“This better be nice,” my wife said, her voice on the edge of consternation as our car bumped down a dirt road en route to Takhlakh Lake (pronounced “TOCK-a-lock”) near Mount Adams in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest of southwest Washington. We had never ventured this deep into the wilds of southwest Washington, and the rollicking road conditions were making her a little dubious.
We envisioned a trip to Takhlakh Lake as a happy medium: a remote alpine lake that didn’t require a backpacking trip to access. We would drive up, unload and set up our camp lakeside—and have the rest of the weekend to swim, fish, hike and laze alongside this Zen-like oasis in the shadow of 12,281-foot Mount Adams.
But the backwoods network of pockmarked, washboard gravel forest roads had us doubting our best-laid plans. We were way too far in to turn back—we’d spent almost two hours traveling 30 miles since we left the pavement of State Route 12 near Packwood. So, we pushed on, and lo and behold, there it was: a hand-carved, well-weathered wooden sign declaring we had arrived. “Takhlakh Lake Forest Camp—Gifford Pinchot National Forest.”
We drove down to the boat launch and got our first up-close and personal sighting of Mount Adams, seven miles away but seeming close enough to reach out and touch, as it loomed over tranquil Takhlakh Lake. A fisherman punctuated the serene scene with a cast of his fly from a mid-lake canoe.
“This is prettttttty nice!” my wife confided gleefully, her frown now fully reversed. She pulled the hammock out of the car and disappeared into the campground to find our site, which—luckily—I had reserved, given the campground was fully occupied.
I pulled the car around, unloaded our gear and set up camp while the missus cat-napped in her hammock lakeside, obviously still recovering from the tumultuous ride in. I made a fire with a bundle of dry wood procured from the camp host and uncorked a favorite bottle of Merlot, which seemed to wake her up just enough to come and join me for a glass. When the flames died down, we threw our hobo dinners onto the hot coals and discussed our hopes and dreams for tomorrow.
At the top of my list was hiking up to Takh Takh Meadow, a wildflower- and huckleberry-festooned sweep of land filled with black basalt rocks from an ancient lava flow, and circumnavigating our way back around the other side of Takhlakh Lake (for a 3-mile loop)—followed by some trout fishing for dinner, of course.
“Maybe...” said my wife, now back in her hammock enjoying the nightfall descending on us. “But it’s pretty nice here right by the lake...”
snag a site: You can reserve 33 of the campground’s 54 sites in advance (877.444.6777; recreation.gov), or take your chances on snagging one of the remaining 21 “walk-up” sites when you get there. Every site has views of the lake but numbers 30–33, 36, 38, 39, 43 and 44 are primo waterfront choices.
There’s more than football to this college town