Lake Serene is a favorite Spring
hike of mine. It is a beautiful sight to see the walls of Mt Index rising
nearly vertically above the lake. Bridal Veil falls is also at it's best
when fed by melting snow. This trip was with the Mountaineers. Even with
threatening skies we had eleven intrepid hikers show up. After a long trip
on the Tiger Mountain Trail the day before I was looking forward to a fairly
easy trip. I saw the new bridge within the first quarter mile. It requires
a muddy and slippery maneuver to get to. On the way out I tried it. On the
way back I found it much easier to just run through the creek. With our moderately
early 9:10 start we were among the first hikers for the day. By the time
we came down in the afternoon it was the usual zoo. The old road which makes
up the first 1 1/2 miles is easily graded and goes by very fast. At the falls
intersection we chose to head up. It's best to see the falls on the way in
as the thought of a steep half mile climb is less palatable after climbing
all those stairs going to the lake. There was no disappointment as Bridal
Veil falls was flowing wide and fast. If you do not have the energy to make
it to the lake the falls is a worthwhile destination in it's own right. Even
the smaller falls passed on the way up were quite nice. We dropped back down
to the junction and headed over to the base of the lower falls. A little
rock hopping is required here but it was possible to cross with dry feet.
Now that we were on the left side of the creek the real
climbing began. The trail has more stairs and steps than any other trial
I have ever seen. On the positive side, most of the steps are of a reasonable
height. Most trails seem to have steps which a 7 foot tall person would find
to be high. I can only imagine how short people handle these. This trail
was built with real people in mind. Smaller steps are nice on the ascent
but just as important on the descent. There is nothing like 2000' of knee
pounding to make a hike memorable. I was surprised to see that my legs felt
fine on the climb. I was worried that it might take more than 18 hours to
recover from the day before. Part way up we came upon a man and two small
boys. He was teaching them the fine art of using a beige cotton pillow as
a pad to cut through switchbacks. The deep ruts and piles of dirt on the
trail are testament to this lesson. Some people just don't seem to have a
clue. A few minutes later we met others with beige cotton pillows. These
folks seems determined to do as much trail damage as humanly possible. When
the lead group stopped to rest I took over the lead and continued heading
higher. I stopped where the snow began and put on my gaiters. The rest of
the group caught up shortly and we decided to go on ahead on the snow. This
was a "hike" not a scramble and not everyone was comfortable on the snow.
It is still OK to cross but is thin enough to show large holes. Some of them
could lead to fairly large drops and possible injury. Use extreme caution
By the time I reached the difficult creek crossing some
of the group was out of their element. Six of them were happy with getting
this far and four others wanted to try for the lake. Dotty, our leader, decided
to stay with the former and I received the OK to lead the others on to the
lake. The creek crossing is not for casual hikers. A slip could be fatal.
It is more of a waterfall than a level creek just below. The others took
off after crossing while I went to get the OK to go on. By the time I caught
up they were climbing well above the summer trail. This route took us to
a spot high above the lake. We had a nice view of Mt Index and the lake.
We were only about 1/3 of a mile beyond where the others turned around. After
a nice lunch we headed back and reached the group just off the last of the
snow. Let me reiterate that a hiker comfortable with traversing snow slopes
and testing weak areas before crossing can reach the lake with relative safety.
Average summer trail hikers should not go on beyond their comfort level.
The current conditions can lead to serious injuries. Many of the groups heading
up when we descended had no business trying for the lake. Please do not take
your 5 year old children in sneakers across weak snow slopes. Now that I
have that out of my system....
The rest of the way down was very nice. As much as I
love to go on solo trips there are times when a group can be lots of fun.
As mentioned earlier we passed dozens and dozens of hikers coming up. Tennis
shoes, blue jeans, fishing poles, and more. This trail draws a little bit
of everyone and everything. When we reached the parking lot I was not surprised
to see that nearly every space was filled. The weather came through as we
had only a few sprinkles near the lake. This turned out to be a great trip.
The totals with the side trip to the falls were 8 miles and about 2500' gained.