Buoyed by our success last week hiking to Talapus and Olallie, we decided to join our hiking friends again this week for a trip up to Lake 22. It had been 8 or 9 years since I was there; I didn’t enjoy the hike the first time. I had a toddler Gabriel on my back, and I think the trip was too much at the time. I was interested to see the lake with a different perspective.
We woke up to frosty temps but clear skies, and purposely beat our friends to the trailhead. I wanted to get a head start up to the lake, since we had an event to attend in the evening, and I knew it would get dark early with the recent time change. It was freezing at the trailhead, and we futzed around adjusting layers and putting duct tape on feet.
Immediately as we started up the trail I knew the impression I had over the past decade was skewed.
The moss and greenery were soothing, and I really enjoyed hiking next to the burbling creek. We soon encountered our first obstacle in an iced over boardwalk.
Gabe skimmed right over it, but Annika became paralyzed partway along, and it took me several minutes to coax her step by step. (When my friends eventually caught up with us, we learned that one of them had slipped and fallen on that section.)
With that conquered, the kids immediately started bickering about who would be the leader. Annika wanted to lead, but she kept stopping and struggling over rocks and stream crossings, and Gabriel had no patience to be behind his slow little sister. He’d get frustrated and push past us, going out of sight around a corner and giving Annika fits. I figured it would be a miracle if we finished this hike intact.
We only walked for about a half an hour before the kids were complaining and asking to stop for a snack. I agreed we needed to pull out the food, sit down and regroup. We sat our stuff down and rested for a few minutes, and then who should be coming up the trail but our friends and their two dogs. Boy was I happy to see some friendly faces, some backup for me and entertainment and encouragement for my children.
We quickly repacked our stuff, hoisted our packs, and began hiking again. I was amazed by some of the huge old cedars along this path.
There were multiple water crossings that were beautiful and fun to cross. (Annika had a hard time with some of these; she found it difficult to pick her way through the moving water and figure out safe footing.) What a difference it made having other people and dogs along! No more bickering or complaining! Gabe went up front with the boys again and Annika and I kept the gals company at the end.
The grade of this trail is steadily up, with some steps and some rocks and roots to negotiate. It switchbacks upward through the forest, occasionally coming close to rushing waterfalls. Eventually we reached the talus slope, and stopped for another break and snacks.
It felt much cooler out here in the open, the breeze funneling down from the basin up above.
We could see down to the valley below, marveling at how high we’d hiked already. The tops of the mountains across the valley were mostly covered in clouds, but the few that poked through were dusted with snow.
Pretty soon we continued our trek up the switchbacks through the talus. Giant big-leaf maple leaves covered the rocks, posing challenges to footing. Annika had some struggles through this portion, and her vertigo troubled her here due to the exposure.
But my friends K and C and the dogs kept encouraging and distracting her, and slowly she made her way higher and higher. We knew once we made it back into the forest, we would be almost to the lake. We got excited when we saw some traces of earlier snow, some icicles and heavy hoarfrost.
Soon enough we were back in the forest and onto more level ground again.
We passed through a former avalanche site, wondering at how far up in the clouds the damaging snow had come from. The outlet creek area looked so lovely, even in late autumn’s garb. Then at last we popped out of the forest and onto the lake shore.
What joy! The severe peaks surrounding the lake were softened by a dusting of snow, reflecting onto the glassy surface of the lake. We traversed the muddiest section right there at the lake, stepped carefully on the slick boardwalk, and gawked awhile at the lake. Then we found a spot on the boardwalk to sit and rest and eat.
It was quiet and peaceful there at the lake. We munched on snacks and fed the dogs.
It was real cold, and we put our layers on to stay warm.
I got my stove out and made hot cocoa for the kids. I was excited to use my brand new windproof lighter, but I got it out, flicked it, and promptly dropped it in the water running at my feet. It didn’t light after that. Jeff had another lighter with him, so he helped me get my stove going (my fingers were getting cold and I was fumbling even with that one.) While we were heating the water, we found a sluggish frog under the boardwalk. I thought it was a bit late to be finding frogs, but I’m sure it knows what it’s doing.
Soon it started to snow, tiny fine flakes, forming perfect shapes.
The lake was so glassy that the reflection of the snow falling made it look like it was falling up and down at the same time. It gave the area a magical feeling, and we were all thrilled by the chance to experience winter.
Several other hikers passed us here and along the rest of the hike. One couple was dressed as if for a casual walk in a park, not even carrying a pack between the two of them. The clouds made interesting shapes up at the crest of the peaks, the sun breaking through in brief glory.
We sat there maybe an hour, enjoying the surroundings and resting. Then we thought we’d better start back down the trail. But first we had to check out the trail around the lake.
We stepped carefully along the frozen sections of boardwalk. We enjoyed the various ice and frost formations.
Gabe started grumbling; he didn’t want to “waste energy” walking around the lake. Too bad, everyone else wanted to go. It was cool to see the lake from all different angles, and to see the environment at the base of the cliffs.
The ice caves on the slopes were interesting to observe from up close. Boulders were covered with frost. The trail winds up and down, in and out, and eventually makes its way back to the main trail. We realized it was getting pretty late, and we thought we’d better hurry the best we could without hurrying.
Going down was slow, though. Annika had trouble with the uneven terrain, and one of our friends has vision problems, too, so they both were going about the same pace. (This wasn’t my first hike this year where we made a joke about the blind leading the blind.) She did start to really get the hang of using trekking poles, and I think they helped her a lot. It started snowing again, making a festive feel in the evening light. We stopped for a rest and more snacks at the end of the talus, and got headlamps ready in case we needed them on the way down. It was getting dim and we were heading back under the trees. We slowly picked our way back down all the steps and rocks and creek crossings. It got darker and darker. Our friend with the vision problem also has a bum knee, and was in a lot of pain, so we were taking our sweet time coming down. It got pitch black – it felt like it was late, but it was only dinner time. Annika kept thinking she was seeing bears in the shapes of the fallen logs and shrubs. We walked down through a layer of fog, our headlamps refracting off the water droplets. Then we were below the fog, and finally back to the cars. It was 6:20. We were the last cars in the lot and we were going to miss our evening class.
There may have been some tears – wailing – by some children when their mom said they couldn’t join the others for dinner, but we were all so tired and needed to get up early the next morning. We got our wet gear off and buttoned everything up as quickly as we could, and drove the winding road back to civilization. Over pizza that night, Gabe said his favorite part was hiking in the dark. Annika said hers was the snow and the dogs. This was our longest hike yet, and I was real proud of the kids for tackling all the obstacles in our way. What a difference it makes to have a fun group to hike with, too. We’re already planning our next outing. We’ll make sure we have spare headlamp batteries, too.