From the roadside the rough trail begins by plunging into a second generation forest, heading uphill over rocks and roots. Soon pass into the Wild Sky Wilderness under an increasingly dense canopy of hemlock and fir for about two miles before reaching an unmarked junction. The trail to the left heads down to Stone and Barclay Lake
. Keep right and continue into the beginnings of Paradise Meadow, shedding some of the forest for fields of huckleberry and heather. Creeklets cut across the fading trail for the next half mile as you approach the lakeshore.
Once you reach Eagle Lake, follow well-trodden bootpaths to the cabin to take in the setting. Thats Merchant Peak to the west, flanked by Townsend Mountain to the northeast. There are faint scrambles that you can follow to reach these summits, but they are involve some bushwhacking and route finding and are best left to the most adventurous of us. Settle in to enjoy this little slice of wilderness. When exploring the lake and the cabin, note that the cabin is stocked by the generosity of your fellow hikers. If you use something, replace it. Keep in mind that someone might have already claimed the cabin for the night, so not everything you find is necessarily up for grabs.
This is a fun hike if youre looking to get a little off the beaten path. Its unmarked and under the radar, which means youre not likely to have much company. At the same time, that means the trail is a bit narrow and can get slightly overgrown. Still, a steady stream of folks keep the route reasonably clear and easy enough to follow. If you can swing it, consider a mid-week overnight when youre likely to get access to the cabin and the sprawling night sky all to yourself.
Back around the 1920s, prospectors patented a claim in the area around Eagle Lake and spent some time looking to strike it rich. The prospectors struck out, but soon after a gentleman by the name of Ole Stone built the Eagle Lake Cabin and lent his name to nearby Stone Lake. He also built cabins at both ends of Barclay Lake
, kept the cabins well-supplied on his own dime and even maintained the trails from Baring up to Eagle Lake. Stone built the Barclay cabins for public use and eventually turned them over to the Forest Service, while reserving the Eagle Lake cabin for himself and his friends.
Perhaps because of Stones devotion to the area, for decades it was a favorite destination for the anglers, hikers, and backpackers willing to make the roughly 6.5 mile hike from Baring up to Barclay Lake
. Things changed when timber companies began logging Barclay Creek valley in the late 1960s. Not only did the clear cutting practices radically change the landscape, but logging roads were cut more than 4 miles up the valley, making the once-remote Barclay Lake
much easier to reach. The logging roads brought many more visitors to the area, and the Barclay Lake
cabins could not stand up to all that extra wear and tear. It wasn't long before they had to be removed. At the same time, the trail up to Eagle Lake was largely abandoned. Today, while the same roads still lead many hikers and campers to Barclay Lake
, only an intrepid few make it up to Eagle Lake.