No surprise Lake Lillian is one of my favorite spots. Since 2002 I've been there or past it at least seven times and camped there once. Heck, Lilly is freakin' named after the lake! It doesn't get too much more favorite than that.
I tried to get there last week, but that trip collapsed under the weight of thunderstorms and civic responsibility so I deferred a week. Scott was able to join me and that meant we'd have to try to do something extra special.
The road to the Lillian trailhead has become more... challenging this year. It's far more rutted and the brush is increasingly intruding on the road. Scott was driving his big truck so the ruts weren't an issue (I think I could *probably* have made it in the car) and his big side mirrors folded in on impact so we were ok there, too. I don't think I'd recommend it for a fancy SUV or someone not comfortable with buffing scratches out of their paint. No surprise, nobody was at the trailhead when we arrived at about 6pm.
We set a less-than-TNAB pace and I was surprised to see we got to the lake in 30 minutes. My previous best time, when I was pushing as hard as I possibly could, was 25 minutes. It made me wonder what I could do it in now if I was really cruising. It was hot so the dogs jumped in the lake to cool off. Scott and I decided to follow the south shore to the west end of the lake on route to our next destination: Gold Lake.
I've only ever seen Gold Lake from Rampart Ridge in 2006. It looked like a sweet, inviting little lake that was under appreciated courtesy of the peaks around it and Lake Lillian to the east. The route seemed simple enough and there was supposed to be a fisherman's trail to boot.
We passed a guy camping in one of the few spots on the south shore who was surprised we were out for a day hike so late. We didn't even bother trying to explain TNAB to him. I don't think he'd have gotten it.
There is indeed a trail that crosses the outlet from Lillian and swings to the west end. Fish were rising everywhere, but time was short. We found a scratch of a path that headed up the ridge and followed. The trail faded and reappeared. Sometimes it was where the snow melt had washed away the topsoil, but in some placess there were clearly steps kicked into the hill. The mosquitoes were brutal so we didn't pause much. At the top of the ridge I was disappointed to not see a clear and easy route down to Gold Lake. Just more trees and moss-covered rock.
We tried, of course, but eventually decided the lake wasn't worth the effort even though we had 15 minutes before our turnaround time. We caught a glimpse of it through the trees and I was none too impressed. It was another 0.1 miles to the lake and 200 feet below us (that's pretty steep, by the way) and I was more interested in scouting the north side of Lillian for camp sites than crashing through the trail-less brush for another half an hour. (I've subsequently heard Gold Lake really isn't worth even as much effort as we put in.)
We picked up the around-the-lake trail and with only some mild Tokul-based issues (she's getting progressively less keen on steep slopes as she's getting older) found only one more camp site on around the lake, albeit a pretty nice one. With the number of possible sites we found it'd be a good destination for an overnight for at least one of the girls. Perhaps the one named similarly... Now if I could only figure out where to go with Clara this year I'll be set.
Total distance for this trip was about four miles and 2,000 feet of gain.