Monday, September 28, 2015

Hiking the Alpine Lakes Wilderness

We recently decided to check-off another box on our hiking "to do" list by taking a hike in the southern portion of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.  Our plan was to hike around 8-10 miles and see three or four lakes starting at the Talapus Lake trail head.

Map and driving directions to the Talapus Lake trail head:

Take exit 45 from I-90  to Forest Road 9030.  In 1 mile bear right at the junction. Continue straight to the trail head at the end of the road.  Warning - If you are not familiar with forest service roads in the Pacific Northwest - this is a rough road in places - gravel with many large potholes and several places with a washboard surface.

Talapus Lake Trail Head
After journeying along about an additional 2 miles of bone-jarring logging road, we arrived at the trail head parking lot.   Parking in this area requires a US Forest Service pass be displayed on your vehicle.

Alpine Lakes Wilderness - Permit Required Sign

Since this is a wilderness area, it does require a wilderness use permit be completed for each group.  The permit is free, and after filling it out, half is left at the trail head and the other half kept in the possession of someone in the hiking group.

Map For this Hike

Map of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness at the Talapus Lake Trailhead
Although we brought a trail map with us, we took a moment to orient ourselves with the area by looking at the map of the Alpine Lakes wilderness posted at the trail head.

Talapus Lake Trail
After completing the permit paperwork, we set off on the trail.  It starts off with a wide path through a thick forest of tall trees.

Hank My Border Collie on the Talapus Lake Trail
Much to Hank's dismay, because of the heavy use of this trail, dogs must be kept on leash.  Hank looks at me as if to say "Can't you move any faster?"

Talapus Lake Trail

Soon the trail narrows into a picturesque path through moss-covered boulders and numerous switchbacks.

Hank takes a drink from a stream
Further along the trail intersects and then follows along a stream where there is easy access for Hank to get a drink.

Old Puncheons on the Talapus Lake Trail

We also crossed over some old puncheons before arriving at Talapus Lake.

Talapus Lake - Washington

The glassy surface of Talapus Lake was inviting, but after watching another group jump in and hearing their shrieks after shooting back up to the surface of the icy cold waters, we opted to merely enjoy the view.  It was still morning and it wasn't hot enough to need a major cool down.

Olallie Lake/ Pratt Lake Sign in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness
We continued on the trail toward our second destination - Olallie Lake.  

Ollalie Lake - Alpine Lakes Wilderness - Washington

Ollalie Lake had a lovely camping/picnic site near the lake, but it was already being used by a family with small children.  Since Hank sometimes becomes uneasy around the unpredictable actions of children, we only made a brief stop before resuming our hike.

Mount Rainier in the distance in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness
Along the way to Island Lake, the trail began a long steady climb along some narrow ledges.  I had to watch my steps carefully and it would have been easy to get distracted by the stunning views, including some of Mount Rainier in the distance.  

A Frog Attacks Hank the Border Collie
We descended down into a valley with numerous ponds and wetlands.  Because I thought Hank could use a swim to cool off and since there was no one around for him to bother, I let him off leash to take a dip.  He immediately spotted a frog and went out into the water to investigate.  Much to Hank's shock, the frog started swimming toward him.  Hank jumped back to avoid being attacked by that scary frog!
Island Lake - Alpine Lakes Wilderness - Washington State
After surviving the frog attack we hiked about a mile further and arrived at the much less popular Island Lake.  We were ready for a break and fortunately we had traveled enough miles from the trail head to enjoy our lunch in peace and solitude.  The paths down to the lake were rather faint, so we did a little bit of bushwhacking to get to a spot on the water. Seeing the numerous little rock islands in the lake provided a clue to the origins of its name.  After finishing lunch and consulting with our map, we decided to take what appeared to be about a 1.5 mile side trip to see a 4th lake.

Rainbow Lake - Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington
A short side trail led to beautiful little Rainbow Lake.  After a few minutes enjoying the views and taking some photos, we began our long trip back to the trail head.  Apparently our numerous little side trips added up.  When we arrived back at the parking lot the pedometer indicated we had gone 14 miles - a few more than the 8-10 we had estimated at the start of our hike.  No wonder we were tired!
If you are interested in even longer hikes, I recommend checking out Top 50 Long Distance Hiking Trails in the USA
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