Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me, for I am desolate and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have enlarged; bring me out of my distress! Look on my affliction and my pain, and forgive all my sins.
Dad took Friday, June 4th off of work, suggesting that he, Carmel, and I take a hike on that beautifully sunny day. I agreed, and accordingly we zipped off to I-90’s Exit 45 to hike to Talapus Lake, Lake Olallie and Lake Pratt—not too difficult, perhaps five or six miles from the trail head to Pratt with perhaps a thousand feet of elevation gain, though you lose and regain 800 feet descending to Lake Pratt and having to return. Early on in the hike we encountered a group of ten or 15 Washington State employees diligently digging a ditch for water alongside the trail, while others pried ankle-endangering rocks from the trail. Much of the hike climbed gently, in the most unmemorable manner, so that we gained elevation without much pain but enjoyed each others’ company and the sounds of the forest around us. We stopped to snack at Talapus Lake, where the dog received her first “baptism” of the hike as she pursued a stick I threw into the water (she lost it and came back empty jawed). At one point we crossed an unbridged river on the section of trail between Talapus and Olallie, a very memorable section of the trail because it required creativity and mountain-goat balance to cross on slick rocks and poorly-balanced logs. Further along the trail we came to a spectacular view of Olallie (see picture) set in front of Mt. Rainier and surrounded by glacial U-shaped valleys; there we stopped to enjoy the view and sate my loudly-growling stomach, which had begun demanding lunch half an hour earlier. Soon enough we found ourselves with a brief glimpse of Pratt Lake, which then eluded us for an hour as we scrambled across rock falls and small but worrisome snow patches under the sun’s golden blaze.
To our extreme disappointment we found Pratt Lake almost entirely surrounded by rock falls and inaccessible for leisure. In dismay we stood on one of many rock falls while the dog wandered free—we saw nobody for hours, especially after clambering over two trees downed on the trail—discussing our situation. Far on the end of the lake we thought we saw a way down, but by that time we’d walked a good number of hours; thus we decided to regain the 800 feet we’d dropped to reach the somewhat dismal lake and head on back to Exit 45. Our legs had carried us those five or six miles in three hours, but we hoped to take less time
Only, after hiking an hour and a half down we hadn’t reached the river crossing yet, which should have followed shortly after seeing Olallie from the spectacular viewpoint. At that point a group of hikers consulted us regarding Pratt Lake (our response: “A total disappointment, surrounded by rock falls and not camp-able at all”), and since we’d not turned off our trail we were still on track. Speeding along back down, listening to the sounds of the freeway slowly become louder as we descended, I focused on my knees and feet, which had begun hurting more with each step. I remembered running in Cross Country and wondered about the strange phenomena by which I could never recall a race in full: Dad and I hypothesized that I focused on exerting so hard, my mind didn’t form memories. Who knows, but as I told Dad: “I just don’t remember vast tracts of my races.” Then we passed through a heavily leafy but sunny area that did not corroborate with any of what I recalled from our ascent, so I commented, “This is odd, I don’t remember this from the way up,” at which Dad and I laughed because I was so silly to not remember parts of the trail.
Silly me! But I didn’t turn out so silly because suddenly we saw the freeway though we hadn’t been able to see it on the way up. And then as we approached the trailhead our hearts sank; braver than I, Dad voiced our fears: “This isn’t our trailhead,” and I groaned in agreement. Consulting a young couple with heavy-looking backpacks who were just ready to start their trip, we discovered that somehow we’d emerged at Exit 47, the Denny Creek trailhead. Armed with this knowledge we discovered that somehow in our comfortable downward striding a Y had eluded us; Dad’s GPS positioner, which he carried all the way, confirmed this. A detailed map showed us our error, also showing us that we had to walk three miles back up the mountain to Lake Olallie, take the split we’d missed, and trek another three miles back down to our car—this after walking 11 or 12 miles. Somehow, too, the Denny Creek trailhead was lower than our original trailhead, so we looked with dismay on the prospect of actually having to not only cover the elevation we’d lost but actually walk up more. To complete our predicament, both of us had just emptied our water bottles in anticipation of shortly returning to the car’s abundant water supply. Hiking six additional miles in this exhausted state appeared less than appealing, considering our best estimations suggested the miles would take us between two and three hours—landing us back at the correct trailhead between six-thirty and eight in the evening.
God blessed us, however, with a kind and not too creepy hiker who agreed to drive Dad back to Exit 45—a measly 2 miles down the freeway, which is not only illegal for people to walk on but also presents its own dangers—and even up the additional 3 ½ miles to the car. Carmel and I waited at Denny Creek because no hiker, however good-hearted, would take our enormously filthy dog in their car. Thus at 5:25 Dad drove up safe and sound much to Carmel’s evident relief and we fought our way home, tired but none the worse for the wear.
– KF –