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Frozen Lake
posted by John : July 20, 2008

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You might recall that the last time Amy got away for some relaxation I spent five of the six non-school days on trail with the kids. That worked very well, so why mess with tradition? With Amy on Blakely Island with her girlfriends I packed the kids into the truck, plugged in a movie and headed south. I had just read a report of a fellow hiker's trip to Sunrise with her kids. It didn't turn out too well for her, but I'm always willing to push the boundaries of sensibility in the name of a hike, especially if the weather is great.

And it was. Pure blue skies promised great conditions even if it also required sunscreen (scun screen according to Lilly) and lots of water. I turned off the movie when we entered the Park (that'd be Mt. Rainier National Park) and this time invested in the annual pass for an extra $15. (Yes, I should have bought the annual pass when Jeremy and I went to Camp Muir. Oh well.)

As we drove up the winding road to Sunrise the girls stared out the windows at the big trees, ravaged river valleys and peeks of the big mountain herself. By the time we were at the parking lot the girls were already wide eyed looking at the highest peak in the state and eager to climb to the top. I had to break it to them that we weren't going to be summiting today, but with luck we'd find some snow anyway.

Our plan was to attempt the 3.5 miles round trip to Frozen Lake. Great name, huh? Just the sort of place you want to try to get to on a day when the sun is beating down with little shade to be found. Henry went into the pack (after a nice nap on the drive down) and the girls each grabbed a trekking pole. Poor Tokul was stuck at home due to the National Park Service's restrictions on dogs off pavement. Bummer for her.

Unfortunately, our usually glacial pace was even slower than usual. Lilly would have bursts of energy and run ahead and then sit down. She'd go back and forth between wanting to hike with us and hike all by herself. Clara was really confused since one minute LIlly wanted to hold her hand and the next she was holding up her palm while saying, "No! I'm hiking by myself!"

I got lots of knowing looks from rangers and other parents. Lots more looks of approval and kudos for the girls, though, so the experience netted positively.

When we made the first ridge we found a small patch of snow and a snawball fight broke out. Apparently, it was both girls against my boots. I'm not sure exactly what the boots did to instigate the conflict, but clearly they deserved it. By the time I convinced them to move on my boots were quite covered in snow, but it kicked off in no time in the high heat.

The trail follows the ridgeline gaining only a small amount of elevation. We saw loads of great flowers (Lilly liked the tiger lilies and corn lillies best, go figure) and no shortage of people. It's a very popular hike, though we did see a bunch of people clearly beyond their capabilities and already turning around well short of the lake. Of course, there were also lots of more serious hikers with bigger packs (or at least ones not full of child) heading for more ambitious destinations.

Along the way the girls drew exes to mark various spots where there was now treasure. I don't think they quite got that (a) most pirates didn't actually put an X on the ground above their treasure or (b) if they did they put the treasure there first and the X came later. Regardless, there are probably a bunch of pirate-wannabes digging up the trail right now. Sorry about that.

As we passed the high point I could see what looked like a flash of neon blue against a white background. Frozen Lake ahoy! The girls couldn't quite make it out, but we charged on nonetheless.

A nice lady complimented them on their abilities and asked if she could take our picture. While framing the shot she mentioned she was heading to Second Burroughs because she had a couple of kids going for the summit today.

This made quite the impression on Clara. When asked to draw a picture in her Adventure Journal she drew an insanely steep Mt. Rainier (in yellow) with three spider-looking things on the side. She explained it was a Daddy and his two kids climbing Mt. Si. (We're still working on the minor difference between the two peaks.)

As we got closer to Frozen Lake I saw badness in the form of a fence around the lake. Revegetation? Sensitive environment? No. Municipal water supply. Wha? Turns out Sunrise gets its water from Frozen Lake so we couldn't get near it. Lame. You try explaining that to a hot three year old and let me know hos it goes.

After a disappointing lunch on the side of the trail we opted to follow the Wonderland Trail back to the parking lot rather than retrace our steps. I had overheard someone recounting a discussion they had with a ranger telling them that was a bad way to go because of the snowfield. Of course, since I didn't hear it myself it was just hearsay so we charged ahead. On the snowfield I held on to the girls tightly as a slide down the hill would result in a fair climb out even if nobody was going to get hurt.

The next snowfield was easiser to cross and the girls did it all by themselves. They even wanted to try a sitting glissade... until they realized snow is cold on one's bum without proper protection.

The Wonderland was a nice trail as far as we followed it, but it kept descending to the White River Campground where we definitely didn't want to be so we hopped a dirt maintenance road back toward the car. Surprisingly, there were a bunch of families heading out on the road. I'm unsure where they were going, but it was the least attractive route to get there, I think.

About half a mile from the car Lilly started to melt down. We'd been out for hours and it was hot. I wound up with her on my shoulders until we could see the car and then she hopped down for appearances. (And she had enough energy to play in the snow at the visitor center. Hmph.)

We ended the hike with ice cream from the cafe at Sunrise and McDonalds in Enumclaw. If there's a better way to spend a day with your kids I don't want to know about it because this one was just about perfect.

Wicked monster totals: 3.4 miles and 600 feet of gain. (I should get double for some of that since I was carrying 50 pounds of child at one point.)

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