Rainbow Lake

     Rainbow Lake is one of my favorite destinations. There are many ways to get there. The Pratt Lake, Talapus Lake, and Mason Lake trails are the usual routes. I enjoy them all. I was there in early June after climbing Pratt Mountain. The whole valley was still covered in snow. I returned today and instead of being covered in the last of the winters snow it was covered in the first of this winters white. Only about 3 inches was on the ground but it was beautiful to see. Suzanne agreed to go out on this cold morning as a little snow fell even on Queen Anne Hill. I had hoped to do a loop via Mason Lake and Talapus but there was enough wind and indeterminate snow so we chose to make it an out and back trip. There was one other car at the Talapus trail head and another arrived just as we left. Hitting the trail at about 9:25 was my latest start in many months. There was a little snow at the trail head but not enough to cover the ground. The trail was at least partly snow covered all day. The trail to Talapus and Olallie Lakes was in fine shape with one easy to cross log and minimal mud. The recent rain and storms did no damage to this trail. It is nice to have only one other group ahead as this trail is mobbed in the summer.

     I especially like to hike after the first snow of the fall. There was no difficulty tromping through the light snow cover but all the trees and bushes had a fresh flocking of snow. The snow was a little slick in places but not icy from multiple freezes and thaws. We reached Talapus in good time and continued on up to Olallie. Even with the fresh snow the trail was easy to follow. At the intersection with the trail which connects to the Pratt Lake trail I gave Suzanne a choice. We could cross the creek and continue on to the Pratt trail or go to Olallie and hope I could find the "route" up from the end of the lake to the Pratt trail. The latter choice would let us see one more lake and save some distance. Suzanne was game for a little adventure so on to Olallie we went. By now we passed the one early group who were already heading for home. From here on there were no prints in the fresh snow except for those made by animals. By now the snow was deeper and it really did look like winter. At the end of the lake we dropped down to the shore and had a nice view of the lake. Suzanne's dog Sadie was enjoying running through and rolling in the snow. Sub freezing temperatures don't seem to phase her at all.

     From the end of the lake it is a short steep climb up to the Pratt trail. It can be done anywhere but is much easier if you follow the way trail. It has a semblance of tread and avoids logs and brush. I have trouble finding it in the summer so I was only a little hopeful with a covering of snow. I took a stab at where I guessed it was and hit pay dirt. Even with snow it was no problem to follow. In a short time we were on the Pratt trail. We made obvious markings so we could find it again when coming down. A short hike from there and we reached the spot which has a nice view of Olallie Lake below and Mt. Rainier above. Well, we had one of those views. Humpback Mt. was clear to the south but the summit of Silver Peak was in the clouds. We had heard wind while hiking up in the forest but now that we were near the ridge top the wind was very slight. That was a very good sign that we should make it to Rainbow. At over 4000' the trees were quite snow covered. There was no fall color left but the white cover of winter made up for it. The fresh snow presented no problems and we soon reached the Pratt turnoff and continued on the Defiance trail. The trail contours above Olallie Lake on Pratt Mt. and turns to the south slope. Talapus Lake was now in sight far below us. The dark cloud cover seemed to be lightening as we hiked on. We reached the high point at about 4600' with a good view across the valley to Island Lake. It was not frozen but was ringed with snow.

     The trail dropped down into the valley of Island and Rainbow Lakes nestled between Bandera and Pratt Mountains. We had a very nice view of Mt. Defiance with a little snow on the south side and more on the east side facing us. We passed the turn off to Island Lake and continued on to Rainbow. For over 2 miles I had seen no boot prints in the snow at all. Most hikers stay home in the period between sunny fall weather and ski or snowshoe season. I enjoy the solitude of being in popular places without the crowds. Rainbow was not frozen and snow covered all the ground around it. As we had lunch blue sky began to emerge. It was turning out to be a much nicer day than we planned on. Within seconds of taking out lunch Camp robber Jays descended on us. It never ceases to amaze me how they suddenly appear from nowhere. They did not seem at all disturbed to see a dog staring up at them. It was cool enough to keep us from a long stay, that and the short days we have this time of year. We soon packed up and headed out.

     The trip out was very enjoyable. We climbed back up to the high point and contoured back around Pratt. I was a little leery about the steep drop back to Olallie on the slick "trail" but it was no problem at all. I expected at least one good fall but we both managed to stay on our feet. Sadie has 4 wheel drive and enjoyed running down the slope and then back up to us. I was a little surprised to see nobody else at Olallie Lake and more so when nobody was at Talapus. Below Talapus we finally ran into a group of two and farther down on more twosome. By 2:30 we were back at the trailhead. It turned out to be a great day for a hike in the fresh snow. Soon I'll have to break out the ice axe and snowshoes but for now it was easy hiking in the first good snow of the season. All totaled we covered 10 miles with 2300' of gain.

Suzanne & Sadie
Olallie Lake
Olallie Lake
Talapus Lake
Defiance Trail
Island Lake
Mt. Defiance
Rainbow Lake
Rainbow Lake
Pratt Mountain
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