It is a little different sleeping in a van with black out curtains than sleeping in a tent. It is much easier to sleep in! After breakfast and cleaning/loading up, we headed up to the Reed Lakes trail head. We hit the trail head around noon. We figured it doesn’t really matter what time we start since we have daylight almost 21 hours a day! What started as a meandering pathway along the creek turned into a 1400 foot climb up some rock tallus and up into a beautiful circue where lower Reed Lake, a glacial fed lake, sat. We enjoyed a nice lunch and headed up to the waterfall, where you could stand right on the ledge. We saw some marmots and arctic ground squirrels, and of course some magpie. The kids were getting pretty tired so we skipped Upper Reed Lake and headed back down. Even though we started around 2900 elevation, we were already in subalpine terrain, and it didn’t take long before we were in completely in alpine territory.
We drove over Hatcher Pass, elevation 3806, which seems pretty low compared to driving in the Sierras. It is a dirt road (our first, and easiest, of the trip) that takes you from Independence Mine State Park to Willow, passing Summit Lake and several other lakes, along the Willow River, and made our way to the Montana Creek Campground. We had to slow down for a porcupine who decided he wanted to walk down the middle of the road (not quite the animal jams we have been stuck in while in Yellowstone or Custer). Ryan tried his luck “snagging” a salmon (pinks and chum), and although he hooked one on his line, the fish got away. You can stand on the bridge and see the salmon just hanging out in the water. Since they are in spawning mode, they are not hungry and don’t go after food/lures; therefore, when you throw your line in, you need to jerk it to get your hook into the salmon (this snagging technique is illegal in certain creeks/rivers - you really have to know your fishing regulations). You can see salmon that actually have lures stuck in their sides!