Rainbow & Blazer Lakes

After a week long heat wave I needed to get out or town. It was only going to be in the 80s on the west side of the mountains and not 90. I chose a return trip to Rainbow and Blazer Lakes to laze away the day next to cool mountain lakes. I usually see a few folks but the distance keeps the crowds away. It was 8:45 by the time I reached the Pratt Trailhead off I-90. There were 15-20 cars in the lot. Low clouds and fog in Seattle gave way to blue skies in the mountains.

A report the week before mentioned that there was still snow at Rainbow Lake. With the high temperatures all week long I expected most to be gone but a little for cooling purposes would be welcomed. Once on the trail I quickly passed one group heading up and then another coming down. It seemed pretty early to be coming down already. I passed a few other groups heading up and a lot more coming down. I really did not expect so many coming out early in the morning. I accounted for at least 3/4 of the cars in the lot on the Pratt Trail. Usually the majority are on Granite Mountain. With the heat, I thought many would be heading up Granites open south facing slopes early.

The Olallie Lake inlet creek was an easy rock hop crossing. I took a short break at the Olallie Lake overlook as Mt. Rainier was cloud free. Beargrass is also starting to bloom on the short open section of trail near the overlook. At the Pratt - Defiance junction I took the left trail heading towards Island and Rainbow Lakes. No snow on the ridge and around Pratt Mountain. Some phlox is blooming but that is all. No lupine or paintbrush yet.

Dropping down to Rainbow Meadow I found a little snow. Not enough to warrant putting on gaiters even with low top boots. It was still spring here as several trillium are in full bloom. Only a few snow patches in the forest alongside the meadow. The berry bushes are loaded but behind schedule. The berries are just beginning to form. I hope there is still time to grow and ripen before fall. Heading around Pratt Mountain I met two more overnighters. The last of 15 people seen that morning. They said that everyone else had left and I had the lakes to myself, at least for a while.

I plopped down at my spot on the shore of Rainbow at 11:22. It took 2:35 minutes to hike in the 5 1/2 miles. It was getting plenty warm already. I had thought about summiting Pratt Mountain on the way in but it was just too hot to enjoy the bouldering up the south side route. It was a decision I was glad to have made. At the lake it was time to read, eat, and snooze. I heard some flapping and saw a mother bird with six chicks swimming across the lake. They made a couple of laps over the next few hours and I had a few good looks as they swam by.

After about an hour the wind began to pick up. A nice cold wind that allowed me to stay out in the sun longer than I would have otherwise. It was an almost perfect day. I really did not want to leave. Even the inevitable visitors were courteous. A couple sat down nearby but did not yell and scream as often happens at lakes along I-90. Nothing was going to detract from my day. After 2 1/2 hours of perfection I pulled together enough ambition to pack up and head down to Blazer Lake.

Last year I had two day trips to brush out the old abandoned trail to the lake. After a few years with no maintenance it was a mess. It still looks good this year. Someone even used a saw to remove a few small branches. Getting there was a bit tougher than usual. I dropped down from the Rainbow outlet to the water crossing to find the usual log was submerged. That wasn't going to work. I went a little upstream and found a spot I could step across on a small log. This creek is tiny in mid summer but it's flowing pretty good now. The pond between the lakes is bigger than usual and skunk cabbage is growing but not up to the level of the water yet.

Near the pond is a small grass meadow ringed with heather. I have just seen it as grass but now it's covered with marsh marigolds. Clouds were beginning to blow in and the shade allowed me to photograph the bright white flowers without them being blown out by the sun. I was just going to go to the Blazer Lake overlook but I decided since I was this far I would go on down. I dropped down to the talus field and then along the side to the lake shore. Well, there is no shore right now. The water is high enough to come right up to the forest. In mid summer it is usually five foot drop to grass at the west end of the lake. That was the end of my adventure this day.

I climbed back up the trail to Rainbow Lake and headed out. The hike out was uneventful. The grade is gentle and the forest cool. A nice trail to hike on a hot day. I left Rainbow around 3:00 pm and reached the car around 5:00. There were still more than half a dozen cars parked along the road outside the lot. This trip was exactly what I was looking for. A short drive, not crowded at the lakes, much cooler than the city, and just a nice relaxing day.

First Beargrass
Lots Of Water
Olallie Lake Overlook
Mt. Rainier
Just Opening
Twin Beargrass
Mt. Defiance
Berries Are Forming
Pratt Mountain
Rainbow Lake
Clouds Blow In
Marsh Marigold
Close Up
Kaleetan Peak
Blazer Lake
Blazer & Pratt Mt.
Skunk Cabbage
Twin Marsh Marigolds
Mama Close Up
Opening Beargrass
Last Beargrass
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2010