Friday, September 11, 2009

Lake Lillian, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, 9-10-09

Lake Lillian (Alpine Lakes Wilderness), September 10, 2009

This was Florida Bob’s last week to hike in the Pacific Northwest before heading back to Florida for the winter. After Tuesday’s hike to Iron Peak, we were able to send him off with one more spectacular hike before the end of an idyllic summer. We met up with friends Jim and Maxine for this “Farewell to Bob” hike.

We took the heralded “short cut” from an alder-lined forest service road. We managed to get to the end of the road in a passenger car but just barely – the road is deeply rutted and full of potholes. The trail is not “signed”, rather it is an unofficial but well-used short, steep route to Lake Lillian and provides access to Rampart Ridge.

Once again the weather was ideal – sunny and cool in the morning (ideal for the first stretch of the hike). The trail starts off climbing steeply, VERY steeply. Most hikers would want trekking poles on some of the steeper stretches – I don’t hike with poles and on the way down took a couple of pratfalls (no injuries other than pride). There are also several good vine-maple vegetable belays on some of the steep stretches.

Soon we were at the shoreline of Lillian and it was beautiful. The water was still, reflections of the surrounding ridges danced on the water. Most of the vegetation was still green with the exception of hellebore (ragged and yellowing). As for flowers only pearly everlasting was prevalent, a few other flowers still in bloom – asters, fireweed (on its last legs) and an occasional monkey flower.

We continued on the “path” counterclockwise partway around the lake to continue the climb on a steep path to the ridgeline. Views of Mount Rainier and the lake below were mesmerizing though it was hazy enough that getting a decent photo of Mount Rainier wasn’t even worth the attempt.

After a climb of about 1,500 feet we stopped at the ridgeline for a break; though we would have liked to have gone further into the “Ramparts” we ended our hike there – I have a strenuous hike coming up on Saturday and didn’t want to work too hard and Maxine’s foot was just beginning to bother her. We dawdled, left our packs and ventured a little further along the trail to the “first” tarn before calling it a day and retracing our route.

On our way down we met two hikers, two bow and arrow hunters and a couple of berry pickers. Everyone we met was friendly and we enjoyed the variety of folks we encountered. It’s good there are places like these that are inaccessible enough that they don’t get overly crowded and still remote enough that when you do encounter someone you’re happy to see them.

We stopped at Jim and Maxine’s for a cup of tea before driving back to Seattle.

Farewell, Florida Bob – come back soon. Don’t forget the M&Ms.

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