Olallie Lake

A big winter storm hit and now the avalanche danger was extreme below 7000'. Where could we go? The overnight forecast was for 18-30 inches of new snow. In the morning I found it was "only" 7 inches. That still made for nearly two feet in the previous 36 hours. Kim joined me for this trip. The Pratt Lake trailhead is just about at the forecast snow level and the trail to Olallie has almost no avalanche danger. We headed out of town at 8:00 AM.

The roads proved to be no problem. Plows had cleared off the highway and we had clear sailing to the exit. The parking lot had 6 or 7 inches of snow. There was only one other car in the lot. The previous hikers used snowshoes right from the start. The snow was packed and even patchy in places. We had no trouble with just boots. At 1/2 mile there are tall bushes that often are snow weighted and cover the trail. We postholed through and around them. The soft snow was noticeably deeper in openings in the forest.

With 4 to 8 inches more snow forecast I expected so see more. We had very little snow fall all day. At the Granite Mountain turnoff we saw that there were no footprints going there. With the extreme avalanche danger I was glad to see that. We were also glad to see that the snowshoers were going our way - and continuing to break trail. The trees were really plastered by the storm and very beautiful.

I've hiked this trail a few dozen times over the years but Kim has a knack for seeing things I have not. There are some seriously big trees along this trail. The stumps, many burned, were highlighted by the snow. When the destination is not all that far there is time to see things that are missed at high speed. The big creek crossing at 1 1/4 miles had a snow covered log part way across. It was slick but at least not icy. The new snow was deeper here but lightened again as we went back into forest.

Somewhere past two miles we met the trail breakers. They were heading down already. At the same time another couple caught up with us. That group included MITllama who has posted on nwhikers. It's a small world. We now put on our snowshoes. The track was even better now as the first group went in and out and the second group packed it down as well.

Just before three miles was a very unusual sight. The snow on top of a log was smoothly shaped like a whale. Someone had given it a mouth nose and eyes as well. I have no idea how it occurred naturally. At the Talapus/Olallie intersection the track went down towards the lakes. The Pratt trail was untouched snow. We headed down and in short order came to the Olallie outlet creek. The track went down stream towards Talapus. We were headed to Olallie so it was time to break trail.

The snow was not the usual wet sloppy stuff we get. It was very dry and powdery. I sank a fair bit but it wasn't too difficult. Kim took a turn breaking trail as well. It didn't take long to reach the lake. There are a few small meadows before the lake that looked neat with several rolling mounds of snow. The lake itself is covered in snow with a small opening at the outlet. It was cold but with lots of clothing we were comfortable for lunch at the lake.

Heading out was much easier. When we reached the main trail at the creek we found tracks heading out. Now it was really packed down. We likely could have come out without snowshoes. I brought my big 30 inchers because of all the new snow but all they did was make my clumsier. On a few steep drops to creek crossings and narrow boardwalks with six feet of snow it was all I could do to keep from tripping and falling. Kim made sure to slip a time or two to keep me from being self conscious.

Coming down we ran into a group of skiers. They had already been to the top of West Granite and skied down. Now they were preparing to climb back up. One skier headed down just ahead of us. At the big creek crossing he managed to drop steeply down then cross the narrow log on has skis. Much more skill than I possess. The rest of the way back was an easy walk. Just after we came out a plow finally came through the lot.

This turned out to be a fun day. We avoided the avalanche danger, saw few people, and had trail breakers s ahead most of the way. What precipitation we had was not rain. The lake is a much worthier destination in winter than in summer. Finally, I expected that hiking with Kim is never dull and was not disappointed.

A number of photos courtesy of Kim Brown.
Avoiding Brush
Big Creek Crossing
Big Creek
Back In Forest
Creek Crossing
Bare Branches
On Trail
Still Booting It
Deeper Snow
Plastered Trunk
Close Up
The Whale
Kim & Creek
Big Tree
Old Snag
Snowy Stump
Top Of Stump
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Photo Page 2

Trips - 2007