Everyone that lives within the Cabinet Mountain district knows that Wanless lake is just about the longest hike one can take in the Cabinet Mountains. Hiking has always been a tradition for my family. We have taken a family hike with my great Uncle Joe for about seven years now. I cannot say I know many 68 year old people that will still hike 20 miles in the span of four days, but my Uncle Joe has. This particular hiking trip to Wanless lake was also special because it was the first time we got to take a family hike with my cousin Andrew.
Like all overnight hiking trips, we first start with the prep. We pack the necessities for the four day trip. Clothes, water bottles, sleeping bags, dog food for our beloved black Labrador retriever, Kootenai, fishing poles, pancake mix for huckleberry pancakes and toilet paper. A must. We lace up our hiking boots, throw on a light flannel for the early mountain morning cold that we will soon be starting our expedition in, and head out the door with ambition in our eyes and adventure in our hearts.
As soon as we get to the trailhead and hop out of our vehicle, our eyes and mind begin to wake in the cool temperature of the morning. We start our 10 mile trek by taking an annual family photo to remember the experience, usually in front of the Trailhead sign or the Wilderness sign, part way up the trail. We make our way up the mountain, taking little breaks to eat some snacks, drink lots of water, and take in the gorgeous view. A view that could very well be described as being on top of the world. The sounds of a quiet breeze, singing birds, and chattering squirrels fill my ears with every step I take toward our destination, and after what seems like an eternity we finally make it to the lake in awe. I take a sigh of relief, dropping my pack to the ground, and take nature’s beauty all in. The lake itself is huge. The largest lake in the Cabinet Mountains. Its color palette is made up of just about every color of blue and green that you can imagine, and as the sun begins to set, the lake begins to sparkle as if it were made up of millions of tiny diamonds. There are rocks, and boulders that surround it on one side, and thick northwestern forest on the other, filled with evergreen trees of all kinds.
We spent a total of two days at Wanless lake. These trips are family time, not just appreciating the great outdoors but also because we hear new stories about my dad, and similar adventures he had with our Uncle Joe at our age, stories about our Grandma Gladys, Grandpa Bill and other family and friends. Every trip we take leads to more stories and more memories that we will always have to cherish.
After the two days at Wanless Lake our plan was to make our way down the mountain to the smaller, Buck Lake. The view from above is gorgeous and the Lake looks like it can’t take more than an hour or so to get to. As always, we rely on our tour guide to get us down the mountain to the Lake. We start the climb, making our way up and over rocks, through Alder trees and bushes, grabbing on to whatever, we hope, is rooted in the ground. You can tell we were not on the trail and that we were going to be trekking our way through thick brush, fallen trees, and little vines that like to grab at your feet. “Bushwhacking” as we like to call it. Another day of memories passed. Fishing and telling stories, and then we were back on the trail for about another five mile hike to where we would set up camp for one more night on the trail.
As the trip came to an end, we found ourselves longing for the comfort of the truck seats that we had drove up in and our comfortable beds. This would wrap up our time in the mountains for a while, but it is something that we as a family did not take for granted. This was just one hike of many to come for us, and I can not wait to explore the great outdoors again with the ones I love.