Rainbow & Blazer Lakes

The big fires east of the crest and their smoke made heading east a bad idea. Needing a close in trip and early return I chose a return trip to Rainbow and Blazer Lakes. Kim joined me. We had an early start, reaching the Pratt Lake trailhead at 7:40. The lot was not quite half full. It was a cool morning but I was fine in shorts from the start. As expected most folks were heading for Granite Mountain. We only saw a couple groups all the way to Rainbow Lake. I did this hike two months earlier at the end of July. I did a lot of brushing of the old abandoned trail to Blazer Lake but did not go all the way down. The water level was high and I would not be able to get across the inlet.

We made steady progress as the morning warmed up. Flowers are now just about all gone. No color yet in the forest. Just a nice walk in the woods. The creek crossings are all easy this late in the year though all the creeks are still running. As we neared the Olallie Lake overlook I was looking for the boot path up from Olallie Lake and two hikers were on it just below the junction. It was the last weekend day of the high hunt. I had on an orange hat. One of the hikers had a rifle. I pointed out the route to Island Lake, their destination, and they headed out ahead of us.

At the overlook we had our first good view out. Not much of a view. The smoke was drifting west down the valley. Not only was Mt. Rainier not visible, the points on the south side of the valley were nearly invisible. It was quite a bit worse than I was expecting that far west. The sky was cloudless but the smoke layer kept out most sun. Well, at least it wasn't raining. We went left at the Pratt Lake junction. along the Defiance Trail we found a few late Indian paintbrush still in bloom. They did not seem to realize it was almost October. The berry bushes had a little color but almost no berries. Usually this time of year Rainbow Meadow is ablaze in color and the berries were thick. On my July visit there wee berries forming but they were well behind normal schedule. I had hoped the warm weather since then might help them catch up.

We crested the high point on the side of Pratt Mountain and began the descent to the valley. At the viewpoint of Mt. Defiance I could see the smoke extended at least that far west. Visible but hazy. Down in the valley there was a little color but not up to normal. Some leaves went to yellow then shriveled before even getting to red or orange. The berry crop is a bust this year. Almost none at all. I hope the bears find enough other food.

Much to my surprise, when we reached my spot on the shore of Rainbow Lake there was a hiker already there. We rock hopped our way out to the small island. Not a bad spot to spend some time. It was time for lunch. After a short break I headed for Blazer Lake. Kim chose to relax at Rainbow. I quickly crossed the first outlet creek and took the immediate right turn. The first part is getting a little overgrown. I dropped to the wide spot in the other creek and crossed on a lot. The pond between Rainbow and Blazer was dotted with lily pads. After I brushed out the trail on my last visit it is easy walking.  At the lake overlook I could see that Kaleetan Peak was hazy with smoke. Blazer Lake looked to be quite low. Crossing the inlet should be no problem.

Beyond my detour around the washout the route is looking more trail like than ever. Perhaps some others have discovered it and done a little clearing. I had no trouble following it to the big tree at the edge of the boulder field and down to the lake shore. The route along the boulders is even beginning to look like a boot path. The end of the lake is dry allowing easy access to the other side. there were some nice reflections in the lake. I saw lots of animal tracks in the hardening mud. Rather than go down to the outlet again I chose to explore the forest. There are some big trees in there. A number are about five feet in diameter. Worth the trip down all by themselves. Looking back up towards Rainbow Lake, it's interesting take in the hillside. Cliffs on most of the slope with a band of forest in the center. That is where the trail comes down.

I spent half an hour at the lake and headed back. It only took less than fifteen minutes to get back to the island at Rainbow Lake. I think Kim would have spent another few hours at the lake. I, unfortunately, had to be home early. The trip back was much faster. A 300' climb out of the valley than five more miles downhill. We saw only one group heading up the trail. A few passed us coming down. The sky did clear for a short time. Not hot but at least sunny. Back at the trailhead half the lot was empty and there were only a couple cars parked outside the lot.

I was a little disappointed that the colors were sub par, the sky smoky, and the berries nearly non existent. On the other hand, the weather was pleasant along with the company. We really did not see many folks for a hike along I-90. It was fun to get back down to Blazer Lake. It can be very buggy during the summer but was bug free this late in the year. Overall, it was another great day in the mountains.

Drops On Leaves
Leaves & Olallie Lake
Turning Color
Red Leaves
Smoky Views
Bright Color
Hazy Mt. Defiance
Rainbow Meadow
Rainbow Lake
Rainbow Reflection
Small Pond
Blazer Lake Overview
Blazer Lake Reflection
Pratt Mt. Reflected
Rock Field Reflection
Pratt Mt. Over Blazer
Big Tree
Grassy Lake End
Forest Reflected
Boulder Field & Cliffs
More Color
Rainbow Reflection
Rainbow & Pratt Mt.
Last Rainbow Shot
Leaving Meadow
Color & Boulders
Indian Paintbrush
Final Fall Color
Blazer Lake Panorama
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2012