Lately the sky has been clear, the temps have been hot, and A-man has been begging me to take him hiking. So this morning I dragged him out of bed pretty early and we drove out I-90 to climb up to Mason Lake. A-man's only other prior hikes were to Rattlesnake Ledge and to Cherry Creek Falls. He is growing fast and has an abundance of energy so I thought he might be capable of this 6 mile round trip hike including over 2500 feet of elevation gain. I had previously taken this same trail up to Bandera Mountain as well as to Mason Lake and Mt. Defiance. It's one of my favorites.
My prior reports contain better descriptions of this trail. Today it was dry and hot but in fantastic shape. The pictures below show a strong and willing A-man man making his way up past the Bandera/Mason split to the high point before descending into the lake basin. Mt. Rainier was out in all its glory. No matter how many pictures I take of Mt. Rainier I always feel the need to take more.
So what do you do when you've had a solid week of "June-uary" in Seattle and the forecast shows just one good weather day on the weekend? You beg your wife to watch the kids and let you hike! Fortunately for me, my lovely wife (best mother in the world, of course) agreed. So early (as always) my buddy and I headed out I-90 all the way to exit 47 to take a crack at Granite Mountain. Driving directions and a brief description of the trail can be found in the first picture below. Make no mistake, this trail is not for the faint of heart. Like a lot of other hikes in the region, this one starts climbing pretty much right from the trailhead. Green Trails map #207 has this hike pegged 3.1 miles. With over 3800 feet of elevation game it's a serious workout.
Funny thing about Granite Mountain. It was the very first hike I ever attempted in Washington during my very first summer in Seattle way back in 2001. A guy I worked with organized after work hikes and invited me along. I had no idea what I was getting into. Young, dumb, and unprepared, I followed him up the mountain. It damned near killed an out-of-shape 24 year old me and I hadn't ever gone back until now.
We found the parking lot mostly empty before 7 AM (but a few people had beat us there, some who we'd later learn started as early as 5!) . Later in the day cars would be parked almost all the way back to the interstate exit. The pictures below show just a bit of the trail up to the junction of the Granite Mountain trail. It's about 600 feet over 0.6 miles in this stretch - the easiest section of trail by far. It's just touches the first avalanche chute for a couple of feet. From there you can see a waterfall and the ridge of the upper mountain. It's a nice glimpse of what is in store. At the junction you can stay on the main trail and head for Pratt Lake (which can also be reached from the Talapus and Ollalie lakes trailhead). We of course veered right up the hill.
A new trail! Well not really new, but new to myself and my hiking buddy. We were determined this morning to hike something we hadn't done before and decided to see what Talapus and Ollalie Lakes had to offer. They can be reached after a winding drive up the somewhat potholed but passable Forest Road #9030 off Exit 45 just short of Snoqualmie Pass (coming from Seattle). Actually, they lie just to the east and northeast of Bandera Mountain, Mason Lake, and Mount Defiance, all of which I have previously hiked. They are, however, much easier to get to than my prior hikes in the area.
We arrived at the trailhead just before 7AM and found an empty parking lot. We'd have the trail to ourselves all the way to Ollalie Lake. A map of the area from the trailhead can be found in the first picture below.