A Monograph to Write, My Friends

Someday I may write a monograph, which I will start by describing a trip last summer to Chickamin Lake. What a place.

A nephew Johnny and I started at the trailhead about 8:30 on Tuesday. We stopped for a break at about 12:15 at the photo below. You can see the weather coming in through the Fingers of Lemah Mountain. We’re headed to Chikamin Lake, ironically at the base of Lemah and not Chickamin and were expecting to climb Lehmah’s first finger the next day. Its summit is at about 7,600 feet elevation and Chikamin Lake is off trail, though has a well-established boot path to it. (If you blow up the picture you can see Johnny sitting on a rock wondering why we are voluntarily leaving a sunny day and heading into rotten weather.)

A hike through the Fingers of Lemah Mountain starts sunny with Gene and his nephew, Johnny.
Photo by: Gene Duvernoy

Heading to the Lake, we missed a turn on the boot path. My mistake. I have been up here several times before heading up to Chikamin Peak and was sure the turn to the Lake was further up then it was. Realizing our mix-up, we worked our way over a ridge by climbing on the inside of a moat between a snow field and its constraining cliff face. Topping out, we saw the Lake five hundred feet below. I hate it when this happens. Five hundred unnecessary feet of elevation with heavy backpacks. The way down to the Lake was steep indeed and we carefully worked our way down. We camped in the clouds lakeside with the temperature in the low forties and an incessant wind. It was a full moon and when the clouds opened occasionally, you could see your shadow.

The next day was gorgeous and we were able to take a good look around. The following shots are looking north and south, close by to where we camped.

Looking north towards a sub-peak of Lemah.
Photo by: Gene Duvernoy

During the morning we talked like family members do and took our time figuring out our choice of routes up Lemah. When we finally decided to start up the hill, we checked the time and figured we would need to come out under headlamps in darkness. Once off the Peak and down from the Lake and on the main trail, this route is doable with headlamps, but not fun. I’ve done it before in the dark coming back from Chikamin Peak. So, we laughed, shrugged shoulders and decided to hold the mountain until our next trip and give ourselves plenty of time to find the real way back from the Lake.

It turned out to be an easy and fun scramble back on rock ledges high above Lemah Meadows. When we reconnected with the boot path to Chikamin Peak, we stopped so Johnny could try a technical mountain maneuver that usually takes years of practice. He is a natural. A series of photos follow. Pay particular attention to the forth photo. It is wonderful.

We made it back to the car Wednesday evening earlier than we expected—6:30 p.m. We covered 20-plus miles and 8,500 feet of elevation gain, which is the more telling figure. I am always surprised how much slower you move with a backpack rather than a day back. It was a great trip.

So here’s the thing. This trip is nothing out of the ordinary for this place where we are lucky to live. Think about it, at this snow-fed crystalline pool in the afternoon and home by 8:45 p.m. that night. We live in a breathtaking place and getting out in it changes our thinking—broadens the possibilities.

We have been lucky in our state to have had more than our share of dedicated, hard-working elected officials; and some of our greatest have made a point of getting into the mountains regularly to re-calibrate—Governor Evans comes to mind as preeminent among them. So in these particular rabidly partisan times I would gladly take any political leader away from their favored vacations at a golf course or Martha’s Vineyard and bring them to Lake Chickamin instead. Even Snow Lake would do. It couldn’t help but open up some breathing room in their thinking—and maybe a long-view of things too. That is what my future (maybe) monograph will be about, about how our Cascades and Olympics influence our politics.

There you go. Another reason we need to save our great landscapes. For civic—and civil—discourse. Onwards friends. Let’s keep working to keep the Pacific Northwest all that it is.

  • Gene Duvernoy

    Gene Duvernoy is President of Forterra. He’s spent more than 30 years working on land conservation and building community, founding Forterra in 1989 in his attic. Since then he’s led the organization to national prominence by creating bold, innovative and successful programs that improve the quality of life for all residents.
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