Getting Kids Out Into Nature

Talapus and Olallie Lakes, Trip Report

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Olallie Lake

My friend Kirsten and I have been wanting to hike together for awhile, and we finally had the chance last Friday.  She invited me join her and her other friends and their dogs for a jaunt up to Talapus and Olallie Lakes.  We got super lucky with the weather; Friday was supposed to be the only dry day in between several wet ones, and the temps were mild.

 

Glowing sunrise through the windshield (photo by Gabe from the back seat)

We left the house in the dark morning hours, and got to see a spectacular sunrise as we negotiated rush hour traffic through the city.  We made one brief stop to pick up a new NWForest Pass, and the ranger warned us that there was logging on the road to the trailhead.  I was concerned about that, but thought we’d just take it slowly.  As it turned out, we saw evidence of logging, but there were no trucks out working on Friday.  The road was fine, just some mud and potholes, and a few rocks to dodge, but passenger cars made it up OK.  We beat everyone else to the trailhead and were all geared up and ready to go when Kirsten and Jeff and the others pulled up.  Four big dogs would be joining us on this hike; Annika wasn’t too sure about them, and kept her distance, but they were well behaved and calm, and weren’t that interested in the kids.

 

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Talapus/Olallie Trailhead

We got started up the trailhead around 10, making brisk time.

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Off we go!

The kids went in front, and Annika kept looking back behind her.  She was practically running up the trail, looking haunted.  I asked her if she was afraid that the dogs were going to catch up to her.  I was concerned she’d get worn out if she kept that pace up.  She said she’d like to let the dogs go first so she could keep an eye on them.  We let them pass; it was kind of funny, because one of the dogs was a rescue dog, and is afraid of children, and she shied away from Annika as she passed us.

 

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The trail has a nice gradient, not too steep for much of it

With that sorted out, we continued up the trail.  It begins in dark forest, and after a bit turns up a creek valley, and the sounds of I-90 fade away.  The trail has lots of greenery and moss along it.

green forest moss
Thick moss covers the rocks

Most of the deciduous plants look waterlogged and ready to fade away for winter.  There are sections that are nice and smooth, but much of the trail has rocks and roots to negotiate.  Gabe went up ahead with Jeff and his two dogs, but Annika kept a good pace up the hill, even with the obstacles to step up and over.

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Almost got him to smile…
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Happy to be in the beautiful forest

We stopped near the stream where the trail makes a bend for a snack and rest, and then hit the switchbacks some more, winding up the hill.

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Rushing Waters
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Heading up again

As we got closer to the Talapus Lake basin, we encountered quite a bit of mud and water on the trail.  The bridges and boardwalks are all in and passable.

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Knobbly boardwalk through the muck
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One of the neat bridges we crossed

Annika did great on the narrow log bridge; she didn’t even need to hold my hand.

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I can do it, Mom!

 

We made it to Talapus, and it didn’t take much convincing to have everyone stop for lunch.  We were the only ones at the lake at that moment, though there had been a couple of other folks on the trail besides us.

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Talapus Lake

We spread out and ate, and the kids got to help feed the dogs some doggy treats and hot dogs.  I dispensed jelly beans as a reward for getting that far. The lake is pretty, with some color still remaining on the rocky far shore.  We made use of the very nice and not stinky toilet box; look for the sign on the trail pointing away from the lake.

 

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Decaying skunk cabbage
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Fading huckleberries
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Look! Half our group is wearing blue! Annika is still not sure about the dogs…

After lunch I asked the kids if they felt like they could continue up to Olallie Lake, and both of them said they were up for it.    So we shouldered our packs, tightened our belts, and began to gain the rest of the elevation for this hike.  Annika was getting tired by the time we made it below the lake, and I had to continue my judicious offerings of jelly beans. At one of our rests, Annika got brave and was able to pet each of the dogs.  She was so proud of making friends with them, and later said that was her favorite part of the hike.  We’ve been working on helping her not be so afraid of dogs, and she’s slowly getting more comfortable around them.

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Anika gets brave with the dogs

Annika was inspired by some of the forest along this section.  She said several times it looked like a fairy forest, and she wished she could play in it and pretend to be a unicorn.

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Fairy and Unicorn Heaven

There was a lot more mud and muck below Olallie, with streams of water flowing over the trail in some spots, and shoe-sucking mud holes in others.  We could see some evidence that trail work is being done in some areas, but you’ll want some good shoes for this trail currently.

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The creek crossing where the trail splits to go off to Pratt Lake (we didn’t go this way)

 

Annika and I were just a bit behind the rest of the group, but she did such a good job dealing with all the climbing and distance.  We had to put some moleskin on a hot spot on her heel at one point.  I was proud of her for telling me right away, before it turned into a full blister.  We were really happy to make it to Olallie Lake, and a nice fellow hiker took our group photo before he headed back down the trail.  We rested and ate and drank.

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My lovely friend Kirsten

We needed to put some layers on, as it got chillier the longer we sat.  The camp robbers were very aggressive here; we could tell they had been fed a lot and expected to steal the food out of your hands.

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Feed Me!

They would swoop down when you least expected it.  The sun made a brief appearance, causing the yellows and reds to show up around the edge of the lake.

 

olallie lake, fall colors
Yellow huckleberry leaves surround the lakeshore
olallie lake, fall colors
Yellows and oranges around Olallie Lake

All too soon it was time to head back down the trail.  I kept the jelly beans in my pocket for easy access, as I knew it would be a long three miles back to the car.  We made pretty good time, stopping once more toward the end to fix another hot spot on Annika’s toe.  I think these boots might be a bit large for her feet.  I ended up with a blister, too, because I didn’t feel like the rubbing was that bad, and I didn’t want to delay the group even further by checking my foot out.  One of the members needed to get back to town for an event that evening, so we didn’t stop on the way down for a rest.  On the way down we saw Foist and his beautiful family.  I recognized him from his trip reports, and he was in the area visiting family.

Foist and family

Gabe kept up with the adults at the front, chattering away the whole time.  Annika and I brought up the rear, but again we weren’t that far behind the others.  They all waited to make sure we made it down OK.  The kids and I all had sore muscles and feet, but I think we earned them!

 

Annika did so well on this trail.  She’s made a huge improvement in her ability to deal with uneven terrain, especially going downhill.  She has been doing therapy for some vision problems, and it really seems to be helping.  Last winter she would have to sit on her behind to step down on rocky rooted parts of trails.  She was very timid and needed a lot of hand-holding and coaxing.  I didn’t connect this behavior to vision difficulties until we started therapy for her reading problems.  Over the summer I saw some improvement, but on this hike she was almost completely normal, taking each step in stride, moving at a reasonable pace, even skipping and jumping down the natural steps.  She was able to balance across the one narrow log bridge, a task that she would have needed much help with last year.  I am so proud of her and how far she’s come, and super grateful we found out what was wrong with her eyes.

 

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Annika on the trail

Both the kids did really well with the distance and elevation gain.  It helped immensely having other folks along, and the dogs made it more interesting, too.  I heard almost no whining, and I know we wouldn’t have made it all the way to Olallie by ourselves.  We avoided the rain until the drive back home.  We didn’t see much wildlife; besides the camp robbers, we saw a few juncos and heard a raven or two.  Otherwise it was pretty quiet in the forest.  We felt lucky to get out at this elevation at this time of year.  We know it won’t be long before the winter snows blanket the area until next summer.

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