Tuck Lake...or Not?

Often, outdoor adventures do not go exactly as planned. Defining success in the outdoors as ‘finishing a trip as you wrote it up’ is unfortunate because there are many variables, and much more that goes into a successful outdoor experience. I wanted to share one of my own learning experiences, on a wildly successful trip that ended earlier than expected.

In 2014, my dad and I planned a 100-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail in Washington State. The core of our hike would be Section J (74 miles) of the trail, from Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie Pass with several special detours to reach the goal of completing 100 miles in one go. I love to see lakes when I am on long hikes. We accumulated much of our mileage seeking out lakes to either camp, or spend an hour eating lunch and enjoying our surroundings. I am not going to detail our entire trip in this post, but I wanted to share a particularly special memory about how it was unfortunately cut short during our detour to see the beautiful Tuck Lake. 

We set up camp next to a small creek roughly three miles below Tuck Lake. We planned to take our lunch up to the lake, and spend the afternoon relaxing before the next morning making our way to the Tucquala Meadows trailhead near the Cle Elum River to meet up with some family members, and resupply our food for the rest of the trip. About halfway up to Tuck, my ankle got caught in a tree root, and sprained my ankle in multiple spots. Unable to continue up to our lunch spot, we retreated to our campsite so I could soak the injury in the cold creek to keep the swelling down. At this point, we had a decision to make; stay the night and see how my ankle felt in the morning, or test if I could put weight on it and hike out to the trailhead. After debating for a little while, and continuing to soak in the creek, we made the decision to try and hike out the five miles to Tucquala Meadows. 

With a rush of adrenaline, I was able to hike out. We set up our tent and waited for our cousins to arrive the next morning to drive home. That night, my dad and I were already actively planning how to finish the trip the following year. We would start at Tucquala Meadows and take a revised route to Snoqualmie Pass. 

On the surface, this would seem like a failure to complete our goal of a 100-mile hike. Sometime in my life, I would love to complete a hundred-miler. But when I look back on this trip, I do not consider it an unsuccessful trip in the outdoors. My dad and I saw some amazing country and spent six days together doing something that we both loved. While we did not make it to Tuck Lake, I will always have the memories of this adventure, an unequivocally successful one in my own eyes, and an experience I am extremely thankful for. My sister and her husband went to Tuck Lake a few years later. I have included some photos of their trip for reference. It is a gorgeous place, and one that is still on my list for the future.

-Brian Schoening