The trailhead parking lot was hot and dusty, almost full of cars, with many parties perparing to hit the trail. But once I got onto the right trail, it did not seem particularly crowded. Or maybe I am just getting used to seeing other people on the trail.
The first part of the trail is really pleasant: cool and green, along the creek, almost flat. But you can see the end of the flat part approaching. After a couple of miles the steep climb to Rachel Lake begins, switchbacking up and up. Finally, and unexpectedly, Rachel Lake appears. There were already a number of parties camped at the lake, as well as parties stopped there for lunch. As soon as I sat down to rest, a cool wind sprang up, prompting me to push on.
The wall beyond, to Rampart Lakes, looks intimidating, but the climb went surprisingly quickly. It certainly helps to pass frequent viewpoints, where you can see the shrinking lake below. Suddenly you are on the ridge above. The trail divides, one going to Lila Lake and the other to Rampart Lakes. I got confused and took a third path along the ridge, leading to thick swarms of mosquitos. It only took me a few minutes to realize this was wrong, and when I got back to the main trail I noticed the sign point to the two lake trails. Thankfully, the mosquitos were gone.
The hike along the ridge is delightful, passing frequent viewpoints, small meadows, and finally reaching the numerous beautiful lakes and islands of Rampart Lakes. There were several parties here too, and I faced the additional challenge of finding a place for my hammock because the trees were getting pretty thin and many of them were stunted. After searching for an hour I set up my hammock, but it was so windy I gave up and kept looking. Finally I found a place that was a little more sheltered that would do.
I had a pleasant dinner, then went to bed. A few hours later I felt light rain on my face. I had been hoping to avoid setting up the fly, since it was still pretty windy, but I got up and set up the fly as best I could in the dark. A while later the rain came in earnest, and I remained dry in my cocoon. It must have lasted only an hour or two, because by morning the wind had dried my fly.
In the morning, I ate breakfast and packed up, but before heading back I wanted to see how much farther the trail went. I followed what I took to be the main trail (it is a little hard to tell) past the last lake, and then up the side of the mountain further. Before long, the trail either disappears, or else heads directly up the steep mountainside, under increasing snow cover. From this vantage point all I could see was steep slopes, heading up and up, so I turned around and descended. Later on I looked at the terrain more closely using Google Earth, and I was traces of a trail higher up, near the top of the ridge. And what a ridge it is: sheer cliffs drop steeply off, with fantastic views.
Next time I must go up to the ridge for the view. I tell myself, even if I had gone on up to the top there would have been nothing to see, because everything was shrouded in clouds. But I am determined to return when there is clear weather to see the view from the top.