Visiting the Scottish Lakes High Camp

Last week in Larch Lake and the Scottish Lakes High Camp we talked about visiting Larch Lake to photograph the fall color of the turning larches. Now I’ll tell you the story of the Scottish Lakes High Camp and how it came to be!

So, for starters, where exactly is this Scottish Lakes High Camp? Well, some would say it’s in the middle of nowhere. In terms of miles, it’s only about eight miles from US 2, but in terms of access, it’s quite isolated. The road leading to the camp is horrible, and is blocked by a locked gate, so getting to the camp requires a ride in one of the camp’s high-clearance vehicles. Trust me, you don’t want to drive on this road anyway!

More specifically, the camp is located in the Wenatchee National Forest just outside of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. It is north of The Enchantments, a gorgeous area that I’ve detailed in several articles, including I’d Fall for That!, and northwest of Leavenworth about 10 or 15 miles as the crow flies. The pick-up location is on US Hwy 2 about two hours from Seattle. The grueling drive up to the camp from the parking lot takes about 45 minutes. No problem, though. Our knowledgeable host Gus picked us up ahead of schedule, and told us the history and layout of the place on the way up.

So great, but what is this place and how did it get started? Well, I wasn’t anywhere near Washington State back then, but about 40 years ago a couple named Bill and Peg Stark got permission from the Forest Service to build a small cabin in the area. It seems they were up in this area as well as in The Enchantments to the south much of the time anyway, skiing, hiking, etc. In fact, they were some of the earliest to explore The Enchantments, and were instrumental in naming many of the features there.

Jeremy Imitates Sasquatch, Scottish Lakes High Camp, Wenatchee Na

Jeremy finds his inner Sasquatch in front of our cabin, at Scottish Lakes High Camp, Wenatchee National Forest, Washington.

Well, they started inviting friends to come up and visit, and one thing led to another, and eventually they built guest cabins and were charging for them. Apparently Peg was quite the cook, and it appears that meals were served to visitors back in the day.

About 20 years ago they sold the place to Don and Christine Hanson, who then took the place to another level, adding more cabins and renovating the existing cabins and expanding the original cabin, now known as the lodge.

Currently the facilities consist of ten cabins with propane cooking stoves and all the pots, pans, plates, and utensils needed to cook, plus unlimited spring water. And there’s a wood-fired stove for heat. Fire up that baby and you will NOT be cold, trust me! Or ask Jeremy, who slept in the loft. (Remember that “heat rises” thing?) Firewood and propane are provided at no extra charge. You either bring a sleeping bag or they provide bedding, depending on the situation.

There’s also a wood-fired hot tub and a wood-fired sauna. Pay special attention to the host’s instructions about “stirring the pot” before getting in!

And then there’s the Lodge. This is where you’ll find the community gas grill and additional cooking space (as the situation allows). And of course it’s where you’ll mingle with other guests on those cold winter nights! During the winter it’s traditional to have a Saturday night pot-luck. And Thanksgiving is another opportunity to visit and participate in a pot-luck.

Sauna and Hot Tub, Scottish Lakes High Camp, Wenatchee National

The wood-fired hot tub and wood-fired sauna provide a much-needed treat for the muscles after hiking or skiiing through the wilderness, at the Scottish Lakes High Camp, Wenatchee National Forest, Washington.

Um, I suppose I should probably mention the outhouses. They are plentiful, but if you don’t like outhouses, this is not the place for you.

So what do you do here besides sit in the hot tub? Well, that depends on your interests and on the season. As we discussed last week, in the fall it’s all about getting out and hiking to enjoy the beautiful fall color. The place is popular for golden larches, but also expect meadows and mountainsides covered in the reds, oranges, and yellows of a variety of shrubs and ground cover.

You’d rather fish? No problem, for a dozen trout filled lakes are within a day hike from the camp.

In the winter, this is your snowshoeing, snowboarding, and skiing destination, but don’t expect ski lifts and large crowds. This is the backcountry, and you’re on your own out there, so be sure you know how to navigate under these conditions. Better yet, take one of the tours provided by your hosts!

Rustic Construction, Scottish Lakes High Camp, Wenatchee Nationa

Sometimes old stumps do make the best footings, at Scottish Lakes High Camp, Wenatchee National Forest, Washington.

You have kids. Perfect, because on certain dates they offer special Family Rates, where kids up to 17 stay free! And sledding here is a popular activity for kids of all ages.

Holly, Scottish Lakes High Camp, Wenatchee National Forest, Wash

Holly, Gus’ friendly pooch, notices something exciting up the road at Scottish Lakes High Camp, Wenatchee National Forestl, Washington.

This would be a good time to point out that they’re not always open. In fact, they’re closed now for the fall season (unless you want to volunteer) as they do maintenance and wait for winter snows. But they’ll open soon! Check their Events Calendar for details.

Sadly, Don passed away in 2013 at the camp, and the place is now for sale. You’d never know it, though, as the place is kept up and carefully managed by a team that seems just as passionate about the place as the Starks must have been back in the day.

So if rustic mountain living sounds like your thing, even if just for a few days, give the Scottish Lakes High Camp a visit and see for yourself. Be sure to check their website carefully for details about your options for visiting, as there’s a lot going on here, and then give it a try. I know I’ll be back next year for more hiking and photography!

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