Mason & Rainbow Lakes

Snoqualmie Pass would be closed for up to three hours in the morning. Highway 2 is a mess on Sunday afternoons and evenings. Kim and I chose a close in hike for Sunday. I usually hike to Rainbow Lake from the Pratt Lake Trailhead. Back in 2014 I went in via the Ira Spring trail to Mason Lake. Kim had not been to Rainbow Lake via this route. We met in North Seattle at 6:50 am and headed east. Off at the Road 9030 exit and onto the dirt road. It is in pretty good shape right now. some potholes but not that many and not that deep. Most any car can make it to the trailhead. This was Fathers Day and the seventh game of the NBA championship series. I was not sure if the morning would be crowded or not. It rained all day Saturday and was sunny all this day so I expected at least a normal crowd on this very popular trail. I was not disappointed. We arrived at 7:55 am to find the lot full but an open spot right where the road comes in. By 8:05 am we were on the trail.

We had lots of company right away. it was already warming up though it was pleasantly cool to start. The old road is hard on the feet but wide enough to pass other hikers. I planned to take the old Mason Lake Trail on the way up. We reached the creek and the new bridge then began to look for the trail. Kim saw a possibility but I did not think it looked right. I was wrong. By the time it was clear we had gone too far we stayed on the Ira Spring Trail. Some wildflowers are out but it is not a big flower show at this time. After the very long traverse east we finally switchbacked to the west. Lots of groups went on by. That is the only problem with so many medium to large sized groups. Everyone was in a good mood. As the forest thinned the beargrass came out. Not at peak but there was a good display in bloom. With only a few stray clouds the views out were very good. McClellan Butte had a small cloud cap in the morning.

We passed the turnoff to Bandera and traversed over to the ridge coming down from Bandera. Kim had not seen the Ira Spring Memorial so we stopped to take a look. Now it was time to leave the sunshine and head back into the forest. We dropped down towards the lake. It clearly had rained a whole lot the day before. The trail was very moist. Before the lake there are several  big trees down across the trail. Getting over and under is not to much trouble. We arrived at the lake to find lots of folks as we expected. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Hiking around the lake we found one tent in drying mode on its side. It rained very hard yesterday. The last bit of trail to the Defiance Trail junction was really muddy. Much worse than I have ever seen. We had heavier boots and had no problem. My feet stayed dry all day. Nobody with lightweight boots could make that claim.

A big group was at the junction. We hoped they were not going our way. They were not. We saw only two other people from the junction on to Rainbow Lake. Pretty good solitude after a crowded first 3.5 miles. Often times, going a little farther than the first lake is well worth the effort. We turned right and headed uphill right away. A short steep section goes over the ridge from Mason to Rainbow Lakes. Now on the backside of Bandera we found some short snowfields. They will not be around much longer. We dropped down to what is unofficially named Sir Richard's Pond. It is a very big pond. I's sure many folks think they have reached Rainbow Lake. We met one hiker here who was contemplating a scramble down to Lake Kulla Kulla. We soon continued on down the trail.

After Sir Richard's the trail is more meadows than forest. It looks like a good huckleberry crop is in place. We soon dropped down to Rainbow Lake and checked out the campsites. No tents but there was one group of day hikers. We continued around the lake to my usual spot. I was a little surprised to find that there were no other people at the lake. Other than a couple of folks passing by, we had the lake to ourselves for several hours. We arrived at Rainbow Lake at about 12:00 pm. We laid around in the sunshine until about 1:45 pm. One of the best parts of hiking is just relaxing at the destination rather than immediately turning around. We made the most of the second longest day of the year. We finally started back at 1:45 pm. We were in no hurry. There were lots of blooming marsh marigolds near the Rainbow Lake outlet creek. I thought about checking on the Blazer Lake trail but I'll leave it for later this summer.

We made one more stop at Sir Richard's Pond. More nice flat rocks on the shore for sitting and contemplating the world. At least our small corner of it. There had been a light cool breeze much of the day. Just enough to keep any bugs at bay and keep us cool. Now we could that some clouds moving in were blown into interesting patterns. Like they were stretched by the high winds. We also had some type of duck floating around and continuously diving to the bottom. More than enough to keep us entertained. It was 3:50 m when we set out down the trail once again.  During the day we spent over 3.5 hours just sitting on the shore of several alpine lakes. There is one big tree down between Mason Lake and Sir Richard's Pond. Another fell over the trail but can be easily ducked under. It was already 4:25 pm when we reached the outlet of Mason Lake. There were a few folks still at the lake but most had left.

We started down. Since we missed the Old Mason Lake Trail on the way up we looked for the top of it. This time I had more success. It is just as steep as I recalled. Very steep down to the boulder field. I was glad when we rounded the boulders and were back on dirt trail again. This was Kim's first time on this trail and she liked it very much. A nice alternative to the Ira Spring Trail on occasion. No views out but a very nice forest. We made it back to the road/trail and a few minutes later were at the  bridge over Mason Creek. From there it is just a slog back to the car. The lot was about half empty when we returned at 4:40 pm. As we were leaving a woman asked for a ride back to her car. She said she parked a mile down the road. That seemed hard to believe. It was correct. Things are getting crazy when hikers park along the road for a mile before the parking lot. We were glad to help out.

This was an excellent day on the trail. We covered about 8 miles with 2800' of elevation gain. We had some wildflowers, some views of I-90 peaks, and three lakes. Two of them we had virtually to ourselves. The weather could not have been better. Sunny but not hot. Just a little cool breeze. Almost perfect. I did not miss the other 300 or 400 people on the trail after we left Mason Lake in the morning. Most of the day we had the trails nearly to ourselves. All in all, a fine way to spend an early summer Sunday.

Starting Out
Mason Creek Bridge
McClellan Butte
Entering Wilderness
Mt. Kent
Beargrass In Bloom
More Beargrass
Bandera Slopes
Defiance & Putrid Pete's
Ira Spring Memorial
Mason Lake
Tree Down
A Little Snow Left
Sir Richard's Pond
Kaleetan Peak
My Rainbow Lake Spot
Wind On The Water
Kim At Rainbow Lake
Marsh Marigolds
Heading Back
Back At The Pond
End Of Pond
Cirrus Clouds
Diving Duck
Common Goldeneye
More Clouds
Still More Clouds
Time To Go
Kim On The Trail
Bog Laural
Back At Mason Lake
Kim On Trail
Still On Trail
Mossy Rock
Coral Root
Mossy Bumps
Small Waterfall
Twin Flowers
A panorama shot of Sir Richard's Pond
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2016