A few years ago during a summer much unlike the current one (there was actual snowpack), we wanted to go for an early season backpack trip. It was the last day of June and we thought we would give Alpine Lookout on Nason Ridge a try. We packed up our gear and headed to the trailhead off Highway 2. From the parking area we looked up to the ridge and saw that it was snow-free. So far so good. We headed up the purple lupine lined switchbacks, the air warm and thick with vanilla ponderosa pine scent.
There are two ways to get to Alpine Lookout, from the east or the west, on a long trail that traverses the length of Nason Ridge. We opted for the western approach with it’s easier trailhead access and it’s inviting alpine lake, Merritt Lake about halfway up the trail. We didn’t get far before we ran into snow.
We continued up looking for signs of a fork in the trail at about two miles (check) and then a creek (check). We crossed the creek on a sturdy snow bridge and then followed it up to the partially frozen lake just as our map indicated. We stopped for a snack and looked over the map. We located a saddle on the map and knew if we could find the saddle then we could follow the ridge to above treeline where the snow would give way to bare trail. It was right about then that we started noticing the mosquitoes.
We continued up the snow slapping bugs off our arms finding bits of the trail here and there and double checking the contours on the map to make sure we were heading the right way. After some bushwhacking, we found the saddle and the way was then obvious up the ridge. But I was agony. I’ve never encountered the kind of swarming mosquitoes that we encountered on that snowy trail. I swatted, slapped and cursed. I rubbed snow all over my exposed limbs and face. I showered myself in a fog of DEET. I finally yelled at the top of my lungs GET OFF OF ME! and then dropped my pack and rolled around in the hard crusted snow like I was on fire. It was not my proudest moment. My husband and the dog looked at me like I was crazy. But it kind of worked. Without another word I accepted my bitten fate in some deep down zen-like way and let the little jerks bite me.
I was rewarded for my (slightly) calm state when we broke out of the trees and onto the open ridge. The snow, and the mosquitoes along with it, gave way to lovely flower-lined trail. It was a glorious moment. We traversed through an old ghost forest. Skeletons of trees towered above, their crooked pointy limbs resembling the outline of the fire that burnt them long ago. But where there is death there is also life and I reveled in the uncountable varied species of plants and flowers growing on the steep ridge side. I discovered several plants that were new to me on that stretch of trail including the tiny pink steer’s head growing right in the middle of the trail. I laid down on my belly to get a photo.
Soon we pushed up the last bit of trail to the lookout. The views were incredible. Lake Wenatchee, Wenatchee Ridge, the White River and Little Wenatchee drainages were all right before our eyes. To the east we could see the tall mountains make their way down to Leavenworth and the plains beyond. No wonder this was a fire lookout site. The lookout itself was boarded up so we pitched our tent just below it hoping it would give us shelter from the wind if we needed it. We cooked dinner on the catwalk and watched rain showers sweep over the deep valleys. We heard far-off thunder and eventually the clouds headed our way. We sat in them for awhile and then took shelter in the tent. Nali curled up at our feet halfway on each of our sleeping pads and I read out loud to my husband as he slipped off to sleep.
The next morning I woke up and my right eye felt strange. My eyelid felt heavy and puffy. Ah! What’s wrong with my face? I asked my husband in a slight panic. He inspected it closely for a while and then laughed. You’ve got a huge mosquito bite right on your eyelid. You’ve got to be kidding me. Not only was my entire body covered in mosquito bites, but my eyelid, really? Ok, mosquitoes, you win this time. You win. I must have looked ridiculous coming down from the lookout but I didn’t care. I wore my droopy eyelid as a badge of honor as I collected more bug carcasses on my skin and added another adventurous backpack trip to the books.
Hikes Featured in this Post: