Rainbow & Blazer Lakes

Hot and unusually humid in Seattle. I needed to go where it would be cooler. Far enough from the trailhead to not be overrun by other hikers. Under those conditions it would be Rainbow Lake. Lightening forecast in the mountains, especially east of the crest. It was cloudy much of the drive but bright blue sky at the Pratt Lake trailhead. All the straight in parking spots in the lot were taken at 8:20 am. I parked in one of the first spots parallel to the road. I was on the trail a little later than hoped for but still early enough. At the half mile switchback there were tiger lilies in bloom.  Soon I found a single wild ginger in bloom. Since I found out what the leaves look like this is the third hike this year where I have found them flowering. One speedy hiker passed me. I passed five other groups on the way up. Usually most folks head for Granite Mountain. I saw a number of people heading to the lakes.

At the the end of one mile I was soaked. We seldom get much humidity and not a lot of summer heat. It is rare to have both at once. As I hiked west I was soon under cloud cover. Fairly dark clouds. It was moist but it did keep the heat in check. Two weeks earlier I hiked to the Pratt Lake/Defiance junction and then down to Pratt. There were several long and deep snow patches left above the Talapus/Olallie Lakes junction. Not anymore. Just a little snow near the Olallie inlet creek crossing. A lot has melted in two weeks. I noticed a pair of blooming calypso orchids right next to the trail. That is a rarity on this trail. Where the snow had only recently melted there were lots of trillium and yellow violets in bloom. At the Olallie overlook Mt. Rainier was almost totally lost in the clouds.

There was a big group of about a dozen kids at the Pratt junction. I hoped they were not going my way. A short way down the Defiance Trail I met the adults with them. They were heading back down. The trail around Pratt Mountain is all open southern exposure and melts out early. It has a good assortment of lupine, Indian paintbrush, and other flowers. None were in bloom yet. It was still snow free until the trail began to descend to the lakes. Near the high point I could see across the valley to Island Lake. Still a lot of ice on part it. The snow was never very deep. I brought gaiters but did not bother to put them on. Bare trail was mixed with patches of snow. lower down there was a bit more snow. I could see lots of places where people had post holed down a foot or so. The berry bushes are just now leafing out so it's too early to assess the coming crop.

As I approached Rainbow Lake I could see that the east end was still largely covered with thin ice. The rest is open water. There is snow around much of the lake though my usual spot was bare. The lake is about as high as it gets. My lounging rocks are just barely above lake level. I arrived at 11:00 am on the button. 2:28 minutes to cover 5 1/2 miles. As I sat down by the lake shore I noticed raindrops hitting the lake. Perfect timing. The rain only lasted about 15 minutes. After that the dark clouds began to lighten. By noon blue sky was showing through. Later it would be all blue sky. Soon after my arrival Ben dropped by. As seldom happens, he recognized me. He follows my trip reports. We had a long discussion on hiking. We heard one boom of thunder and that was it for the day.

Ben was interested in Blazer Lake. I offered to show him the abandoned trail down to Blazer. We had a bite to eat then headed back to the trail. I have visited Rainbow many times when the valley is snow bound. I have not tried to get to Blazer on snow. We crossed the Rainbow outlet and turned away from the lake. Since the log sank I now cross the other creek higher up. The little creek was roaring but we found a spot to get across with dry feet. The meadow was snow covered but some marsh marigolds were blooming in small bare spots. Soon the whole meadow will be white with them. Still on snow I followed where I thought the trail was and in a minute we were back at the outlet creek and back on dirt. It seems that once the trail begins to descend it melts out early. We had a nice view from the overlook. I knew that Blazer would have a high water level and it would be a knee deep ford to get to the other side. Since Ben had not been there we headed down anyway.

Since I brushed it out last fall the trail is in fine shape. In just a few minutes we were down to Blazer Lake. We could see up the lake and to Pratt Mountain but as expected the lake was too high to get to the other side where the flat ground is. We retraced our steps back up to Rainbow Lake. Ben had come from Exit 42 via Mason Lake and the old old Mason Lake Trail. He had a long trip back and we parted ways. My spot was still available back at Rainbow Lake. My goal was to find a cool spot to escape the heat and I was very successful. A cool breeze blew from across the lake. I had sunshine and shade. I moved from one to the other all afternoon. I was in no hurry to get back to my scorching hot home.

I had a good book, plenty of food and water, and plenty of time. Occasionally I heard folks passing by on the main trail. Only one duo dropped by my spot for a few minutes. Otherwise, I had nearly complete solitude. After 4 1/2 hours I packed up. I headed on back at 3:30 pm. One climb out of the valley and then it was all downhill. Most of the route back is in deep and cooler forest too. All part of the plan. I saw two hikers at the Olallie Lake overlook. Two more pairs coming up later. That was it for 5 1/2 miles of hiking. I guess nobody cared to hike uphill on an unusually hot afternoon. It was hot but much less humid hiking out. I was in no hurry. The less time in a hot house the better. I took about the same amount of time to hike back as out. I was back at my car at 6:00 pm.

What a nearly perfect day to get out of town. After a moist hike in I had low 70s weather with a cool breeze. I had sunshine and shade. Other than a good conversation with Ben I had solitude on I-90. Yes, my house was 84 degrees at 7:15 pm but I had a great day in the mountains.

Tiger Lilies
Framed Waterfall
Light On Dark Trail
Wild Ginger
Rushing Creek
Hikers On Boardwalk
Olallie Lake
Opening Beargrass
Island Lake
Mt. Defiance
Snowy Trail
Rainbow Lake
Ice On Lake
Lake Reflection
Blazer Lake
Another Reflection
Snowy Reflection
Lone Duck
Relaxing Afternoon
Closer Fowl View
Bandera Summit
Mt. Defiance Again
Nice Contrast
Final Flowers
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2013