One of my very favorite hikes, now that I know the short cut, is up to Lake Lillian via the Rocky Run "trail". Not maintained, and not in any guide books or on the maps, it's a steep and quick way to get from the logging road near Gold Creek up to Lake Lillian. From there, things open up to Rampart Ridge and Lakes, Alta Mountain, Rachel Lake and that whole area. Our good friend Theresa was coming up for the afternoon and we wanted to take Bryden and her out on a hike that wouldn't take too long. Just up to Lake Lillian sounded perfect.
The drive up takes just over an hour from our place, and you park just after crossing Rocky Run. I was amazed at how much water was pouring down the stream, and we stopped to talk to an older couple that looked like they had just gotten back from the hike. I was concerned about the area where the trail actually crosses a little waterfall, and they confirmed that the waterfall crossing was exteremely serious, and probably not to be undertaken, particularly with Bryden on our back. They told us of another way they had found however. You walk the road spur to its end at the slash pile. As you start to walk up and over the slash, turn left instead along the obvious log. At the end of the log another trail takes off, and this one crosses Rocky run much lower where it's not very wide. Thanking them for the advice, we headed up the road, and easily found the trail they were referring to. If anything, this trail is in better shape than the trail I've been using that crosses the waterfall (although at low water levels, the waterfall crossing is pretty fun!). It's still steep, and gains the official Lake Lillian Trail shortly before the large scree and slide field, in less than 2 miles. (Maybe closer to one? I've never tried to measure it.) Shortly before we intersected the trail, however, we were descended on by hordes of midges - I've never seen them so bad! We kept walking, hoping they'd dissapate as we got close to the lake, but no such luck. another surprise was waiting for us at the lake - although this was August, the whole lake was still snowed in! Amazing! It was really pretty, but I was hoping to walk around to the NE side of the lake where there's a nice flat peninsula. It would have been a great place for Bryden to get down and play while we enjoyed the scenery and distant view of Mt. Rainier. But I could see that the peninsula was still completely covered by snow, and that the traverse was going to have to take place on steep snow. Since we didn't bring ice axes (we were only expecting a hike at modest elevation in August, after all!), we decided the edge of the lake would be our turn around point this day. Since the midges hadn't left us, our downward progress was significantly spurred on, and we got back to the cars rather earlier than I had expected, hoping to spend some time in a beautiful place with special people. Sigh. Maybe next year the snows will melt like they have in the past, and the high country will open up a little more and a little earlier. I've missed it this year.