"Where did you go today, Daddy?" asks Clara. "Lake Lillian." "Oh."
"What kind of flower is this, Daddy?" asks Clara. "It's a tiger lily." "Oh."
"What mountain is that, Daddy?" asks Clara. "It's Mt. Lillian. "How come there are no Claras?"
So what could a daddy do except plan a trip to Clara Lake, which happens to be about the only Clara anything in the state. (There are a bunch of Ruby stuff (creek, mountain, etc), but we're not so big on middle names right now.)
Clara Lake, in case you weren't aware, is near Mission Ridge. Mission Ridge, in case you weren't aware, is about 15 miles outside Wenatchee. Wenatchee, if you see the pattern, is on the way from home to Lake Chelan. And finally, if you haven't figured it out yet, we were heading to Lake Chelan for the weekend. Whew.
Of course, we drove to Chelan late on Thursday night with no opportunity for a hike. However, on Saturday we planned an outdoors outing to see the larches turning gold and visit Auntie Nicole at her dog show in... Wenatchee.
Unfortunately, the drive from Wenatchee to the trailhead was a bit longer than I had planned for. First there was nasty (but not unusual) traffic through Wenatchee. Then it was a long, winding road up toward Mission Ridge before we got on a Forest Service road for the final few miles. We got to the trailhead at about 11:30. Luckily, our hike wasn't planned to be a long one.
Clara Lake can be approached from the Mission Ridge parking lot (it's a modest downhill ski area in the winter) in about a mile with 1,000 feet of gain. Of course, when the road to Mission Ridge is closed for construction you are better off going in from the other side along the Squilchuck Trail. It's also about a mile, but instead of a solid 1,000 foot grunt up the hill you have 400 feet o rolling elevation gain.
At the trailhead we spilled out of the truck like clowns. Amy and I exited first and then helped Clara, Lilly, cousin Molly, Henry, and finally Tokul out. Yeesh! The first big victory was going to the potty without the convenience of a potty. After that we got the girls pottied, Henry changed, and with everyone booted up we started up the rocky hill. (Tokul needed no help doing her business.)
I thought the area would have a few larches sprinkled about adding a splash of color here and there amidst the other trees. Instead, it was almost all larch. And not puny little larch, but big, monster larches towering above. The only downside was that the trees weren't quite at their peak. Some where a greeny yellow and some were just verging on golden orange, but still a bit bright to be really optimal. No matter, I was thrilled.
The kids were less about the larches and more about running up and down the trail making noise. Amy had Henry on her back, but even she got in on the fun running down hills and up the other side. She even took on the role of being the assessor of runworthiness. She'd charge ahead and if there were no rocks or roots promising a spill for the girls she'd call out and they'd tear downhill toward her.
We stopped in a little meadow and Henry promptly threw off his hat. This was a bigger problem than normal because it was COLD. The sky was blue, the sun was shining, but it was near freezing and in the shade it might have actually been. After drinks and special treats (M&Ms and candy corn) we pushed ahead without the hat. Luckily, Amy somehow noticed even though he was on her back and I trotted back to retrieve it.
After about an hour on the trail we arrived at a junction in the trail with a sign pointing to Marion Lake. Marion is Clara Lake's little sister. Or so I thought. I panicked thinking that in fact the swampy meadow was Clara Lake. I made Amy promise that we'd call the first lake we got to "Clara Lake" for fear of letting Clara down.
We needn't have worried. Clara Lake is a cute little lake matching our Clara. It's flanked by larches in varying stages of yellow and orange and completely frozen over. (I told you it was cold, didn't I?) The girls tried throwing rocks into the lake, but they just skittered across the top. Clara picked up a monster rock to throw in, but couldn't actually throw it. That job fell to me, but even that rock only went half way through the ice. It took too more big rocks to get one through the ice after which we returned to the higher bank for more snacks.
Since Marion was just around the corner we troopered for a bit more. I lagged behind with Lilly, but we hurried to catch up when Amy and the other girls shouted their excitement at spotting beautiful, not-to-be-missed Marion Lake.
Ha ha ha ha.
They giggled and moved down the trail while I looked at a damp spot in the grass. This was repeated several more times before we really did reach Marion Lake. It's a perfectly sweet little lake, but not worth going just for it.
Henry started melting down so we headed back. The usual tricks of constant motion and milk and water and soothing sounds had no effect on Henry. Amy decided to make a break for it and took off while the girls stayed with me. At least that was the plan. Instead, Clara went along with Amy while the two younger girls walked more slowly.
It was nice to see Lilly and Molly spending some time together. Usually, Molly gravitates to Clara and Lilly is left out. The two found sticks to help them down the steeper hills and held hands on the flats. We were passed by a couple of mountain bikers who were very polite and dismounted as they passed us.
As we returned the to car we had a great view to the northwest and could see Glacier Peak against a cloudless blue sky.
In total we hiked only about three miles with 400 feet of gain, but we accomplished several important goals.
1) We found a Clara something for Clara.
2) We saw some larches in color for me.
3) We found a potential camping spot for Clara, Lilly, Molly, Martin, and I for next summer.
Now I just need to find a Mt. Henry or an Oliver Lake (that's not impossible to get to) before Henry's three or I'm sure I'll get an earful from him, too.
Oh, and on drive from Wenatchee back to Chelan we passed a herd of big horn sheep clambering along the cliffs above the road. They showered the road with rocks, but were cool enough that I made Amy turn around so I could see them again. (And in retribution she made us stop at the quilt store in Chelan. All's fair, I guess.)