Key: 2009-02-07:     2009-02-08:    

Overnight Trip to Surprise Lake

Tracy, Jason, & Sasha took advantage of the nice weather and spent the night on the shores of a very frozen Surprise Lake.

Begin Date:

End Date:

2009-02-07: 6.56 mi
2009-02-08: 4.92 mi

Total: 11.48 mi

Maximum Elevation*:
4552.64ft (1388.258m)

Minimum Elevation*:
1941.76ft (592.950m)

Gallery for this adventure:
Click here

* This is derived from GPS data and can have major discrepancies due to poor GPS reception.

Trip Report:

In an effort to take advantage of the good weather and also to satisfy that camping itch that we had, we decided to head up to Surprise Lake for Saturday night.

The parking area for the trailhead has been plowed, but there is absolutely no signage of any sort telling you that it is the actual parking area, or that you are anywhere near the trailhead. Thanks to the GPS though, we knew we were close.
I suspect that there might be some signs when there isn't 10 plus feet of snow mounded up around the lot, but for, now good luck finding it.

We ended up hitting the trail around 11AM, just behind a group of dayhikers. There was 100% snow cover on the entire trail, but for the first few miles it had been very packed down and was pretty slick in places. As a resutl we opted to strap ours to our backs, since we never enjoy having them on unless we really need them.

After about 2 miles, we had caught up to the group in front of us (Likely because we chose not to wear our snowshoes, and they had had theirs on) at the first open area.

Here is the view from the open area:
Thunder Mountain (Surprise Lake is below the mountain).

Shortly after the first open area, the trail became much less apparent, and we figured it would be a good time to stop for lunch. During that time, the dayhikers we had recently passed, passed us again, which was fine, becasue it was turning into much more trail breaking than we had hoped.

We decided at this point to go ahead and strap on the snowshoes and continue following the folks in front of us, keeping an eye out to cross Surprise Creek, since the GPS was telling us the actual trail was on the other side of the creek.

Shortly after, our friendly trailbreakers decided to call it a day, leaving us to fend for ourselves. It was no problem though, we had come out there to get away from people and now we were really alone.

We pushed on and quickly found a very large log spanning Surprise Creek at about the point where the slope begins to increase. We crossed and began the sweat inducing task of breaking trail up the side.

The GPS claimed the trail switchbacked all the way up the side of the mountain, so we did what anyone would do and went straight up it instead. Unfortunately the snow at this point was losing any sort of crust and turning into very deep powder. That probably would have been great for skiing, but it was horrible for snowshoeing. Nonetheless, we pushed on and finally gained the edge of the bowl that holds Surprise Lake at around 4:00PM.

The sun was just slipping behind Sparkplug mountain, as we approached the lake. We quickly setup camp, made some dinner, and slipped into our tent for some warmth, cards, and bourbon just after nightfall.

Here is our tent on the shores of a frozen Surprise Lake:
Looking towards a snow covered Surprise Lake.

The next morning greeted us with an frigid 18 degree temperature and gorgeous clear blue skies. We had some warm cider, packed up our stuff and hit the trail around 8AM. Thanks to the fine people who had brokem trail into Lake Surprise the day before (Those tracks would be our own), we made great time back to the steep slope, where we plunge stepped all the way down. The rest of the hike out was very uneventful, but thankfully very quick as we were groing tired of seeing so much snow.

Needless to say, our itch has been satisfied, though I'm sure it will be back in a couple of days.