Type of HikeDay hike
Trail ConditionsObstacles on trail:
Overgrown in places.
We picked this hike for our 26th anniversary because it is only 10 hours long and so would allow us to spend the night at Sleeping Lady and enjoy their fabulous dinner and breakfast before setting out. We began at 9:45 am at the Merritt Lake trailhead, elevation 3000'. The first part of the trail switchbacks through a lovely old growth forest. Note: next time I hike an overgrown trail after rain, I will wear gaiters--my feet were soon absolutely soaked from the wet blueberry bushes, and would remain so all day. At around 5000' we encountered Boletus Edulis, and marked the spot for a harvest on the return. It seems like we often find these at 5000' in late summer, both in the Cascades and the Olympics. At 3.2 miles, we left the trail to follow a boot track up the ridge to Mt Mastiff. The day was cloudy and cool and the ridge walk was dramatic and enjoyable, with occasional views of our objective through the swirling clouds. In places the trail drops off the ridge to the east for easier scrambling. When we reached the summit 3 hours later we got a little bit of clearing and views to Lake Wenatchee. We ate the sandwiches we had brought from O'Grady's pantry at Sleeping Lady, then set off to tackle the ridge to Mt Howard. This looked like it should take about an hour, but it was almost 2 due to lots of bushwacking along the ridge down from Mastiff. It might be better to drop off the ridge to avoid the evergreen thickets? At Howard's summit we got more sun and expansive views to the south and east, not much visible to the north or west because of clouds. The cracks of the summit boulders were filled with enormous clumps of ladybugs. The hike down Howards' south face was very slow, mostly due to the fantastic number of sweet blueberries, but partly because of the bushwacking and routefinding through some rock bands. Crescent Lake is surrounded be fields of flowers and blueberries. There we picked up the Nason Ridge trail back to the trailhead. This return trail also was slow, due to blueberries, boletus edulis, and 800' of elevation gain. By the time we reached the place we had turned off for Mastiff we were getting tired, and the last 3 miles of downhill switchbacks seemed MUCH longer than they had on the way up. Wildlife: Saw lots of bear poop, pika's, a garter snake, ladybugs, a huge caterpillar, heard a pileated woodpecker. A few mosquitos around Lake Crescent. Except for the bushwacking and routefinding, this is more of a hike than a climb, but has a few places with easy class 2 scrambling, with exposure. We found a summit register at Mastiff, not at Howard. Stats: 5500' cumulative vertical, 14.5 miles per GPS, 10 hours including numerous breaks. No snow. Trail is overgrown and in places has blowdowns. No water until Lake Crescent.