When we got home from this trip I made Clara record the story of this trip from her perspective as well as Lilly and Henry's. I helped guide her with a bit of an outline so I'll use that, too.
Apparently, the planning process didn't make much of an impression on Clara because she didn't write anything. Don't think she wasn't involved, though. She's become an important voice in the process. She gets a say right after, "Guess what we're doing on Saturday when Mommy's in Portland!" and right before "No, we're not going to Portland," and "Well, get used to it. We're still going hiking."
The original plan was to make one last trip to Sunrise before they closed the road. Clara wanted to get to the Fremont Lookout (really!) and I wasn't going to dissuade her. Eric and Paula agreed to join us so right up to the last minute we were set to head south at 9am. What happened at the last minute to change our minds? How about actually checking to see if the road was still open? DOH! So unless we wanted to hike up the hill just to get to the parking lot we weren't going to Fremont. There will always be next year. Unless Rainier erupts. Then we'll have other problems.
Instead, we decided to go to the Twin Lakes below Mt. Margaret. I'd been there years and years and years ago. (Technically, I suppose it was years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years ago since it was 2002. Actually... maybe just years and years and years and years and years and years and years and year ago since it was November of 2002 so not quite eight years ago. But I digress.) Eric had been there much more recently (the second TNAB trip to Mt. Margaret this year. No link cuz I skipped it) and although I remembered the Twin Lakes as mere puddles to be bypassed on an icy trail to Lake Lillian he claimed they were worth a return trip. Who am I to argue with a newly lit non-leader of TNAB?
The final change was from the Mt. Margaret side to the sekrit backdoor route to Lillian. It'd be steeper, but shorter. Plus, I'd finally get Lillian to Lake Lillian.
This last bit had me worried. No doubt Lilly would be thrilled, but in the past Clara has expressed dismay at the proliferation of things named after Lillian and the dearth of Clara-named things. Clearly, she's matured and didn't have any problem heading to Lilly's namesake lake. Good on her. (And yes, it really is her namesake. I'm weird that way.)
Freeways. Remarkably good dirt roads, up to a point. Then it was off on a spur that was overgrown and branchy. A few big holes were still threatening the road, but the biggest hadn't grown since the big floods several years ago so maybe the road will survive a while longer yet. The last stretch is getting pretty tight and needs to be brushed back, but that's what trucks or for, right? (Just don't tell Amy I took her truck down that road.)
Clara reinforced my impression of the road thusly:
The road had lots of bumps and holes.
At the trailhead we saw Mr. Tom and Miss Dani. And Jasper. And the TLABs. It was like we were back on Noble Knob except we traded Tom for Josie. (A good trade? I shan't comment on that.) Alas, they weren't with us. They were heading for more distant and grand destinations. Good luck!
We also saw a lady heading to Gold Lake. I gave up on Gold as a brushy hole only to be lulled back into belief it'd be a glorious place by an ill-captioned photo, but I've since come back to the conclusion it is indeed a brushy hole. Hopefully, this hiker was smart enough to give up earlier than where Scott and I threw in the towel, but her car was still there almost seven hours later when we returned. If it's still there next Spring we'll know where to look for the body.
Finally, finally we were ready to go. I'd say we're getting better about being quick to prep at the trailheads, but if you ever hiked with us you'd know that's a lie. I remember the good old days when I'd throw a kid in the backpack and be off... only to return shortly to get the other kid still strapped into her carseat, but it felt like we were going faster.
To Lake Laura
It's no secret the trail is only just a trail. The kids have been growing less enthusiastic about my route choices since Lilly's tumble on Devil's Slide Quad 7 back in April. That being said, they were very proud of themselves for conquering Mutton Mountain without a trail.
This "trail" is at times near Forest Service quality. (And by "Forest Service quality" I mean back when they had money to maintain trails.) At other times it dodges downed trees and relies on roots and rocks to provide footing.
There were big rocks.
It was hard to get over the rocks and it was hard to get up the steep parts of the mountain.
The big rocks were hard to get on.
Tokul was having none of the rocks and with Henry in one hand and the leash in the other something had to give. (I know, you're thinking it's about time Henry grew up anyway so he might as well learn to climb, right?) Tokul slipped through the trees without human control and waited politely for us at the top of the scramble.
There's a touch of counter elevation to get to Laura, which is fine except Lilly took the opportunity to fall not once, not twice, but... thrice. (Good thing she didn't fall a fourth time cuz I'd have to look up what comes after thrice. (Answer: Nothing. There is no frice or fourice or quarice.)) Tears, sure, but it was so cold they froze and shattered when they hit the ground.
Did I forget to mention that? Oh, yes, it was chilly. 36F when we left the house. 41F at the Pass. 38F when we left the car. Welcome to Autumn!
Of course, it wasn't cold enough to free Lake Laura or the swampy shore. Nobody got really wet, but the threat was there. Tokul did take a bit of a dip and shook all over Eric (sucker!), but mostly it was throwing sticks and poking with sticks and, of course, being poked with sticks.
And gorgeous views up to Dungeon Peak with a technicolor ramp of huckleberries leading darn near to the top. I think I could even figure out where we got to when we were searching for snow a few years ago.
Getting to Lake Lillian isn't that hard from Laura. It's just up a few hundred feet on mostly good trail and a few loose rocks. It's always a great arrival as you exit the heavy woods to a little clearing and then crest a tiny rise and the lake is before you.
I was very tired and hot... My favorite part was going to Lake Lillian because it was my name and very pretty. There even was some snow.
She's got a way with words. The lake was very pretty and there was a light dusting of snow in the shadows. We made a tiny snowman that Henry promptly knocked down. He truly is a little menace.
It was rumored that we could be heard approaching from miles away and I don't doubt it. We had sung and laughed our way to the lake. The trio that were there shifted around and the kids promptly took over the "resting rock" for lunch. I had brought hot chocolate fixings and Eric brought rice krispy treats (and not those namby pamby homemade ones -- these were from Starbucks!), but we held them as prizes for our final destination.
Tom and Dani had gone past Lillian on their way to the high places and the three who were there also continued. I knew that just a short ways on the other side of the lake was a great view of Rainier, but alas, our route turned back into the woods.
To Twin Lakes
Eric and I both thought the way to Twin Lakes from Lake Lillian was short and mostly downhill. Turns out it wasn't particularly short and certainly not downhill. More of an up and down and up and down type of trail. We passed through a talus field ("big rocks" according to Clara) and past beargrass ("like at Scout Lake!") before finally dropping into a basin with a little lake and a stream. Thankfully, one of the few hikers we saw on this portion directed us to a bigger lake just a little way ahead. (We, in turn, told her she'd never make it to Lake Lillian and that we'd actually seen dead people along the trail. She went anyway.)
The lower lake was kind of a marshy swampy thing, but the upper lake was really nice. We claimed a peninsula in the middle as ours and lay out in the sun. With no wind it was really nice. Clara and Paula took off their boots and even Tokul chilled out. I busted out the stove and started cooking water (can't burn that! (easily)) for cocoa.
Like the shaded areas at Lillian there was snow here, too. Equally interesting were sections of the lake already iced over with a solid quarter inch sheet. We saw fish rising so the lake must not winter-kill, but it's gonna be a long time before they see another hatch. Being a good daddy I brought back several sheets of ice for the kids to play with, but that had to end when Clara licked hers and Lilly started crunching it. Paula took it all in with a look of wry amusement. "Oh, to be seven again," she must have thought. "The youths of today are sooo darling." (FYI: Paula's nine, but has the poise of a 10 year old.)
We'd been on the move for over four hours (to travel a whopping mile and a half) so we were in no rush to get the kids moving again. But just when it seemed we could all just have a little nap the kids started running around and trying to sneak up on us. Given there were only a few trees on the peninsula it seemed a foolhardy attempt, but I suppose the consequences of being spotted were pretty minor and the entertainment factor was pretty high.
They wanted more hot chocolate and more treats, but it was time to go. We took a quick look at the outlet (mistakenly believing there was yet another lake) and then formed a full-on conga line to retrace our steps.
This is usually where I write "the way down/back was nothing special and we made good time." Not this time! We did make good time (two hours back to the car), but between the effects of six hours on trail, 1,700 feet of gain, and no naps we had a wee bit of drama. And then there were the rocks.
Clara discovered she could pretty effectively glissade down the softer parts of the trail. Yes, on the dirt. Paula and Lilly followed suit and pretty soon their pants were all looking like they'd been to Lake Philippa. Oxyclean, bleach, hand scrubbing. It was going to be a fun night even if Amy wasn't home.
Still, nobody actually fell (without being caught) and although there were some tears we made it out alive. Six hours and forty-five minutes after we left. It wasn't all hiking, though. We spent 15 minutes and Lake Laura and at least 30 minutes at each of Lillian and Twin Lakes. Not bad for three geezers (I include Tokul in that count) and four whippersnappers. Too bad it was only... Three miles and 1,700 feet of gain
(See what I did there? I integrated the mandatory stats into the story. Pretty slick, huh?)