad meant business, so she quickly circled back through the trees. As soon as she was back, Dad popped the leash back on her before she knew what happened. Meanwhile Mongo continued to dog paddle blissfully around the lake.
Dad grabbed a stick from the forest floor and tossed it into the lake. Mongo saw Dad release the stick and turned to see the splash of the stick hitting the water. He tracked directly to the stick, grabbed it in his mouth, and brought it right back to Dad.
“Good boy. Good fella!” Dad tossed the stick again. Mongo retrieved again. Spork watched him and began to whine. “Do you think you can behave this time”, Dad asked Spork. She looked at him contritely. “OK, this is your last chance.” Dad unsnapped the leash. Spork walked gently into the lake while Mongo was retrieving the stick. When the water was about half way up her legs, she lay down in the water, and then started to splash the water with her fore paws. She snapped at the splashes. “Good girl”, said Dad. “That’s probably more your speed anyways.”
Mongo brought the stick back to the edge of the lake and then released it into the water; a clear sign that he was done retrieving. He hopped out of the lake and shook, showering Dad in the process. It was now early afternoon, and it was hot by the lake. Dad didn’t mind being sprinkled. After a quick roll in the dirt, Mongo now stood astride the trail, ready to go again.
“Come on Spork”, said Dad. “Let’s move out.”
Spork eyed the woods again as she emerged from the lake. “Spork! Don’t even think about bolting.” Dad moved towards her, and she froze and waited for the leash. Dad snapped her up and they all started back to the trail around the lake.
About halfway around the lake from the trail head is the perfect picture spot. And it includes a nice slope down to the water, with a nice beach. Mongo trotted down to the lake again. Dad looked around, and seeing no people nearby, no other dogs nearby, no horses nearby, and no trees nearby, decided it might be safe to let Spork off leash to swim again. So he unclipped her.
Mongo raced into the water with a huge splash. Spork walked up cautiously this time, and lay down in the water again, and began making little splashes once more. Mongo swam around her. Spork made several moves to bolt from the lake, but each time Dad rebuked her. “Spork! Don’t even think about it.” Each time, she lay back in the water innocently, and made little splashes again. Finally Mongo was tired of swimming, so Dad walked down to the shoreline and leashed up Spork. Then he lead them the rest of the way around the lake and back to the trailhead.
He looked one more time for berries, and only found four green ones. Disappointed, he led the pack back up the trail. The walk back out of the wilderness was uneventful, aside from the rising temperature. As Dad mopped the sweat from his brow, he was starting to regret not haveing left earlier in the morning. They trudged their way up the dusty trail in the afternoon heat. A little past the midpoint of the trail, Dad stopped in the shade of a tree, and broke out the dog bowls and his water bottle. After everyone had a nice cool drink, they finished the climb out of the valley.
Dad took one more look over the valley, and then they headed down the trail to the truck. After about ten minutes on the trial, Mongo suddenly began to drift down slope into the valley.
“Buddy! What are you doing”, asked Dad. The answer came a few seconds later.
Suddenly, a spruce grouse broke from cover; then another and then another. Before long, Mongo had flushed about half a dozen birds. When Mongo was finished flushing grouse, Dad looked over at him and said, “I guess a man’s got to do, what a man’s got to do. Eh, Buddy?” Mongo wagged his tail and came back to Dad.
As they neared the end of the trail, Mongo split off from the path again. Dad called after him, “Mongo! Where ya going?” Mongo was making time, and Dad was concerned about where he was headed at such great speed. Dad’s eyes followed the thin path ahead of Mongo, and suddenly Mongo’s intentions became clear.
At the end of the path was a pond, and Mongo was headed straight for it. As he reached the water he plunged directly in. Spork began whining at Dad’s feet. “Not this time Spork. There are people, dogs, and kids around that pond. You’re staying on leash. You’ll just have to wait for Dad to walk there with you.” Spork pulled and whined all the way there.
In the meantime, Mongo had already made a friend at the pond. Trevor looked to be about six years old. As soon as Trevor saw Mongo splash into the pond, Trevor picked a stick and threw it in Mongo’s direction. By the time Dad and Spork arrived, Mongo and Trevor were enjoying a fine game of fetch. Trevor’s Dad was a little apprehensive, and rightly so, if just from the sheer size of the dog his son had just decided to befriend. On the other hand, Trevor was immediately enamored of his new pal, Mongo. However, Trevor was not thrilled when Mongo shook after dropping the stick. But as they say, into every life a little rain must fall. And anyways, the afternoon was getting downright hot by then.
Dad let Spork do her splash-game again, but this time she had to stay on leash. She splashed his leg. He was certain that she was splashing him out of spite.
When Mongo was done retrieving for Trevor, Dad coaxed Spork out of the pond, and then the pack followed another path back to the main trail. They crossed the highway, loaded up into the car, and began the ride home. It was too hot to stop in Greenwater, so Dad drove through the town and on to West Seattle. Pond water does not smell as nice as river water, so when they arrived home, everyone, including Dad got a bath. Then they relaxed around the house for the rest of the afternoon.
- Washington Trails Association Website