Rainbow & Blazer Lakes+

Gary was free for a hike on Saturday. After a strenuous hike on Wednesday evening we chose a shorter drive and smooth trail. Time for my annual hike to Rainbow Lake. Berries were good on Bandera Mt. Wednesday and I was hoping for lots of ripe berries on the hike. The Pratt Trailhead fills up early with lots of morning Granite Mountain hikers so we met in Bellevue at 6:50 am and headed east. When we arrived at the Pratt Lake Trailhead the lot was almost full. It was 45 degrees but sunny when we started hiking at 7:30 am. I started with long sleeves and long pants legs but they came off before too much longer. We had runners gong by us but not many hikers. The Pratt Trail is gently graded with a steady ascent and pretty smooth. It is also mostly in forest. Just what we were looking for. We stopped at the waterfall a few miles up to go for short sleeves.

AT four miles up we stopped for some food and water. This is the once great viewpoint down to Olallie Lake and out to Mt. Rainier. Trees are rapidly closing out the view. We could see the lake and Rainier was visible but not well defined in the morning light. Gary looked up the talus field a little further along and noticed some nice fall colors. We did not see much more during the day. We passed the Pratt Lake junction and continues on the Defiance Trail. The route wraps around Pratt Mountain. At one time there was a view down to Talapus Lake. That is almost entirely gone now. Even a few years back I could spot Island Lake across the valley. Not any more. The trees keep growing and the views disappear.

Thee are still some Indian paintbrush in bloom on the open slopes on the side of Pratt Mountain. That and a few penstemon along the trail. From the high point we descended into the valley between Bandera Mountain and Pratt Mountain. Part way down we reached the good view to Mt. Defiance.  We could look up to the false summit of Bandera where we sat less than two days earlier. We passed the turn off to Island Lake and continued. We had not decided where else we would go after Rainbow Lake. Island was one possibility. Nearing Rainbow Lake we encountered ripe huckleberries and our forward momentum ground to a halt. Many berries were consumed. We only picked those right along the trail. It looks like a good fall for the bears.

We reached Rainbow Lake at 10:28 am. The temperature was 57 degrees but it felt much warmer in the sunshine. We seemed to be alone at the lake. A good time to just sit back and relax. At one point a butterfly landed on Gary. He started taking photos of it. It was in no hurry to get moving. It sat there for about 10 minutes before moving on. We saw a few folks going by on the main trail but were mostly alone at the lake. Before we knew it 1.5 hours had gone by. Sometimes it's fun to hike hard all day and reach high and distant points. Sometime it's fun to hike then sit and enjoy. This was the latter type of day. I ticked off some ideas and Gary went for a short trip towards Blazer Lake.

I have been brushing out the old abandoned trail down to Blazer Lake for many years. I had not done so for at least 3 years. It can get pretty overgrown fast. We took the short trail from the outlet to the little water crossing. The log is broken but still held our weight for the short way across. The meadow has more ripe berries. The pond in the Rainbow outlet creek has lots of lily pads along with their yellow flowers. The start of the old trail was not brushy at all. Not sure if someone else has began to clean it up. Gary tweaked his knee recently so I did not want to go all the way down to Blazer Lake. We went to the Blazer overlook and then down the short steep section. I managed to slip but that did no damage. The bypass section was all brushed out. The final forested part over to the talus field  has a new tree down across it. I will check that out next time. It does not seem to be to much of a problem.

We headed back up then rather than cross the broken log we bashed through some brush and crossed the now small creek to get back on the trail. It was time to continue on to Sir Richard's Pond. The pone is about half a mile west of Rainbow Lake. It is either a small lake or a big pond. Though only about 4400' in elevation, the trail winds through what feels like sub alpine terrain. Some trees and some small meadows line the way. When we arrived we headed around to the back side of the pond. Nobody was camping there. We sat down for another break. This one lasted 1.5 hours too. Occasionally we would see someone on the main trail across the pond. Mostly we just had more solitude. The bugs were not a problem. I saw a few but never thought of long sleeves or bug spray. The temperature was perfect. There was an occasional breeze. The sky was blue. The sun shined down. It was not hot or cool. It was perfect. The kind of day you do not wan to end.

It was 2:41 pm when we reluctantly packed up and headed back. We found some more ripe berries. It was 2:58 pm when we reached the main trail. It took us 17 minutes to hike a few hundred feet. Now we were moving back to Rainbow Lake. We arrived at the lake and slowed for a few more berries. At 2;28 pm we passed the Island Lake sign and started the climb our of the valley. We kept up a steady though not fast pace around to the Pratt Lake junction. A little farther down we stopped at the talus field above the trail for one last food and water break. As we neared it we passed two men hiking down. Up until then Gary and I guessed we were the oldest folks we had seen all day. Talking to the other duo they were 68 and 78 years of age. We are definitely younger than that. The break was refreshing and had us ready for the final 4 miles.

The hike back from there is nice. As mentioned earlier the grade is smooth and moderately graded. The deep forest is shaded all the way. Very pleasant conditions to hike downhill. We expected to be passed by fast hikers and runners the last mile who were coming down from Granite Mountain. That did not happen. We saw nobody that last mile. We reached the parking lot at 6:20 pm. Ten minutes short of a full 11 hours on the trail. We had only about an hour's drive all the way home.

This was one of the best days on the trail I have had since the pandemic began. I have avoided most of the busiest trails. This day we started early and took the least traveled route from this busy trailhead. We did not have the great views seen from Granite Mountain. We did have really nice trails and lakes and berries galore. We saw people periodically but no big groups and had much more time without anyone than seeing others. Three hours at the two lakes with nobody nearby. The weather was perfect. Never too cold or too hot. For the day we hiked 12.3 miles with 3300' of gain but felt great at the end. Add in the Wednesday evening hike and that upped to 19 miles with 6300' of gain in three days. Not too bad for a couple of old guys.

Starting Out
Waterfall Is Small
Olallie Lake Viewpoint
Fall Color In Summer
Mt. Defiance
Berry Picking Time
Jim At Rest
Gary At Rainbow Lake
Rainbow Lake
Gary & Butterfly
Lily Pads
Blazer Lake
Red Seed Pods
Sir Richard's Pond
SRP Again
Gary At SRP
Wide Angle Shot
Heading Back
Pink Flower
SRP & Mt. Defiance
Kaleetan Peak Framed
Pratt Mountain
Mt. Defiance Again
Mountain Ash Berries
Indian Paintbrush
Pratt Lake Trail Again
Pine Drops
Worn Out Boardwalk
Granite Mt. Junction
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2021