Nannie Ridge Loop
My wife and I had been planning a backpacking trip this summer for quite some time. We had originally planned to do the Bowron Lake Circuit in British Columbia, but failed to get a permit and decided to try to find something closer to home instead. If you've read any of my other trips reports, you have some kind of idea of my fitness level. suffice it to say that I could handle some of the hardest backpacking trips with ease. My wife, however, is a little less physically inclined, so we began searching for an easy trail that we could enjoy together. We found the perfect trail in the Goat Rocks Wilderness (an area roughly in between Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams): the Nannie Ridge Loop Trail. It covers just 15 miles and offers stunning views of Mt. Adams, lakes, streams, and wildflowers. We would spread this out over three days, letting us take our time and enjoy the scenery.
The trail starts at Walupt Lake Campground, a quiet campground sitting on the edge of a beautiful, crystal-clear lake. From there the trail heads east on Trail 101 until reaching the PCT. From there the trail follows the PCT until it splits off at Sheep Lake. Then you follow trail 98 back to Walupt Lake. We took a few days off work and left home on the morning of Wednesday the 16th of August, and reached Walupt Lake Campground around 11:30am. We had a quick bite to eat and took some pictures of the lake, then got on the trail.
The trail runs parallel to the lake for quite a while, allowing for some beautiful views of the lake and surrounding mountains. It's quiet and nicely shaded, and for the first couple miles only a moderate amount of elevation gain. Shortly after departing from the lake the trail crosses a washed-out section, and then begins climbing upwards through a series of switchbacks. It climbs several hundred feet before beginning to level off. Another mile or so brings us to a series of small lakes near the PCT junction. Here is where we make our first camp. It's about 3pm now, and we've been hiking for about 3 hours.
Our first camp
We find a nice level spot with a view of the lake and set up the tent. It has warmed up quite a bit and there's not as much shade here, so we grab our water bottles and walk over to the lake to get some water. The water looks clear, though we have trouble reaching it. The entire lake is surrounded by grasses and a shallow, mucky area. We can get close enough to a deep enough area to be able to fill our bottles. We hike off to the side of the lake and find a small creek that has better access. We get some dinner and then relax in the tent watching a movie on my phone. We decide to go to bed as soon as it gets dark, which is about 8:30pm. We both end up getting hot in the night though and have to pull our sleeping bags partly off to get comfortable.
Our first camp as seen from the trail on our second day
When we wake up, I look outside and it's a bit foggy, which is surprising because the forecast called for clear blue skies all three days. We get some water heated for our breakfast of cider, hot cocoa and pop tarts. Then we begin packing up camp so we can move on the the next one! We're on the trial and moving by 8:30am and reach the PCT in about 15 minutes, another 15 minutes and all of the fog has burnt off, leaving the clear blue skies (as forecasted). Once on the PCT, the trail turns north and begins climbing (very gradually), as it traverses the side of a mountain, offering stunning views of Mt. Adams. We encounter a PCT thru-hiker going north to south (which is kind of unusual). We run into a couple more people but otherwise have the trail to ourselves. It's about noon when we reach Sheep Lake - our second camp.
We set down our packs and get some lunch. Since we have all afternoon to take care of camp chores, we take our time and lay on some warm rocks in the sun for a while while we enjoy the view of the lake. Eventually we get our tent set up and the sleeping pads thrown in. We crawl in and begin reading books and watching movies. My wife soon falls asleep though and gets to enjoy a nice nap. Later in the afternoon I decide to go for a swim. The water is clear and inviting - and the temperature was absolutely perfect. My wife didn't want to fully commit and just dipped her feet in instead. We dried off in the sun and then got some water heated for our dinner. Again taking advantage of the view - we ate looking out over the lake. After dinner we crawled back in the tent and watched a movie and ate Skittles.
Our camp at Sheep lake
We had brought some Jiffy Pop as an evening treat, so after we finished the movie I got it going on the stove. But apparently Jiffy Pop goes bad, and it inflated about halfway and then started smoking. My shirt smelled like smoke for the rest of the trip.... After that we decided to call it a night. I woke up around 1:50am and decided it would be cool to check out the stars. So we got out of the tent and it was amazing! We could see the milky way and hundreds of stars! It's something you'll only experience if you get out of the city. It was very cold, however, so we quickly jumped back in our warm sleeping bags and went back to sleep.
Mt. Adams in the early morning sun
The next morning it was still cold and there was a lot of condensation on the tent and on pretty much everything else. We had breakfast, packed up and headed out. From this point the trail climbs a little as it follows Nannie Ridge. It nears the peak, though never actually reaches it. There were some pretty stunning views though, as this is basically the high point of the whole trail. Once the trail reaches the end of the ridge, it begins dropping. It drops 2,000' all the way back down to the trailhead. We passed a few more groups this day, which isn't surprising as it's Friday. We kept dropping and dropping. My wife was beginning to struggle. The cumulative fatigue of the past 2 days, plus the stresses of going downhill were starting to wear on her. She's a trooper though, and before we knew it we were back at the trailhead. We got a couple more pictures and got back in the car and headed home!
It was a great trip overall, and we would definitely do it again. It's definitely a trail I'd recommend to beginners as it's not too strenuous and has some awesome views and some cool lakes.
Back at Walupt Lake