Rainbow & Blazer Lakes

Seattle hit a record high temperature on Wednesday of 103 degrees. It was finally cooling to around 90. Where to go without collapsing in a pile of sweat? Back to an old favorite. Cooler forest on the Pratt Lake trail then down to Rainbow Lake to cool off. I was at the Pratt Lake trailhead at 7:30 and on the trail a few minutes later. It was already warm but not like the past few days. The lot was half empty and I only met a few folks heading down.

At the Pratt - Defiance trails junction I went left heading for Rainbow lake. Mt. Rainier was cloudless but hazy. The open slopes on the side of Pratt Mountain still hold some blooming flowers though they are past their prime. Indian paintbrush is holding on well. It was 10:10 by the time I reached the lake. I sat on my rock lounger, I sat in the shade. It was just getting too hot. I still had one job to do.

Many years ago I had a map which showed a trail from Rainbow down to Blazer Lake. I found the trail and followed it until I reached a sign reading "abandoned trail". It was on a steep hillside and the trail had completely fallen away. There was no easy way to get down to the lake. With that, I headed back. A year or two later I came back. The route follows a creek at one point. I left the trail and scrambled a steep rocky slope down to the lake. It was possible but not easy.

A few years later I came back with an ice axe. I went to the end of the trail and used my "dirt axe" to drop to the lake. I hoped to find an easier way where I could hack out a bootpath. I made it down to the lake but the route was no easier than the earlier rocky scramble. Strike two. Well, I came back a year or two later to see if I could hack out a route above the washout. The trail was now badly overgrown and I spent a lot of time cutting back the encroaching underbrush. I did find a way to get above the washout. From the other side it was a much easier scramble down to the lake.

On my first visit to the lake I found a fire ring with a 6" diameter tree growing in it. Even then it seemed to be little visited. One more visit and a lot of hacking later the reroute was in place. I've dropped by every year or two since then to brush out the trail. It had been at least three years since my last brushing expedition. I was expecting a lot of work. I was not disappointed. The route starts right from Rainbow Lake. I crossed a small outlet and thirty feet later is a narrow path that seems to disappear. Just beyond that is the main outlet from Rainbow. I went back to the narrow path and took it.

I dropped down to a wide wet spot. My narrow usual log is still there and a new log has fallen across the water. There is a lily pad filled pond nearby. The path across the small meadow is nearly gone. A big tree here has an obvious blaze on it. In fact, there are half a dozen more blazes along the trail.  Once it enters the berry bushes I cleared out the trail. It gets better as you go along. It parallels the Rainbow outlet stream soon. A viewpoint shows the lake below with Kaleetan Peak above.

A sharp left turn begins a steep descent until reaching the washout. A short uphill allows an easy crossing and brush gives way to dark forest. I dropped down and then traversed to a big boulder field just above the lake. Looking up I saw cliffs. No easy way down through there. For the first time I think I picked up the old trail through here. The lake does not have large flat areas and the brush is thick much of the way around. Forty of so years without a trail will do that. It was too hot and buggy to stay long. I headed back up and did some additional brushing. It should be good for another few years.

Blazer will never be a destination lake but it is an interesting side trip from Rainbow. It's not more than a 15 minute trip. Hopefully the side trail will still exist when I'm no longer around to keep it open. That's the main reason I wrote this. The hike out was slow and hot. I had a lot of water but still ran out with three miles to go. At least the forest kept the sun off for the last four miles. I saw far fewer hikers on the way out than usual for a sunny summer Saturday. It was 5:15 when I reached the trailhead. I was again surprised to see many open parking spaces. Where were the crowds?

It was nice to get caught up on trail maintenance though I let it go for too long. It does not take long to bury a trail in this area in a sea of brush. Twelve miles and 3100' was as much as I was comfortable doing in the heat though getting much of the elevation done in the early morning really helped. I may have to come back in when the berries are ripe as it looks to be an excellent crop this year.

Olallie Lake & Rainier
Mt. Rainier
True Bandera Summit
Indian Paintbrush
Island Lake
Queen's Cup
Mt. Defiance
Rainbow Lake
Indistinct Trail
Log Crossing
Blaze On Tree
Brushy Trail
Blazer Lake Below
Blazer & Kaleetan
Kaleetan Peak
Very Brushy
End Of Old Trail
Cliffs Above Blazer
Blazer & Pratt Mountain
Blazer Reflection
False Hellebore
Old Cut Branch
Brushed Out Trail
Lily Pads
Trail Lost In Meadow
Back At Rainbow
Unusual Plant
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2009