The end of January is a time to be cross country skiing.
It's also a time to be snowshoeing. It is not a time to do 12 mile hikes
over 4100' passes near the Cascade crest on bare dirt. Well, this year it
is. After reading a WTA report by PNA I had to go see for myself. I arrived
at the Pratt Lake trailhead at 9:00 am. There were 8 or 9 cars in the lot.
It was overcast but dry. I passed a couple near the Pratt - Granite intersection.
They headed up Granite. I expected that nearly everyone would follow them.
Driving up I could see that the south slope of Granite had no snow at all.
The big creek at 1 1/4 miles proved to be no problem to cross. It was higher
than summer but with no melting snow above the flow was limited. At 2500'...there
was no snow. At 3300' is a long boardwalk. Just beyond is a grassy spot listed
as a lookout site on some maps. This is where I saw the first snow of the
day. It was small but it was white. A few small patches were off the trail
a little farther along.
At 3700' is the trail down to Talapus and Olallie Lakes. Still no snow.
As I neared the crossing of the Olallie Lake inlet there was some snow on
the trail. After every patch was more bare trail. After crossing the creek
at 4000' there was one more snow patch then all bare trail. When I reached
the Olallie Lake viewpoint I was surprised to see another hiker. He had
gone part way down towards Pratt Lake and was now returning. Olallie Lake
was covered in a thin coating of ice and there was some snow around the shore.
High up on the ridge there was not a speck of snow to be seen. A few minutes
later I reached the intersection of the Pratt and Defiance trails.
If there was going to be any snow it would be at 4100' on a north facing
slope. Nope, no snow to be seen. It had been 10 years since my last trip
to Pratt Lake. I didn't expect my next trip would be in mid winter. There
is one log across the trail part way down. Short folks can get under it. I
was able to climb over with a bit of difficulty. After dropping several hundred
feet I ran into more short snow patches on the trail. All were quite short.
Finally reaching the lake I found it to be essentially ice free. Only the
outlet had a tiny bit of ice. The bushes along the shore are now beginning
to bud. Within a few weeks they will be leafing out unless winter returns.
I decided to push on from Pratt Lake to Tuscohatchie. Even this section
was snow free. I could see down the Pratt River Valley but clouds blocked
any views above. Tuscohatchie Lake is iced over. It's not very thick but
it's there. I took 2:50 to cover a little over 6 miles. At the lake it was
lightly drizzling. It was a very comfortable 40 degrees as I had my lunch.
By 12:30 it was time to head on back. The jaunt back to Pratt went quickly.
Hiking along the lake I met Terry. I was surprised to see someone else this
far down the trail. Terry kept on going and likely made it to Tuscohatchie
too. Now I just had a 700' climb back up to the pass. I was a little surprised
to find the old trail. Next time I'll try taking it.
Back at the pass it was down to 35 degrees. The high overcast of the morning
kept lowering and now it was below me. The rest of the way back was in a
darkening cloud. It was actually quite enjoyable. At about the three mile
mark I met a hiker heading to Pratt Lake. He had a headlamp and would need
it. Half a mile farther down the trail I met a couple also heading up. It
amazes me how many hikers set out to do long trips late in the day. I finished
up at 3:40 with plenty of daylight to spare.
I have hiked up this trail many times in the winter. Sometimes the snow
started at the car and sometimes not for a mile or two. Never have I hiked
over the pass and down to Pratt in winter because it's a very long snowshoe
trip when the days are short. This winter it was just another day hike.
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
Olallie Inlet Creek
Photo Page 2
Trips - 2005