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Finding Fall on Rampart Ridge
posted by John : October 12, 2014

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Chalk up ascent #6 to Lake Lillian for the season. The last time up was to Southeast Rampart. That was a new destination with novel views back to the familiar Rampart Ridge. The weather was amazing even for early September.

Not so for this trip in mid October. Not that I expected it to be. If it had been forecast to be a bluebird day I might have dragged the kids off to hunt larches and find some truly spectacular foliage. I know it exists because my friends have been filling my feeds with it. Somehow each larch has a big fluffy goat under it, too.

But not this trip. It was drippy with a cloud deck that teased with sucker holes and the tantalizing prospect of getting above, but never really being serious about it. The soaking began at the dark trailhead. It wasn't actively raining, but clearly had. Every branch dumped on us as we passed so by the time we entered the sparser forest we were drenched.

At Lake Lillian it was light enough to see the clouds rolling thickly across the water. Briefly they'd part to give a glimpse of the bright oranges and reds across on the opposite shore before hiding them again. It wasn't until Treen and I had climbed up the Gully of Doom (the name Henry gave it on his trip to Alta Mountain has stuck) that we were able to see any distance.

What we could see was lovely. Everything was burning with autumn even under the leaden clouds. When the wind ripped open the sky and the sun burst through it was dazzling. We saw the Rampart Lakes, but no views of Alta Mountain or Mt. Rainier from the summit. It was too cold to stay for long. Not even the marmots were out in this weather, though we did spook a grouse and heard some pikas making last minute preparations for winter.

It was only 9:30am when we returned to the empty trailhead, a sure sign that Fall has arrived. In summer this parking area would have been packed with overnighters and early hikers, but when the conditions aren't perfect people tend to sleep in. Soon there will be snow here and it'll be even harder to access, but I think we'll make one more trip this year.

Lucky #7 ought to be a good one.

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