Yep, 80% Lake Serene. I got schooled yesterday – got a big ol’ in-your-face reminder that I probably still have a White Belt in hiking. Well, no, I’m not a total novice…right? I don’t remember what the next belt level is up from that. Hmmmm.
J and I were sooooo excited to get a change of scenery and get in a hike on this holiday weekend! We’ve both been working so hard – weekends too sometimes. And this is that time of year in the Seattle area where you hold on for dear life to summer and you cherish each and every single sunny day. Now, normally September (and even parts of October sort of) are dry and sunny, but starting today (Labor Day) the forecast for the rest of the week doesn’t look too good.
When we were talking about what to do I suddenly remembered a hike I did with a former co-worker about 10 or 11 years ago: Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls. So, that was our plan! J had never been on that hike before and I told him how cool it is, because Lake Serene just suddenly pops up at the end of the trail. I’ve never seen anything like it! And it’s so worth it. I told him how, yeah, there’s a bit of a climb at the end but the lake is stunning!
So, yesterday we hit the road and headed east on Highway 2. We stopped for a late breakfast at a little café in Gold Bar. And we’d packed some snacks for lunch and some water. The turnoff for the trailhead is on Mount Index Road, about 7 miles east of Gold Bar, and it’s very clearly marked. We were absolutely surprised to find a parking spot in the early afternoon, especially on a holiday weekend!
This hike is just over 7 miles round trip. There’s a cool fork in the trail after a little ways where you can peel off for a half mile and go get up close with Bridal Veil Falls (and cool off!) or you can just stay on the main trail to Lake Serene, which was another two miles away. We decided to just get to Lake Serene first. And the trail does not disappoint. Check out that pic up top of the gorgeous rock wall and falls trickling down. I don’t know what kind of rock that is, but I just can’t get enough of that rich, charcoal grey color! We’re hiking up Mount Index here!
The first part of the trail climbs, but it’s mostly dirt with a few rocks and some muddy places and isn’t too difficult. Once you cross the huge wooden bridge over the falls runoff it starts getting interesting.
As in ‘steep, rocky switchbacks’ interesting. Picture this shot at right but with a much steeper angle uphill. That’s what the rest of the trek is up to the lake, and there are a few places where they put stairs in the trail. In fact, it’s a 2000-foot elevation gain in about 3.5 miles! YOW. Lots of heavy breathing on this trail, including the adorable dogs we saw along the way. And a couple of whining moaning kids too. We were expecting it to be super crowded but amazingly it was not! And the weather was perfect – 80 degrees and sunny.
I took in the wonderful scenery all around. The lush green moss on the trees – some trees tipped over, some reaching tall into the sky. The craggy, rocky pointy peak of Mount Index and so many others jabbing into the sky and the steep drops down below. The beautiful streams which are probably runoffs from glaciers much higher up. I love the sounds of streams gurgling along. It just sounds like…love.
After a few stops to catch our breath and gulp some water we asked people coming back down the trail how far we had to go. “About an hour,” one couple told us. OMG. Another hour of rocky, steep seemingly endless switchbacks…going uphill. The rocks are pretty stable so I never felt unsafe like I was going to trip and fall, but the incline is steep. I pictured the stair climbing machine in the gym and can see where hours working out would make this hike a lot easier.
Then I started to feel a little woozy and light headed. I’d been drinking enough water (I thought)…but I had that feeling just like when J and I went in the steamroom and saunas at the gym. After the steam and sauna I felt faint and it took me awhile to get back to center. Flash forward back to us catching our breath on the trail and I waited for that same lightheadedness to pass. I’m glad I’d felt it once before so I didn’t panic. I just breathed through it. But then I wondered…if I’m already starting to feel a little out of it and we’ve got tons more rocky climbing ahead…am I really up for this? I don’t do enough hiking to feel like taking big risks. I didn’t want to get even more winded and risk getting injured if I was not feeling 100% and not able to pay close attention to each and every step I took up the rocks. And we were going through our water a lot more quickly than we realized. I’d brought a couple liters and J had an extra one already in his pack along with our food. Hmmmm. I told him how excited I was for us to see the lake and all…but also that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if we turned back.
So…he agreed and we did. We knew going down the steep rocky trail would be hard on knees too, and I’m still not 100% healed from the fall I took at work in August. I was relieved he wasn’t upset about turning back at all. In fact, we talked about doing that hike again with better preparation. Things like getting an earlier start in the day (we didn’t get on the trail until about 12:30pm), and bringing a lot more water and food.
I also might rethink what I wear. I wore a sports bra, a tank top and a long-sleeved lightweight Dri-Fit mesh top over that…and my old J. Crew cotton shorts. Dang I have a lot of synthetic workout/hiking clothing which is a much better choice than wearing cotton, but I can’t fit into a lot of it right now (not yet!). And next time I’ll choose a more breathable baseball hat. I’d doused myself both in sunscreen and in bug repellant because I’d read there were a lot of bugs on the trail. How awesome…zero bug problems! The bugs must have been from earlier in the year. And the portion of the trail we did was mostly shady with some sunlight rippling through the trees, so I’ll ditch the long-sleeved top I brought for extra sun protection and just pack it along just in case.
Hiking boots are an absolute MUST on this trail. Just sayin’. What a relief my good ol’ Merrells with Gore-Tex are still trooping along.
And I had to laugh…I seriously blocked out how steep that climb was up to the lake! And then I remembered…the last time I did that hike I was 11 years younger…and 40 lbs. lighter.
Lake Serene, we’re comin’ back!