Crest the mile high ridge, descend down switchbacks, through a stand of mountain Hemlock, and suddenly, sparkling there in the setting sun, lies Heart Lake, glacial blue-green thirteen acre gem of the high country in the high country of the Olympic National Park. Months of planning, weeks of shopping, several days of hiking finally bring us to our destination. I have an odd sensation as we hike the last quarter of a mile down the north slope leading to the lake: I’ve been here before. Déjà vu? Not really that. Something like déjà vu, but slightly different, as though I’m returning. This is no first time arrival.
I have few regrets about the physical pain involved in the twenty-five miles of hiking to get to this lake, from near sea-level at the trailhead to sub-alpine high country a mile high in elevation. We set up camp along the shores of this lake and I can’t get the sense out of my mind. I’ve been here before.
Upon closer examination, I see a blue-green glacial lake there in the heart of the mountains within the human soul. With a modest effort and a nose for mountain air, take the trek up and over the ridge into that high country alpine cirque and you too will be dazzled, not only by the golden jewels of sunshine scattered across the surface of cool blue, but by the sense of coming home.
Heart Lake is never dry, ever filled and renewed. Mountain springs well up within the lake, keeping these alpine waters at a constant level. I walk over to the outflow just to see how much water pours over the edge, cascading down the mountain slopes to feed into Marmot Lake, three quarters of a mile below, pressing on into the valley to join with the Duckabush river and flow to the east into Hood Canal. Somehow, up here in the sub-alpine high country, by an unseen design, the amount of evaporation and outflow match the amount of upwelling from deep below the surface.
In the heat of summer Heart Lake water is brisk. My plunge into the lake upon arrival took my breath away with the intensity of the cold. The wind from the surface of the water is always refreshing, balancing the heat of the midday high altitude sun. It is an amazing study in contrasts and balance. The guidebook comments that hikers will often find snowfields around the lake with chunks of ice floating along the north shore well into July. The summer we arrive followed on the heels of a dry winter with little snowpack to show in late July. Still, the lake offers a weary hiker plenty of sources of refreshment.
It has been my hope that your visits to this blog have offered you something of that same refreshment we discovered as we sat down along the shore of Heart Lake in the high meadowlands of Olympic National Park. Weary, busy souls need time at this lake, time to simply sit and listen to the sound of bees among the heather blossoms, time to soak in the warmth and beauty of God’s creative glory.