Me: Hey, what's that light?
Papa: Kinda looks like a flat tire.
Me: Huh. (Opens the door.)
Me: Oh, crap.
Great. Another adventure was way too adventurous way too soon. Typical.
We were about three miles up a nine mile Forest Service road to the Lake Dorothy trailhead just a little after lunch. Sadly, the full-size spare that would have made it an easy decision to continue to the trailhead was gone with the old truck. With a teeny tiny little tire we decided to roll the dice and continue. (Did you really think I'd give up so easily?) After all, there were lots of cars and this was a popular trailhead so we'd be able to get help if we blew the spare.
At the trailhead it was just above freezing, but the sky was blue. Unfortunately, we were in the late afternoon shade so the sun wasn't helping warm us. Tokul had stayed at home and Henry was with Amy and Nana so it was just the four of us. It'd be great to say we could just motor up the trail, but Lilly was in a wandering mood, not a marching mood. Instead of cruising along we puttered a bit here and then looked at a rock there.
The first part of the trail was in the dark woods. We could vaguely hear the East Fork of the Miller River below us, but it wasn't for a fair ways before we could actually see it. When we could see the river it was coursing along a rock chute below us and looked pretty cool.
Back to the trail and it started to get really cold. Occasionally we'd see tiny patches of old snow along the sides of the route and the girls would shout out, "SNOW!" as young girls are wont to do. Before long we were seeing a fair amount of snow and puddles were crunchy with ice.
Where Camp Robber Creek joins the Miller River we were treated to a very utilitarian bridge that might have lacked in aesthetics, but did the job of getting us across nicely. Both streams were carved into the rock making for a beautiful setting. Just beyond the bridge were stairs with a fine sheen of ice on them making climbing more difficult than it should have been. (These were honest-to-goodness stairs made from milled lumber so they were nice and smooth. Hmph.)
The girls were starting to fade a bit even though we'd not gone too far so I started doling out treats like kid bars (actual bars, but made for kids), hiking bites (M&Ms) and the promise of hot chocolate when we reached the lake.
Unfortunately, the elevation gain started a little more seriously past the bridge and the going was a bit slower. Clara was having no trouble and did a great job of waiting for Lilly. Eventually, Papa and Clara continued on while I walked with Lilly. We were never very far behind, but just enough that Lilly was inspired to try to catch up. I even let her blow her emergency whistle once when Papa would be able to look back and see that we weren't in any trouble.
Lilly's big joy while we were separated was finding the "peeing rock." No, not a rock where she was able to relieve herself, but a rock with water running down the face just above the trail. Good times.
When we arrived at the lake we saw Clara and Papa just ahead of us on the "outlet spur trail" that followed along the shore. The main trail looks like it stays higher and continues over a low pass into the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie drainage. (One day it'd be cool to get dropped on the Dorothy side and walk home.)
At the lake there was an inch of snow in most spots and we could look across the lake to snow covered hills and even Big Snow Mountain lit up by the sun dropping low in the sky. We found a spot free of snow and sat for heavy snacks and hot chocolate. Given the late hour (it was almost 3pm) we packed up quickly and headed out to try to beat the darkness. It had taken us two hours to mosey the mile and a half to the lake so getting out by dark didn't seem a really big challenge. (And yes, of course, I had lights just in case.)
On the way down Clara wanted to go fast and Lilly was dragging. Eventually, I gave in and let Lilly ride as long as she promised not to put her hands over my eyes or wiggle too much while I was walking across ice. She followed directions well and we avoided disaster.
Just as Clara was beginning to understand the concept of night vision and why we shouldn't get the lights out of the bag we found ourselves back at the parking lot. I made a point of loudly saying, "See, I told you we didn't need to get out the headlamps," to make sure the other group that was just about to leave knew I was prepared. Unfortunately, when they recognized my made preparation skillz they figured we were all good and took off. So much for having another vehicle around in case we blew that last tire.
And so much for making it back to NanaPapa's for dinner. Oh well. We had no problems on the drive out and got back to Kirkland just in time to get the kids into jammies and back in the car for the ride home.
Total distance was about 3.5 miles in about 3.5 hours. We gained 900 feet to the lake and lost it all on the way back.
And the tire? Turns out it's toast. While Les Schwab was putting on our snow tires (thanks, Grandpa Jack!) they declared the 3/8" gash in the tread unrepairable. Looks like our next job is to go to a Goodyear store and see what that warranty is really good for.