Sam Hooke

Talapus Lake

All trips at this location:

Normally we like to start hiking bright and early, but today we went on an afternoon hike with friends.

After turning off the I-90, the drive up FR 9030 was pretty hairy. It’s a gravel road, with sharp blind bends, and at some points it’s rather narrow with a steep drop to the side through dense forest. By itself this wouldn’t have been an issue, but we weren’t the only people driving here. We were caught in a perfect storm between the morning hikers, who had got those precious spaces at the trailhead but were now trying to drive home; the midday hikers, who had found the trailhead car park full and opted to park in various places on the side of the narrow road; and the hopeful afternoon hikers (us included) who were playing slow motion dodgems on the side of a mountain.

We crept around a blind bend, then had to reverse a little way to let a morning hiker car leave. So far, so good. Then we breathed in while passing a row of parked midday hiker cars to our left, with a steep drop to our right, only to meet a line of several of morning hiker cars attempting to come down. With a tail of afternoon hiker cars behind us, and no room to go past the parked cars, we were at an impasse.

Noticing the queue of afternoon hiker cars, the morning hiker cars began to reverse a little, trying to find places to stop where the road was wide enough for another car to pass. This looked promising, since there were fewer cars trying to get down the mountain than go up, and it soon began to look like there would be a way out of this gridlock. But the plan came to a halt as the nearest morning hiker car seemingly lacked a reverse gear. It remained stationary, occasionally inching forward, even though there was no space to pass, and a gap had opened up behind. A couple minutes passed.

The queue of afternoon hiker cars behind stretched back a dozen or so, vanishing out of view around the blind bend. But there was now a gap in the parked cars near behind us. If we could perhaps shuffle a little closer to the edge, the morning hiker car might be able to scrape past and wait there a minute. We already felt very near to the edge, but there was about a tyre’s width we could move further out, so we crept very carefully forward and to the right, trusting that the gravel would not give way. On cue, the morning hiker car straight in front began inching forward. At a snail’s pace we began to pass, keeping an eye on other cars and on the drop. Fortunately the ground held, and the road widened ever so slightly as we progressed up.

The car behind us did likewise, very cautiously, and after a couple of minutes the morning hiker car was finally able to tuck in to the space, leaving a sensible room for all the other afternoon hiker cars to pass by. We carried on up, and a minute later were at the trailhead car park. There were almost a dozen spaces, so most of those who had persisted on heading up were able to find a spot.

It was like a lumpy ice rink. The ground was frozen solid, slippery and gravelly. We immediately put Yaktrax, which helped immensely. Finally, at 1:30pm, we were able to begin the hike.

Going up was slow progress. Similar to the drive, there were many hikers coming down, and the path was narrow so we regularly pulled aside. After the initial series of switchbacks however it levels out, and the path widens, making for much more easy going. The depth of snow increased as we ascended, until we reached Talapus Lake itself, which was completely frozen over. It made for a point to pause and enjoy the view.

Ideally we would have liked to continue on to Olallie Lake, but the sun was getting low, and we wanted to avoid a hike back in the dark.

The journey back down was much easier going, since by this point no one was going up the mountain. It reached dusk as we got back to the trailhead, and by now there were plenty of spaces.

All in all this was an enjoyable hike, but I definitely much prefer being an early morning hiker and beating the crowds.

We returned 1.5 years later in summer so that we could go further and reach Olallie Lake.

All trips at this location: