A Lake Crescent Morning

Sunrise from Pyramid Peak above Lake Crescent

With a last minute whim, I would jump on the bus with my bicycle and head to a popular summer day hiking destination on the northern border of the Olympic National Park. Having the bus drop me off on the north side of the Lake Crescent, just off Highway 101 and then pedaling to the trailhead.

Pyramid Peak is known to be deserted in the winter months, because of a big landslide that took out a section of trail a few years back. Crossing it during a precipitation event is very dangerous, mostly because of rockfall caused by water moving through the soft soil and unstable footing.

Once above the snowline I would follow a series of game tracks that led me to an old WWII aircraft spotter station. This shelter has long been decommissioned, with missing door and windows. This would be my home for the 13 hours of night.

Light snow continued to fall from night, into morning; with the temperature in the low 20’s. I arose to my alarm going off, before the first crest of light even peeked over the horizon. I would continue to stay inside the warmth of my bag until the last possible moment, sticking my head out into the elements to keep an eye on which stage the sunrise was currently in. With the wind being up, I wasn’t too motivated to go stand in the winter conditions.

Reluctantly I unzipped the sleeping bag , then struggled to put on my minimalist footwear. They were frozen solid from the night before. It took me a handful of minutes to get them thawed enough to slide my foot in. That was a frustrating moment. I have since learned to sleep on them, if the conditions are below freezing.

Staying in the shelter until the last possible moment, because of the windchill factor, I waited for the right moment. You see, the light has to be just right to capture the perfect sunrise photo. I literally ran out, snapped this photo looking over Lake Crescent then retreated back inside my tent. It was not until I got home, that I realized it was a real gem.


  1. Jack Booth says:

    Great story, Jake. Really gives a feel for being out in frigid conditions but reaping the rewards for doing so.

  2. Wilderness Dave says:

    Excellent piece Jake! I love that your shelter was an abandoned WWII lookout, that’s pretty sweet. Waking up on a frigid morning to look out through the morning mist over the lake to see the sky on fire with the sunrise is an amazing experience that not many people get. Thanks for bringing us along with you…

  3. Nice shot Jake! Welcome to the PF team. Glad to have you contribute amazing shots and stories like this. I’ve done very little winter backpacking or even camping, but the few times I have always seem to produce a reason way I have to leave the tent at the coldest point in the night. It takes a bit of convincing to take that first step out into the cold. Maybe one of the most intimidating experiences really.

  4. I love it when everything comes together for the perfect shot. Great story. So awesome that you stayed in a abandoned WWII lookout.

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