A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Lake Serene, Cascades

May 24, 2014
Emilie Phillips

We visited Seattle Memorial Day weekend. We had plans to day hike in the nearby mountains. Unfortunately our hosts, George, Maya, and Chris, were ill, so they could not join us, but George provided plenty of guide books and suggestions for where to hike. The Mt Rainier access roads were still substantially under snow. So we picked a trail in the northern Cascades — 7.5 miles up to Lake Serene and back down. The guidebook listed the trail as popular and it sure was. We had to park in the third expansion lot, and the whole hike we were just in front or just behind other groups.

The first part of the hike followed old overgrown roads. The vegetation was clearly different from the east coast. Everything was covered in moss and the primary trees were tall evergreens. The existing trees looked large to me, but there were plenty of even larger stumps from historical logging of old growth forests.

There was a side trail to see Bridal Veil falls dropping out of the lake. We had limited time, so we skipped the detour and merely glimpsed the falls through the trees and heard their far off roar. From there, the trail climbed up the really steep mountainside in an endless series of switchbacks. It looked like the trail was constantly eroding down the hill and being rebuilt. There were flags along the way marked with notes for maintainers — add steps, new barrier, move rock, etc.

Finally the mountainside started leveling off. From what I had read in the guide book, I imagined the mountain was going to roll off into an alpine plateau with an open lake and views around. There was a low overcast, so we could not see all the way to the top of the mountain. Instead, the lake was in a deep cleft in the mountain. We rounded a corner and the trail crossed a small ridge and descended into the pocket for the lake. The mountains formed shear walls on every side of the lake that disappeared up into the clouds. The other thing that happened as soon as we hiked over the ridge was it got cold. The lake was still ice covered and the valley was full of snow. There was no sun, and quite a bit of convective wind. We gave Isaac a bit of a break since he was feeling sick too and then we headed down.

Tyson carried Isaac all the way up, but he still has knee issues, so I carried Isaac all the way back down. The crowds thinned out in the afternoon. The clouds that had been lifting all day finally broke apart enough to let some sunlight through. Unfortunately, by the bottom, Isaac was feeling distinctly sick and even threw up a little, so we just hurried home.