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Summit Lake Overnight
posted by John : August 6-7, 2011

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Into the wilderness

Lilly won the lottery and her overnight trip got scheduled first. It should have been in July, but in July there was nothing but snow. Rain, too, but mostly snow. Something about taking a couple of six year olds into the snow and rain just didn't sit right so Daryl and I opted for the first weekend in August.

We chose Summit Lake as our destination because it was snow free (do you sense a recurring theme here?), not too strenuous, and not too far away. Oh, did I mentioned it was supposed to have incredibly freaking awesome views? I should have, because that was a big selling point. What were the views of? Rainier, of course.

All the way to the trailhead (way down by the Carbon River entrance to the Park) it was overcast. Not in a I'm-going-to-rain-on-your-parade kind of way, but more of a Thought-you-were-gonna-see-the-Mountain?-Sucker! kind of way. Pretty disheartening. Of course Lilly and Jack didn't care. They were laughing it up in the back seat. Even Treen was ready to go.

Wait. A dog? On an overnight? Are you crazy? Don't you remember Tokul's one and only backpacking trip? Well, Treen's a different dog so I thought I'd give it a try. Cross your fingers.

At the trailhead there was sun. Real, honest-to-goodness sun. And some clouds hiding the mountain, but SUN!

We were all heavily laden, even the dog. My pack was close to 60 pounds. Lilly was humping six pounds and Treen another six. On the upside, that was 12 pounds I wasn't carrying. This made progress up the trail a little slow, but actually pretty respectable. It wasn't TNAB pace, but it wasn't meant to be.

The kids led. More specifically, Jack led. He was on fire. There was no stopping us, until it was snack time. Or potty time. Even still, the miles and gain flitted by without much concern. As we got closer to the lake we passed through sun breaks that lit up fields of lilies, much to Lilly's delight, but then the clouds rolled in as we set foot on snow by the lake. And by "rolled in" I mean "occupied the lake like a foreign power." All that work to camp in the mist. Yeah, it made for some really great atmosphere, but I wasn't too on board with the whole wearing waterproof gear around camp.

The kids were kids and didn't care. They swept out the camp site (an awesome spot on the ridge overlooking Lily Lake down in the valley), played in the tents, and then hung out in Daryl's fancy new hammock. Lilly said they were "doing their business." Fine, fine. You're six. But, Jack. I have this axe I'd like to show you. It's pretty sharp. You've been warned.

Once I booted the kids out of the hammock I promptly fell asleep in it. When I woke up they were all gone. Down at the lake. Fishing. Sort of. Daryl brought everything except a rod. Why bring rod when a stick will do? ("Do" is a pretty liberal term here since there were no fish caught and it made the kids look like hicks from North Bend.) We puttered around the lake, careful to avoid the snow shelf over open water, and made it far enough around to see Rainier just peaking above the clouds. Treen swam a little, a first, and then we retired to camp.

Although our camp was ideally suited to be out of the lake basin (allowing for a fire) it was at the saddle allowing the weather from the east to blow up into the basin. So even when the lake was clear we had clouds blowing through. Cold? Not when the fire gets going! It also served to cook hot dogs and marshmallows and old man's beard. Good times all around.

Toward dark I figured it was time to go for a quick walk up the hill to see what there was to be seen. It topped out with a spectacular view of Rainier rising from the clouds, lit by the setting sun. Oh, why hadn't I dragged the others up here? Bad planning, that's why? I ran back down, but the sun had dropped low in the sky. No matter, in the morning we planned to try for the high point on the other side of the lake.

<insert sound of Lilly snoring like crazy here>

<remove sound of "Lilly" snoring like crazy here (it turns out it was me)>

Morning was a quick breakfast of more hot dogs (Duh, kids can eat hot dogs whenever they want!) and then it was back on trail to tag the high point. The clouds that had harassed us the day before were absent so the views were tremendous. Of course, this is round about when the loaner camera I was using (thanks Josie!) decided to die (um... thanks, Josie) and I had to switch to my phone's camera. At least I wasn't missing anything.

The trail that led to our camp site continued around the lake, climbing gently. We crossed snow fields that delighted both the kids and the dog and found more flowers than seemed possible. The high point was a pair of rocky outcroppings with stunning views of the Mountain as well as our car some 1,500 feet below us.

All the prep work and the back aches and trouble of getting Lilly out for her trip were made worthwhile in a few moments as we worked our way down the hill. First on a pair of glissades that left her giggling and nearly incoherent with glee.

Then a declaration that this was the best day of her life told me that my job here was done.

Well, not really done. We still had to hike out. The bags were just as heavy, but felt a little less so. I suppose they might have been a little lighter since we did eat a bunch and put all the garbage in poor Treen's bag, but not enough to account for the ease with which my pack got on my shoulders. As we hiked out we passed dayhikers lunching in the meadow above the lake and I pitied them for missing out on what else the lake had to offer.

We finished the trip in style at a place in Wilkerson called Skeek's. The food wasn't great, but old Skeek was a cool guy to have wandering aimlessly around as we ate pizza and ice cream.

Over the two days we chalked up about six miles and 1,700 feet of gain. It's a new record for Lilly and I'm excited to think about what she could do this time next year.

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