Trail review

Lake 22 Trail review; an accessible alpine excursion.

Colter Co. Lake 22 trail review

This trail review was written by a hiker and guest contributor, Sarah Okey (@sokey10). Thank you for sharing, Sarah!

I’m a fan of all kinds of trails but if I had to pick a hike “type” it would be alpine lake trails. We’re fortunate out here in the Northwest to have our fair share of alpine lake escapes and so on Labor Day to celebrate the holiday, myself and a few friends decided to head to Lake 22 - a very popular hike just over an hour north of Seattle. The trailhead for Lake 22 is near Mt. Pilchuck State Park (another incredible hike!), just outside of Granite Falls, WA. 


 Date we hiked: September 2 – Labor Day!

 Distance: 5.4 miles to the lake, roundtrip

 Elevation gain: 1,350

 Difficulty: Easy to moderate

 Kid friendly: Yes

 Dogs: Yes, on leash

 Permits: None

 Parking passes: Northwest Forest Pass

 Other considerations: This is a super popular trail so go early or be prepared to have a tough time finding parking. There is a warning listed on Cars blocking the highway near the Lake 22 trailhead will be towed. Park in designated areas only or visit this trail during the week to avoid parking concerns

 Gear: None required (at least from May-November). Note that it is rocky and you do cross a few creeks so waterproof hiking boots are ideal.

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I cannot emphasize it enough - get there EARLY or be prepared to hike with crowds. Given its accessibility to the city, Lake 22 is a popular pick - specifically during May-early September. We left the city around 7:15AM, putting us at the trailhead around 8:30AM. The parking lot was already starting to get full, so we were glad we had set an early wakeup time. 

Although we were barely into September, the hike already had hints of fall. A few leaves were starting to shift colors and the air was crisp.

We were all pleasantly surprised/reminded how well-maintained the trail was. The beginning portion includes a lot of dirt stairs which make it an easy climb for the first portion of the trail. We wound our way through the forest, crossing a bridge over a creek before the incline really started. 

 About a mile and a half in, the trail opens up to a beautiful vista looking North towards Liberty Mountain on the other side of Mountain Loop Highway. This part of the trail becomes quite a bit rockier as you make your way back and forth along the switchbacks. We were focused on getting up the trail when we realized we needed to take a break to stop and take the view in!

As we made our way to the top, we started to see the clearing of the lake and could hear dogs splashing around in the water. It took us just shy of an hour to get the lake.

Although I had been to Lake 22 before, there is something absolutely breathtaking about walking up to the clearing of an alpine lake, even if you know what’s coming. There was still snow on the far side of the lake (not any impediment to the trail), despite it being in the 70s and at the end of summer. 

We walked around to the end of the boardwalk to get a bit closer to the water. We didn’t get in the water but watched some hikers blow up kayaks and jump right in. There is a trail that goes around the perimeter of the lake but we didn’t go all the way around. The lake loop adds about 1.5 miles to the total trip. 

 We hung out by the lake for a bit, soaked in the beauty and snapped some pics before heading back down the trail. On the way down the trail was really starting to get crowded (started heading down around 10:15). The sun was also more directly overhead making the non-tree covered parts of the trail quite a bit hotter.

Lake 22 is a staple Seattle hike. It’s a great quick easy/moderate well-marked trail with a highly rewarding finish. On a hot day, wear your swimsuit and jump right in!

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Recipes, instructional article

DIY Backpacking Blueberry Granola

Colter Co backpacking blueberry granola

I recently bought some freeze dried granola for a backpacking trip. Everybody loved it! Way more than I expected. As a parent of kids that are sporadically picky eaters it makes picking backpacking food a sensitive subject. I was happy to find something they liked. The bonus is that it’s super easy to prepare. Just add a half cup of cold water. On mornings you need to get up and moving fast it’s a great solution.

The downside is that they are $6 a piece. To be fair, that’s cheaper than most freeze dried meals, but still. I decided to see what it would cost to do it myself. The most expensive ingredient was the freeze dried blueberries. I decided to use freeze dried because the shelf life is very long, but if you were going to make a batch of these to be used with in a few days you could use dehydrated or dried fruit (like raisins) which would be a lot cheaper. I added 1/3 cup of powdered milk and a scoop of tasteless protein powder for a little extra kick.

Each of these servings cost about $2.25 to make. Will it have a 25 year shelf life? No, it will not. But it will be fine for several weeks, or longer even. I don’t work fo the FDA, so I can’t really say for sure :)

I did take the extra step of putting it into a FoodSaver bag and vacuum sealing it with an oxygen absorber packet to be safe. I am planning a trip in a couple weeks so that was probably overkill.

I gave one of these to my son and he liked it just as much as the $6 version. Win!

DIY backpacking blueberry granola colter co

Here’s the full recipe. Feel free to pin this, or share it! Let me know how it goes for you.

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Trail review

Olympic Peninsula South Coast Wilderness Trail - Third Beach to Oil City.

Colter Co_olympic south coast wilderness trail

The coastline of the Pacific Northwest is a beautiful and unique ecosystem. The moment you step out of the car you can smell the salt of the sea and feel the heavy ocean air. The trees grow tall and in areas block out all the light creating a shadowy canopy. The forest near the coast is thick with dense ferns and salal bushes 6 to 7 feet tall, as far as you can see. The only possible way to pass through is the trail you are on. Most of the trail isn’t overly steep, but there are spots where the only way to get past the big bluffs is to climb straight up. There are ropes from washed up fishing nets and sometimes ladders built into the cliff. It makes it feel like a true adventure. Like Indiana Jones on his way to some ancient temple in the jungle. This dense rainforest trek is interrupted by stunning vistas of beaches and rows of sea stack rocks that are home to sea birds, eagles and tide pools. There are long stretches of beach hiking where you see what the surf has brought in from the sea. There are always a broad range of floats broken off of the industrial fishing nets in the Pacific. Some of the camp sites along the way have trees decorated with these floats like the walls of a quant beach house. The freshly swept sand and low tides shows the tracks of passing wildlife. We saw the wanderings of raccoon, coyote, deer, squirrel and pelicans.


Date we hiked: August 15-17

Distance: 17 miles point to point

Elevation gain: 2,004 over the whole trail. The highest point is 250 feet.

Difficulty: Moderate with several Rope ladders, and rock scrambles.

Kid friendly: I took my 12 and 9 year old boys on this hike. It was very challenging to be sure, but they rose to the challenge when they felt the thrill of real adventure. The rope ladders and rock scrambles were my biggest concern. They were very challenging, but they boys did well.

Dogs: Not allowed on this trail

Permits: You do need to get permits for this trip from the ranger station. There are quotas for each camp area and you will have a designated area for each night you stay. Not a reserved site, mind you. But there will be an area there for you. You can find out more about the permits here.

Parking passes: None

Edible plants: This trail is lined with salal berries that were in season while we were there.

Other considerations: Bear cans are required (you can get one at the ranger station). Take a current tide chart! You will need it in passing certain areas and for determining safe camp sites.

Gear: Trekking poles were a must on this one for the rock scrambles and river fords. Work gloves for the rope ladders (I was skeptical of these but very glad we took them). Bear can is required. Water shoes for river fords. Water filter (even with filtering there was a high amount of discoloration in the available creek water and using water treatment tablets wouldn’t be suggest…) I took gaiters for my boots to keep sand out of my socks and would highly suggest doing the same.

There are sections of this hike that must be passed at low tide. If you miss low tide you have to wait about 8 hours for the next low tide. There’s no way around this, so make sure you take a tide chart! In retrospect we would probably do this one from south to north if we could have a do over. The most tide sensitive parts were close to Oil City so leaving that close to the end left us with little flexibility on time. We ended up waking up at 5 AM the last day to cover 4 miles before that days low tide at 9:30 AM. It was a bit of a rush and didn’t leave time for breaks or to enjoy views. But that was just because of the way the tides landed during our trip. I suggest checking on the tides during the window you will be there and then decide if you want to go north to south or south to north.

 We started out at the Third beach trail head (not Beach 3. That’s a different beach. Very confusing…) We left a car at the Oil City trail head with the plan to shuttle ourselves back up to Third beach at the end. Lots of people will do part of this trail as an out and back to avoid the shuttling, but since we had 2 adults and 2 cars we did it as a point to point hike. Third beach to Toleak point is a common out and back. I would definitely suggest that if you are short on time or two cars.

olympic coast trail- colter co

It’s only a little over a mile from the trail head to Third beach. That’s where the first set of ropes and ladders comes in. You can see from the elevation map exactly where the big climbs and descents are. Each time you drop out of the rainforest and onto the beach is amazing. It never gets old! 

olympic coast trail elevation profile

We camped at the first night just south of Scott’s bluff. There are several campsite there and a water source at Scott creek.

That brings me to the water sources… There are several creeks and small rivers that you will be crossing and can filter water from. While we were there the water sources were discolored and even after filtering it looked a lot like ginger ale. It made me a little nervous, but tasted fine, and nobody suffered any ill effects from drinking it. One note on filtering water near the beach. Make sure you go far enough up stream to avoid getting water that may be tainted with sea water that can wash up stream with high tides.

 We arrived at low tide, but we could see a clear line of where that last high tide had been. We made sure to camp in an area out of the splash zone.

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Another bonus to this trail is the plentiful firewood on the beach. You are allowed to burn driftwood. Obviously, pick the dry stuff. It made our evening camps very cozy on the beach.

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In order to save on weight and space (those bear cans aren’t huge…) we used almost exclusively freeze dried meals. This worked out great for us. It’s also nice to only have to wash a spoon at the end of a meal :)

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 Day 2 was our long day. We did around 8 miles to end the day at Mosquito creek. There was a fair amount of climbing over bluffs and even a couple small creek ford: Falls creek and Goodman creek. We took the opportunity to eat lunch after crossing Goodman creek and let our feet dry out. We did bring flip flops or water shoes for water crossings to avoid having wet feet during the rest of the trips.

 The stretch of the trail passes Toleak point which is a big draw for a lot of hikers. It’s at almost exactly 6 miles in. There are several campsites in the area, including some off the beach in the woods that are quite nice. Most of these sites are clearly marked with hanging fishing floats and bouys. Toleak point is amazing, and it’s very clear to see why people make this spot a destination! Coming around the corner at Toleak you can see a lot of sea stack rocks and amazing bluffs going all the way down to Hoh head near the Hoh river.

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 The second half of the day was mostly beach hiking with the exception of one overland stretch. We ended the day at Mosquito creek, camping up at the top of the bluff overlooking the beach. It was a great site, big enough for 3-4 tents. There was a nice firepit and even some flat benches there. There were some other sites around and even a pit toilet. Mosquito creek was a beautiful spot that (thankfully) did not live up to its name.

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Day 3 was a shorter than day 2, but required us to be on the trail at 6:20 am to hit the tides at the right time. No time for breaks or lollygagging! Our tight pace wasn’t helped out by us marching into a very angry bunch of hornets that made clear their displeasure with us being there. Most of us sustain a sting or two or 5. The overland section of this leg was about 3 miles before dropping back down onto the beach. About a mile later is Diamond Rock. This is the area we needed to hit at low tide. There are two outcroppings that are only accessible at low tide. Even at low tide they are a challenge! The smooth sand of the beach is interrupted by large boulder fields. We tried to stay up closer to the dry rocks as the ones that spend a lot of time underwater tend to be covered in slippery seaweed. It is a pretty challenging stretch and requires making your own route through the rocks. It’s slow going but it’s the last major obstacle of the trail. After that it’s a little bit more beach hiking and then less than a mile along the beautiful Hoh river to the trail head.

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In summary, this was a fabulous trip that my boys and I will surely remember and talk about for years to come. A fabulous mix of sand, sights, and challenges. I would do it again in a heart beat!

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Let me know if you’ve done this trail, or if you have others you’d suggest. I’m always looking for new trials to explore.

instructional article

DIY survival fishing kits for kids

Colter co. survival fishing kit

This summer I am taking a small group of 12-14 year old scouts (including my son) on a 4 day camping trip. It’s going to be awesome! We are going to be focusing on building shelters, and basic survival skills like fishing. In preparing for this I helped put together some ultra simple fishing kits. I wanted to make these are simple as possible for them to use safely. They would be a little over simplified for an advanced angler but for the sake of young anglers I have made these super simple. They only require one knot to be tied and don’t require any tools to add or remove weights.

Here’s what I included:

survival fishing kit Colter Co.

3 - Red #8 hooks with leaders

1 - #8 spinner with leader

2 - 5/8” bobbers

5 - Swivels

5 - Small bullet sinkers

3 - Small dipsey sinkers

1 - PowerBait nuggets (not pictured)

The weights are all the kind that slide over the line which means you don’t need to use your teeth or a multitool to add or remove them. They also allows you to fish easily from a bobber or off the bottom with floating bait. I find the sliding sinkers preferable for fishing off the bottom. Be mindful that this options should be used only when you know what the bottom of the water is like. If there are lots of snags and down trees a bobber is going to be a better approach.

I chose to include the PowerBait nuggets because they are super easy to put on. I’ve tried to eliminate any possible way for these guys to get their fingers hooks. Putting bait on a hook is prime hooking territory. The nuggets are pre-formed in a good size and are very easy to slip onto the hook. I made sure to get floating bait to be able to fish off the bottom.

survival fishing powerbait nuggets Colter Co.

I decided to use the hooks that are pre-tied to the leader. I don’t usually use these because they take up more space in the tackle box. But I was thinking about these 12 year old trying to tie a a line onto these tiny hooks and imaging all the hooks in finger and I didn’t want to mess with that. These pre-tied hooks just need to be attached to a swivel. The only knot you need is to tie the line to the swivel. I picked the red colored hooks so, in a pinch, you could tie a bit of colorful paracord or something on and make it a lure.

survival fishing kits Colter Co.

I’m going to try a replacement to the tradition rod and reel this year. I got a hand reel, or Cuban reel. It’s basically a plastic line holder that has one lip formed at an angle that allows the line to come off easily. While holding the “reel” facing forward, throw your weighted line out and the line comes off the reel just like a spinning reel. The line is then wound around the reel by hand. It’s very small, light weight, and doesn’t have any of the breaking issues that can happen with the delicate fiber glass rod or small moving parts. Can you cast as far with this set up? Probably not. But I think the pros should out weigh the cons. I’m going to try it this year and I will report back on how it goes!

I did make one improvement to this product by cutting a small slit in the rim with my pocket knife. It gives me a place to hold the line securely when in transit.

Survival fishing kit Colter Co.

In training for this outing I taught the boys how to tie a clinch knot. For this particular fishing set up, that’s the only knot you would really need. If fishing knots are your thing, or if you are looking to do fly fishing (which uses waaaay more knots), we make a handy fly fishing knot reference bandana that will help you refresh your memory on some of the knots that are farther back on the line and tied less frequently.

I am also going to be providing a “Stayin’ Alive Bandana” to each of the boys with reference information on the 4 top priorities for survival: shelter, water, fire, food. If you are teaching youth about survival, this is a solid way to make sure they have a lot of information in a format they can use for lots of other things and are more likely to take with them. Also it doubles as a bright location marker with reflective silver ink for high visibility at night.

Tell us about the amazing outdoor activities you have planned this summer! Are you teaching kids survival skills? What skills are you focusing on?