In my eagerness to learn, grow and enjoy breathtaking vistas, I scheduled a 2-night backpacking trip in the Olympics that will test my mettle. Anxious about the roughly 20 miles and 5,200’ gain in my planned High Divide loop, I decided to go on a training hike.

Using the wonderful Washington Trails Association Hike Finder Map, I narrowed my options down to a day hike with reasonable gain and length, and a beautiful lake to boot. I believe the turquoise waters of Diablo Lake would draw just about anyone. 

Challenge Mode

Looking at the specs, 7.6 miles roundtrip and 1,400’ gain, I thought I would up the ante and purposefully add unnecessary weight to my pack. Have I mentioned before that I am new to this? I am still very much prone to making dumb mistakes. By the end of the hike I realized a hydration bladder (whoops, forgot that one) would have been the best way to add weight, not the heavy book I packed solely for more weight.

The hike begins just East of the dam, across the road from the parking lot for the educational center and immediately begins ascending. Glimpses of the lake can be spotted at times, but the best view is at the top of the ridgeline looking down at the lake winding through the canyon below. I was lucky enough to spot a yellow kayak paddling along in colorful contrast to the lake’s hues.

A Cool Respite

The trail continues on to descend through switchbacks, the first two having offshoots that lead over to a small waterfall tumbling down the cliffside, eventually leading down to a bridge and ferry dock near the upper dam. Thinking that the trail was not going to reconnect with the lake for great views from above, I opted to scramble down the dry side of the waterfall to the lake bed. At the bottom I iced my feet in the cold water and practiced my amateur photography skills. 

At one point I was forced to recognize that the lake is a reservoir in truth and had a sort of artificial tide being produced by dam. While fussing with my camera settings I suddenly felt a wave lap into my boot and upon returning to where I had ditched my gear found the water level had risen! Not something one expects at a lake on a sunny day.

The Truth: Unprepared

I have to admit, this hike was ill-planned and I was not prepared. I was in day 4 of trying the keto diet for the first time. My body was distraught with the lack of carbs and my energy was low. Frankly, I did not pack enough food or water to get me through this. Luckily, my hiking buddy came prepared with extra ham and cheese to keep me fueled when my own stocks were depleted. 

Another mistake was not bringing enough water. Normally two 32oz bottles would likely be enough, but my salt intake over the previous days had made me particularly thirsty and I ran out of water on the ascent back up to the ridgeline. To make matters worse, though I have a water filtration device, I did not bring it. However, there was a cheerily gurgling stream coming down the hill and I caught water from it below two mini waterfalls to refill my bottles. 

If you run out of water and need to find more, avoid drinking standing water! Nature has its own filtration systems: look for moving, clear water and if you can, gather it from a waterfall.

So Much Yet to Learn

Overall, I would rate this hike 3/5, the views were not what I was expecting based on photos from trip reports. That said, it was a good warmup and taught me valuable lessons (such as not trying to exert oneself on a new diet). If I drive out there again, I would rather take my kayak to explore the various islands scattered around the lake!

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