Pratt Trail

The first winter storm of the season was blowing. Up to a couple feet of fresh snow fallen or falling. Where to go? I chose an easy drive. I headed up I-90 and took the Denny Creek exit to the Pratt Lake parking lot. Most folks on this trail turn off after a mile and head up Granite Mountain. With possible deep snow up high and lightning in the forecast I chose to stay on the Pratt Lake route. Only 7 or 8 cars in the lot when I started out at 9:00 am. I was raining lightly.

The first patches of snow appeared at about 2800' after crossing the big creek and switchbacking up the far side. By the time I reached the creek crossing with a small waterfall there was a little snow on the trail. I could now see several footprints and one set of dog prints. The trail is mostly in the forest. In the few open sections the snow went from nearly non existent to a few inches deep.

The route turned away from the highway and up the valley of Talapus and Olallie Lakes. It was very quiet now and the last of the rain had turned to falling wet snow. By the long board walk there was six inches of snow on the ground. At the Olallie Lake junction the footprints all continued up the Pratt Trail. Looked like I'd have my trail breakers a little longer. I had thought about going to Pratt or Rainbow Lakes but my progress was slowed by the snow and photo opportunities and I began to think a little less ambitiously.

Soon I met two of the trail breakers who were heading down. They mentioned one guy and a dog still ahead. When I reached the Olallie inlet creek the snow was more than a foot deep. The crossing was easy though the creek was much wider than a month ago. The trail is nearly flat as it traverses above Olallie Lake at the end of the valley. I reached the Olallie Lake overlook and left forest. Here the snow was more like 18 to 24 inches deep. The clouds were so thick I could not see the lake right below me. With only one person ahead of me the slogging became more work in the deepening snow.

At the Pratt - Defiance trails junction I stopped. Tracks continued on the Defiance Trail. With the narrow trail on steep slopes ahead and the deep snow I chose to turn around. After a long dry summer it felt a little strange to be wallowing in snow again. I should have quite a few months to get used to it again. The snow was falling much harder now and my footprints were rapidly being filled in. The trip down was easy enough as the trail is gently graded.

Below the Olallie junction I met a couple headed to Olallie Lake. They were in good spirits despite the gray day. Much farther down I passes several more groups heading up. On the last 1 1/2 miles there was some water on this usually dry trail. I took some time to route it off the trail. This slowed me down enough for the lead trail breaker and his dog to catch up. They had gone part way towards Island and Rainbow Lakes before the steep slope and deep snow turned them around. Back at the trailhead there were more cars than in the morning but the lot was still not full.

I ended up with just about exactly what I had hoped for. No snow to drive in but snow on the trail after the first mile and a half. Eight miles round trip with 2400' of gain was a good workout without using snowshoes. They would have been necessary to have gone much farther. I really like hiking after the first good snowfall of the season. Avalanche danger is still minimal. The last leaves of fall are now covered with the first snow of winter. It can be a beautiful time to be in the mountains.

Color At Creek Crossing
Fall Colors
Snowy Footprints
Snow Covers Trail
Snowy Boardwalk
Snow Art
Looking At The Sky
Deeper Snow At Overlook
Hairy Snow
Talus Is Buried
Snow Flowers
Olallie Lake
Slogging Along
More Snow Art
Snowing Hard Now
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Pratt Trail Snow from Jim Kuresman on Vimeo.

Trips - 2009