By the time we walked back to the car we’d walked about 3.5 miles round-trip (per our GPS); more than we’d imagined, almost enough to justify our stop at the Butter Butte Coffee house in Packwood for strong coffee and a sweet treat before we continued our drive. The Mountain Goat Coffee Company did not disappoint and we were soon on our way to White Pass.
Mt Rainier Viewpoint
Allow plenty of time between Packwood and White Pass as there are several points of interest including the viewpoint at The Palisades, a must-see whether you are coming or going from White Pass. Not only are there striking views of Mount Rainier you can view dacite columns that rise from the canyon of the Clear Creek Cowlitz River. Though estimates of this time-weathered feature vary these columns were formed some 20,000 to 110,000 years ago by volcanic processes. This unusual landform is an astounding display that even a poet would find hard pressed to put into words. We also stopped at the next overlook with its handsome sign designating the White Pass Scenic Byway with views of Mount Rainier and the snowy Goat Rocks.
We continued to White Pass where we found few people and only a couple small patches of snow under the stilled ski lifts. White Pass felt like it was holding its breath, waiting for summer to arrive and we met an employee who said they were shutting down for the summer.
From White Pass we continued east another quarter mile or so and turned left onto Forest
Leach Lake near White Pass
Road No. 498 to the Pacific Crest Trail trailhead and the Leech Lake Boat Launch and Campground. Incidentally there are about three different names for this pretty lake – Leech Lake, White Pass Lake and at the campground it is designated Leech Lake (resources vary). From the trailhead you can hike the short and justifiably popular trail to Sand Lake which is also used by skiers and snowshoers in winter.
We had the lake to ourselves in the warm sun; my companion stretched out on a picnic table to soak up the warm sunshine while I poked around the lakeshore admiring the scenery. All too soon it was time to retrace our route back to Highway 123 and wend our way westward though we couldn’t resist driving to Chinook Pass to see if Tipsoo Lake was beginning to thaw (it was) though the snow was still piled high along SR 410.
By Karen Sykes for the White Pass Scenic Byway