Rainbow & Blazer Lakes

Well, this day was a long time in coming. My site had been online for 20 years, 4 months, and 25 days when I took the hike that would be my 1000th trip report. In the early years two or three would end up with no photos. For the past 13 or more years every report has photos. A whole lot of  time has gone into the site and especially the trip reports over the past two decades. I wanted something fitting for this report. Other than close by Tiger Mountain, the trips I do most every year are to Iron Peak and Rainbow Lake. The first has great views. I have done it in most months of the year. The latter was one of my first favorites and has remained so. Checking my hiking log, I was a little surprised to see that in the 35 years I have listed every hike, I have hiked to Rainbow Lake 49 times.  Saturday was looking to be cloudy in the morning and humid. Especially hot east of the Cascade Crest. I decided Rainbow Lake sounded better than Iron Peak. This would be my 50th visit.

I wanted to have just a few folks along who have hiked with me for many years. Gary Westerlund was at the top of the list but he tore his hamstring just a couple weeks earlier. I settled on a small group with Kim Brown, Gwen Tollefson, and John Sluder. With Snow Lake and Annette Lake Trails closed for the summer, I expected even more hikers than usual on the Pratt Lake Trail. We aimed for an early start. I drove Kim and Gwen and John drove alone. We met at the Pratt Trailhead at 7:00 am. The lot still had half a dozen or more spaces open. We were packed and on our way at 7:11 am.

The cloud level was not far above us. By the time we reached the Granite Mountain junction, just before the first mile marker, we were entering the mist. Early on we started seeing saprophytes. I see some occasionally on this trail but not that often. Pine drops were especially plentiful. Some of them were really tall. Farther along we saw pinesap and coral root. Coming down we saw a rarer saprophyte. It was not hot in the morning but the humidity was much more than we are used to. Our pace was pretty slow. We saw a few groups of runners passing us going up. We saw a lone backpacker coming down. For a dry Saturday in August we saw a lot fewer people than expected. Especially with two very popular nearby trails closed. The mist did add a "not summer" feel to the hike. At three miles, someone pointed out a 3-mile marker high on a tree. It looked new. I had never seen it.

We popped out of the forest at the Olallie Lake Overlook. The tree there used to have a 4-mile marker on it. We could see the lake but the ridge just across the valley was lost in clouds. Mt. Rainier was too. Hiking around Pratt Mountain, we saw a lot of beargrass stalks with finished flowers. It must have been a great display a month or so ago. We saw quite a few varieties of wildflowers blooming on the partly open slopes but not a lot of individual flowers. There were a couple patches of Indian paintbrush but I only saw one or two lupine flowers in bloom. There were also penstemon, pearly everlasting, asters, fireweed, and a few others.

We reached the high point and then began the descent into the valley of Island and Rainbow Lakes. Last year, I was there one week later. With our cold spring, most flowers have been several weeks late. The blueberries were great last year. I did not expect many to be ripe now. Most were not quite there but we found lots of them that were ripe. Berries are one other benefit of a late summer visit to Rainbow Lake. We arrived at the lake at 11:37 am. I was afraid that by that time there would be visitors. There were not. We saw nobody at the lake during our entire stay. That is very unusual. They come via the Pratt, Talapus, and Mason Lake Trails. This day they did not.

I try to brush out the way trail down to Blazer Lake every 2-3 years. It had been longer than that. Last year Gary and I went part way down the trail and the brush was minimal. Some cut branch marks show that at least one other person is doing a little brushing. Kim has been to Blazer Lake and preferred to relax up at Rainbow. Gwen and John joined me for a trip down to Blazer. The way trail, which start just after the first outlet creek crossing, is visible but getting a bit narrower. We crossed the other outlet creek down at the flat meadow. The pond had a lot of flowering yellow lily pads in bloom. We dropped a bit more to the Kaleetan Peak Viewpoint and it was lost in clouds. The MF Snoqualmie Valley was buried in low clouds. The brush is still minimal. We did a little brushing on the way back uphill. We went around the washout, over the big log and smaller log and steeply downhill. The path took us out to the boulder field. The minimal path alongside the boulders is now a recognizable boot path. We dropped down to the lake. Early in the summer the inlet creek is too deep to cross the end of the lake. Now it was dry/muddy around the end of the lake.

We went to the lake end for photos of the steep rock walls surrounding the lake and Pratt Mountain rising high above. Pratt was mostly out of the clouds.  I headed over to the far side of the lake and climbed up into the forest. There are some big cedar trees here. I came to a very noticeable boot path. One other time I beat brush down to the far end of the lake. Now there is a path. It made for a quick trip to the far end of the lake. We went out onto the big rocks along the shore for views back down the lake. Someone has been busy doing some trail work here. We even found one spot that could be a small campsite. I found a lot more at Blazer Lake than I expected. We worked our way back up the lake and then ascended the path and then old trail back to Rainbow Lake. As mentioned, we did a little brushing along the way. We were back at our site on the shore of Rainbow Lake at about 1:25 pm.

John need to be back at the trailhead by about 4:00 pm. He kept watch on the time. By now the sun was partly out. It was much warmer in the sunshine. A little sun and a little shade under a big tree provided all we needed to be comfortable. At about 2:00 pm John headed back. He made great time getting back to the trailhead in about 1.5 hours. We would have liked to spend the whole day there but reality butted in and we packed up and left at 2:30 pm. Edit: I just found out why we had the lake to ourselves all day. The Talapus Lake and Mason Lake Trails were closed all day due to a search and rescue operation. Nobody was on either trail all day. I hope the missing person was found. It did provide us with a one in a million day of total solitude.

Our trip back was not fast. The sunshine made it warmer than the trip in. The climb out of the valley was toasty but then it was nearly all downhill back tot he trailhead. We took fewer photos coming out but the saprophyte show deserved a few more. A few were now lit up by sunshine. Kim noticed one we missed on the way in. A small one that was low to the ground. Checking at home verified that it was a gnome plant. Kim and I saw one of them years ago. Only my second sighting. That was the rare saprophyte mentioned earlier. We passed a few groups coming in and were passed by a few going out. It was never very crowded. We took breaks and just enjoyed the fairly cool forest. We made it back to the car at 6:24 pm.

This turned out to be a really nice hike for trip report #1000. It was a bit humid on the way up but never too hot. The sun came out for much of the way down. The trail is well graded without really steep sections. The saprophyte show was really very good. The gnome plant was icing on the cake. Having 3 hours at Rainbow Lake without seeing even one other person on an August Saturday is one in a million odds. It was great to get back to Blazer Lake again. The route was not as overgrown as expected. Though we had not all hiked together before we all had a great time. The trip to Rainbow Lake and back was 11 miles with 2900' of gain. Adding in Blazer Lake brought it up to 12 miles with 3100' of gain.

I'm not sure what I expected in March of 2002 when I started the Hiking Northwest website. I hoped it would grow for many years. I was not sure I would still be going strong after 1000 trip reports. It has been a lot of work and a lot of enjoyment.

Trailhead Group Shot
First Saprophytes
Misty Waterfall
Runner On Trail
Tall Pine Drops
3-Mile Marker
Jim & Big Saprophyte
Cloudy Olallie Lake
Kim On Defiance Trail
Group On Trail
Indian Paintbrush
Paintbrush Fern
Bandera Mountain
Arrive At Rainbow Lake
Reclining Rock
Gwen On The Rocks
John On Rock Island
Lily Pad Flowers
Kaleetan Viewpoint
Blazer Lake Overlook
Gwen Descending
Nearing Blazer Lake
Blazer & Pratt Mountain
Underwater Shelf
Far End Of Blazer
Cliffs Above
Clouds Drift By
Big Cedar Tree
Leaving Lake
Gwen Ascending
Back At Rainbow Lake
Group Shot At Lake
Sun & Shade
Jim & 1000
Mt. Defiance
Beargrass Grass
West Granite Mountain
Gnome Plant
Sun On Olallie Lake
Another Saprophyte
Sun On Pine Drops
Close Up
Ground Up View
Sun On Waterfall
Last Saprophyte
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2022