Date: Jul 28, 2012
Distance done: 16.0Km
Elevation done: 430m
If there was ever a time to do this hike, it's now. The flowers are in full bloom every step of the way and I think we saw every type of flower we normally see during the summer. Higher up, the early-season anemones and glacier lilies are still blooming. Everywhere else it's lupines, paintbrush, columbia lilies, valerian, phlox, stonecrop and more. Even some bog orchids.
The trail itself is easy, unremarkable, even boring - an old road all the way to the lake. But with the flowers, clearing skies and occasional views across to Frosty, Snow Camp, Lone Goat, Hozameen and many other more distant Cascades summits, it didn't matter at all. Ideal for the first overnight trip of the season. The climb up is steady until the ski runs, then steeper for a while before levelling off. Once you leave the top of the ski hill, the trail more or less follows the contour, gradually losing a little elevation for the last km or so to the last. Then at the lake, the trail goes right along the eastern shore to reach the campground north of the lake.
Although it's unmarked, the obvious trail that leads uphill to the left as the road switchbacks round to the right under the orange chair-lift is the correct one to take. We stuck to the road going up (and in doing so got to see more flowers ;-) but took this trail on the return as it is signposted from the top. Plus - as we found out - it has great views.
The lake is pretty, though not spectacular, and there is space for a few tents on patches of bare earth, but it clearly doesn't see many visitors. I imagine that this area is very wet earlier in the season. The doors on the metal food cache just about close properly (with very loud creaking noises). The outhouse seat is broken, but does stay in place if you treat it gently.
We had the lake to ourselves for the night, and saw a total of 5 other people the whole weekend - 1 fisherman, 2 day-hikers and 2 people on horses. Of all the places to meet the two on horseback, it had to be on the steep switchbacks of the narrow hikers' trail, rather than on the road (which is where they should have stayed). As a result, the trail has some large horseshoe-sized chunks taken out of it. Not good on such a steep slope. Not impressed. But fortunately no big steaming piles of horse poop.
As a side trip, we followed the trail into the Memaloose Creek drainage and bushwhacked our way up to the summit of Nara Peak for more flowers and views. That added another 5 km and 150 m or so of elevation.
Mosquitoes were very hungry (though deet kept them at bay), black flies merely an occasional nuisance.