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Frozen Lake
posted by John : August 26, 2010

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Ready for summer

Amy had left late Wednesday night for Portland and I was home with the kids Thursday before heading south on Friday. I had nothing planned except to be home around dinner time. The forecast called for passable weather early in the day, degrading into mildly unpleasant weather later. Surely, if we hurried we could sneak a trip in before the weather window slammed shut, right?

We'd just need some faith, right?


Faith says that even though you're driving south in thick clouds, mist, and can't see the mountain you'll find sun and glory when you get there.

Faith says that you've planned well enough that even if the weather isn't great it won't be a disaster.

Faith says that Henry will tell you when he's got to go.


At the parking lot at Sunrise we geared up with rain pants and jackets, wool hats and mittens, boots and trekking poles. Don't forget: It's August. Better throw in a balaclava and emergency bivy to be safe. It was starting to resemble our October trip to First Burroughs at the end of the Sunrise season last year. No, this wasn't looking great.

The kids tore up the trail like nobody's business to the first fork. Then we slowed down. A lot. The supposed destination was the Fremont Lookout, just a bit beyond Frozen Lake, where we'd been a couple of times before. It was a walk to Frozen Lake with Henry on my back that made me realize Rainier wasn't so far away and the drive was worth it.

I knew it was trouble when I had to break out the M&Ms early to keep us moving along. The rain, wind, and, yes, snow made it tough going. Especially given we were walking (just a bit) uphill in loads of gear. The kids were too hot, but needed hoods to stay dry. Views were, as always, superb, but mostly only when looking away from the mountain. Or where the mountain was supposed to be. A wall of clouds hid it from our view.

We did get to see little Shadow Lake in the valley below us. That's definitely going to be a destination for us shortly. The sun lit up the lake and the maze of trails around it like a summer day. Right before the clouds shut the view down. Hmph.

We got lots of oohs and ahs from hikers along the way. A couple destined to be lampooned by the Rangers at some party passed us dressed in (I kid you not) white cotton t-shirts, short shorts, flip flops, and one of those teeny tiny backpacks that might, might hold a liter of water. No coats. No hats. No nothing. At least they were moving fast.

Of course, so were the clouds building above. We weren't far from Frozen Lake when the tourons passed us on their way back. They warned us to look out for the "grannies" who were at the lake. They had berated the couple and convinced them continuing would only invite Search and Rescue. I thanked them for the heads up and girded myself for the inevitable, "I can't believe you'd bring these three little ones out in this weather! You're a terrible, terrible father!"

However, before the lake we were passed (again, ugh) by a family with middle school kids. They were thrilled I was out there and managing without a wife on the trail with me. They suggested a fourth child must be on the way and I joked you'd have to be a fool to have four kids. That's when their fourth kid passed us.

At the lake the grannies took a look at us and... and... gushed at how wonderful it was to see little kids on the trail even when the weather was lousy. I was raising them right. Their coats were wonderful and so cheery (orange, red, yellow). And their wool hats! Oh, how lovely. I was relieved. We broke out the hot chocolate and I was rewarded with another round of gushing. Clara was glowing when we pointed out it was she that had carried the cocoa and most of the food. (Lilly had the water. Henry had... a toy car.)

It was pretty clear we weren't going any farther today. The wind had been in our face pretty brutally as we neared the lake until we switched back for the final 50 feet of gain. That meant we had a bit of a blasting ahead of us as we left the lake. The route to the lookout would be on an open slope with no shelter and the wind battering us the whole way. Clara helped make the decision and we prepared to head back.

150 photos later, we left the lake for home, pushing through the nasty wind an then being propelled with it at our backs. We contemplated taking a detour on a trail that splits off, but time was of the essence so we continued. Onward, onward, we trudged as the rain began to fall in earnest. Without the wind it wasn't so bad and when it turned to wet snow the kids were thrilled, but then back to rain. It did let up and of course, got too warm. We had some great views of the Emmons moraine that will definitely require a visit as we wrapped up the hike with another sprint down the hill chasing the numbered sign posts. This year all three kids ran as I loped along behind. Clara was perpetually behind the others as she read the interpretive signs. She regaled us with her newfound knowledge throughout our ice cream rewards in the lodge.

Just as we got in the car the lousy clouds parted and there was the top of the mountain. It was the first time I'd seen it up close since being there and it gave me a new perspective that starts with, "And why did I do that?" and ends with, "Yeah, I'd do that again."

In spite of not getting much in the way of views or actually getting to the lookout or seeing goats or seeing bears or racking up miles and feet of gain it was a good trip. About the only casualties were not being at home when Martin came by for the freezer and the 15 stops between Sunrise and Enumclaw on the side of narrow roads for Henry to pretend to pee. Still, nobody died, so VICTORY!

Totals: 3.9 miles and 800 feet of gain.

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