Well that wasn't today's plan... Our original goal was Garibaldi Lake via Taylor Meadows, but we made good time and reached Outhouse Junction in a little over 2.5 hours. Our revised goal became Helm Pass, but then we turned left at the Black Tusk junction... Let's see how far we can get, shall we? Well in pretty short order we made it up to the end of the trail, and then up to the shoulder. We turned around here because that wind was pretty damn cold!
On our way back we still took the trail down to the lake to catch some nice light - and a rainbow - on the glaciers over the lake. We saw a young black bear somewhere between the lake and the turnoff up to Taylor Meadows - there are plenty of berries out, and I saw a few (very) small piles of bear scat. It ran when we turned up so I can't see it venturing into either of the campgrounds but you never know, if it gets hungry enough.... Took us about 2h 15m to get back to the car from the lake, the last 40 mins or so in pretty low light (but not quite dark enough for a headlamp).
The recent trail work means that the hike to the lake should almost be rated easy - apart from the distance. The trail was dusty but very easy walking (which explains why some people are happy to drag a wheeled cart up there...). Moderately fit hikers should be able to make the lake in about 2.5 hours.
Great views of course, even though the major summits were enshrouded in clouds. The rain held off all day, with only a couple of very light showers.
Flowers are mostly past it, but alongside the creeks there are still plenty of patches of red paintbrush, pink monkeyflower, arnica, white fringed grass-of-parnassus and subalpine daisy. Lots of lots of glacier lily pods - I know where I'm hiking next year to get my glacier lily fix ;-)
The lake campground was very busy - we passed 25+ people with overnight gear on the way up and we met half-a-dozen people still going up as we headed down. One party included a guy hauling a golf cart with a duffel bag on it, the other guy had a day pack and was carrying a fishing rod. The downside to the popularity of the trail is the numerous piles of toilet paper just off the trail. Also guys - if you have to pee at the side of the trail, do it on the *downslope* side so it doesn't then run all over the trail... Geez :-/
Another observation: the folks in trail runners had way more problem with the loose scree-fest on the last part of the ascent, and again on the descent. Personally I would not do that section with runners (the rest of the trail is fine.) We had boots and found it easy to boot-ski (boot-scree?), and get traction at times when those in runners were having real difficulty.
Once again, the summit of Black Tusk will have to wait for another day. My plan is to try it on a quiet sunny day when I can take my time and enjoy the view.