A common way to arrive at these lakes may be using an ATV or walking along the Swamp OHV route. However, there is an alternative route that some users have found. At the end of Forest Service road 10S66B, one can park and go “cross country” to both Hatch and Sportsman Lakes. This is the route a coworker and I traveled.
At around 1030 Am we arrived at the end of 10S66B. Thankfully the small truck we had made it easy to navigate around the last 1/4 mile of road as it was turning back over to nature. Parked and thrilled to be outside, we began the hike up to Hatch Lake. It was a steady climb uphill. We came across some meadows and springs along the way too. The drainage to the west had flowing water and as long as we followed it uphill, we would end up where we needed to be.
Approximately half way to our destination, there was a small water body on the map. Being only a few hundred feet away, we decided to check it out. Not to much surprise the lake was nearly empty. It is filled primarily with snow melt and evidence from a two week old storm was there at its center. The small puddle left had a layer of ice on top that was beginning to unthaw with the rising sun. The water was crystal clear and very cold. From here, our paced quickened as the trek uphill was no longer as steep. We were now contouring along the landscape.
The continual trek through the forest to a small pass was a nice trek. Being up around 9,000 feet elevation the spacing of the trees increased. Small brush was present as we walked and a significant amount of rock shined in the sunlight. This is the zone I enjoy as it is a prequel to the high country. We were only about 10 to 15 minutes out from Hatch Lake.
We arrived at a small unnamed pass that looked down into Hatch Lake. Looking at the time it was only 11:30 AM. We reviewed the map we had and decided to get samples at an additional lake. Our first stop for a sample would now be Sportsman Lake, just a 1/2 mile away. One at Sportsman, we would descend into Hatch Lake. This was not only a great idea to save some time, but the original descent down from this point was steep, full of talus, and still covered in snow/ice.
Along the way to Sportsman Lake, one could easily stop and have a nice panoramic view to the north and west. It was an easy hike to contour around to our destination. The map showed a set of 4 small lakes or ponds. We thought it could be like the other single lake we visited not too long ago. Thankfully that was not the case as they were full of water. We enjoyed grabbing photos of these unnamed lakes/ponds. In fact there was a natural divide in the middle of two of them. This is where we crossed to arrive at Sportsman Lake.
It was a beautiful lake. I did not see any camping sites on the west side of the lake either and rightfully so. There is not much space and one could not be over 100 feet from a water body. However, this was a perfect spot for lunch. Since it was now noon we took advantage of our location and enjoyed the views. Lunch was refreshing and we were soon chilled as our body temps dropped from sitting still. Plus the sweat on our backs was not helping the matter. Thankfully we were in layers and our jackets were quickly put back on.
Lunch was over too quickly it seemed and it was time to collect the water quality sampling I needed. Once completed it was time to leave and make our way to Hatch Lake. I think we both could have stayed there longer, but we had work to do. I logged the idea away of cross country backpacking trip to this place in the future and beyond.
We headed back west of Sportsman Lake and down a small drainage. Half way down we came upon another small lake. Again, this was full of water and slightly larger than the last 4 small lakes/ponds we saw before arriving at Sportsman. From here we continued down the drainage. No trails were in place yet and we made our way down rocks, over trees, and through vegetation. I did not take long and we were at the northeastern side of Hatch Lake.
This was the first time I arrived at a lake with islands. In the middle of Hatch Lake there are granitic rock islands one could swim too. There were even trees on some of them. Being all rock, it seems like it would a fun place to camp. However, bathroom use and being 100 feet or more from a water body would be impossible. Anyway, it was too steep for a water quality sample, so we continued along the northern side of the lake heading west to the outlet.
About mid way we found a perfect spot to collect a sample. In fact, others thought it was a great spot to camp and set up some rock furniture. For fun, I sat down in one of the 3 “chairs” and it was quite comfortable. I could easily see with this setup why one would camp there. Now it was time for work though, so I grabbed my samples. Smoke was in the air from the prescribe burning going on too. It had warmed up enough that the smoke was now at our elevation. With the smoke and being 1:30 PM, it was time to head back to the truck.
On our way west and around the lake, a more elaborate camp was set up in a small drainage. I imagine at times they need to rebuild this as it gets washed out to some extent. Unfortunately, empty fuel canisters and other trash items were left behind. Very sad and not surprising to find trash. I did not have anything to carry it all, so it remained behind. The last stretch of the lake I snapped a final picture at the outlet with Nelson Mountain in the background before departing.
The next half hour was making are way around the ridge. Unfortunately, the terrain was not very inviting like it was earlier in the day. We ultimately decided to go uphill and over the small ridge. The smoke slowed us down as our lungs were not as happy breathing it all in during our exertion. We obviously made it to the top and the rest of the way was downhill.
The sun was warming as we made our way across the forest. Our breathing and heart rates returned to normal too despite the smoke. The trek back came into a small flat basin where ephemeral flows washed away most of the forest litter. It was a cool site to see as it reminded us of a large flat group campground. Also in the middle was a very large old growth pine. Lauren posed for a photo to give some sort of scale to it. It was the largest tree we saw on this trip.
Our journey ended at the truck around 2:45 PM. From there we made our way back down to the office. It was a great way to start the work week!