Pratt Mt. & Rainbow Lake

     What's a person to do when the temperature in Seattle reaches 91 degrees? Get out of town early and go find a nice snow covered mountain lake. That was exactly my plan. I didn't sleep well since my house was still 82 degrees at 11:00 pm. It was tough to get up early. I managed to get on the road by 6:45 and reached the Pratt Lake trailhead in just under an hour. There were about 8 or 9 cars in the lot already. It was 69 degrees at 7:00 am as I went through Seattle and felt like about the same as I started hiking. There are quite a few varieties of flowers, especially in the first mile. With lots of water and my new Hennessy Hammock to try out I had a 20 lb. day pack. The trail is in fine shape. I was a little surprised to pass 2 hikers coming down in the first mile. I guess they were up early for Granite Mountain. The worst water crossing is at about 1 1/4 miles. It was possible to rock hop and get across with dry feet. The trail is forested and was very comfortably cool. There was no snow up to the Talapus/Olallie turnoff. Several patches remain from there to the Olallie Lake inlet creek. None are a problem. I crossed the creek and continued to the viewpoint above Olallie. The lake is clear and there was only a small patch of snow visible along the shore. Mt. Rainier was big and white above the lake. Soon I reached the Pratt Lake turnoff. The back side of the ridge can still have some snow this time of year but it was completely bare. I  continued along the ridge of the Defiance trail. The open section can be hot in the afternoon but it was just fine in the early morning. Farther along I could look across the valley and see Island Lake tucked underneath Bandera Mountain.

     Just after the high point in the trail snow began to appear. At the base of the talus field which makes up the south side of Pratt Mountain I stopped I put on lots of sun screen. Another hiker caught up here and he headed up Pratt Mountain. Soon after I also headed up the rock field. After climbing through some trees I had a clear view of the top and saw nobody ahead. Hmm... where did he go? The talus field was almost entirely snow free. It is just a 500' scramble up the rocks. I was very glad it was only 11:00 as you could fry an egg on those rocks by late afternoon. I had to avoid a few thin areas of snow near the top and soon was on the ridge top. The summit was a little farther to my left. The ridge is still mostly snow covered. I reached the top just in time to see the other hiker coming through trees directly below me. George soon joined me on top. The sky was crystal clear and the views were terrific. Granite Mountain was to the east. Bandera was to the south. Defiance was southwest with Lake Kulla Kulla below it. Kulla Kulla is snow free. Below Bandera were Island and Rainbow Lakes. Both of them are still snow covered. To the north was Kaleetan and Chair Peak. We could see where Melakwa Lake is located. Pratt Lake was below to the north and it is snow free.

     With the summit of Pratt out of the way it was time for part two of the day. George had no specific plan and he agreed to join me at Rainbow Lake. It was nice to have someone along for the descent as a slip on a loose rock could easily lead to a sprained or broken leg. We worked our way down the rocks and into forest. The snow was thin and covered rocks in many places. We managed to stay off snow and descended all the way into the valley on dirt. I have done this trip many times in early spring and had no trouble navigating to where the summer trail goes through. There were some footprints there. We met the trail near the Island Lake turnoff and continued on to Rainbow. It was now just after 12:00 and it was getting hot. The lake is almost entirely snow covered. The valley around it is snow covered too. There are a few large trees near the lake but mostly it is open meadow. Under one tree it was bare ground. A nice breeze was blowing over the snow and cooled us down nicely. I had water, food, reading material, a cool breeze, sun, and some shade. It was just what I was hoping for. Last but not least, there were almost no bugs. I knew it was up to about 86 degrees in my house and I was grateful not to be there. George took off his boots and ventured a short distance to an island of rocks. He made it clear that the water was numbing. I tried putting my hand in and it was almost painfully cold. We spent over 3 hours lazing around the lake. At about 3:30 I headed back along the route to a bare spot. After lugging my  Hennessy Hammock up and down Pratt Mountain I was ready to try it out. I purchased it in the fall and this was my first opportunity to use it. I had it up in about 10 minutes but with practice it should only take a couple of minutes. I like the idea of a 2 pound shelter and I like not laying on the ground. The test was a success as I found the hammock comfortable, even with my 6'4" height. George came by later and checked out my setup. It took me about 2 minutes to take it down and stow it.

     A little after 4:00 we headed out. It was all snow until we reached the point where we headed up Pratt in the morning. We met two hikers coming in at that point. They were the first people we saw since early in the morning. The trip down was very pleasant. The forest kept the temperature bearable. As we descended it did get noticeably warmer. At the Talapus Lake turnoff George headed right and I kept on the Pratt trail. One group of 5 day hikers passed me. I was in no hurry to get back to the city. At a purposely slow pace I reached the parking lot at 6:40. It was a great day to avoid the heat. The totals were 12 miles and 3500' gained.

Small Falls
Mossy Area
Marsh Marigold
Olallie Lake
Island Lake
Rainvow Lake
Bandera & Rainier
Rainbow Lake
Kaleetan Peak
Granite Mountain
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Photo Page 2