There were several warm, Spring-like days in a row so in addition to the Arboretum walk we also went to the Greenwater Lakes Trail just south of Enumclaw in the southern Cascade Mountains near Mount Rainier. It was a lovely day in an old growth forest with a tumbling river running beside the trail for most of the distance. The pleasant sound of running, gushing water could be heard even in the places where the river was not visible through the trees and brush.
During most years this is not a hike that could be accomplished in the winter as there would be plenty of snow. This year, however, there is very little snow below about 4500 feet (1300 meters) elevation making the Greenwater Lakes accessible in February.
Besides the large sign these smaller trail signs give information about distances and who can use the trail.
This rotting tree stump formed a balancing act
The trees are huge. Trees that fall from storms, bugs, or rot are cut into smaller logs and removed to the trail side.
Along the trail and across the river we saw small waterfalls.
A quiet pool near one of the waterfalls
One of the lakes, below
Fungi growing in a split section of a tree
Another view of one of the two lakes
This trail is dirt covered with a thick layer of needles. That type of surface is about my favorite for comfort as there is plenty of cushion under foot. Yes, there were some muddy places and some rocks and roots too but it is a very good trail. We went up to the second lake and did not try to go any farther. People coming back down told us that the next bridge up was washed out and although it would be possible to climb around and through water that plus the time of day and the additional distance added up to the decision not to continue beyond the second lake. The round trip to the second lake, where we had a picnic lunch sitting on the ground and leaning against rocks, was 5 miles (8 kilometers) with a vertical gain of 400 feet (120 meters). It is classified as an easy hike. This is a beautiful setting; the slope up is gradual with some ups and downs but mostly up making the return trip mostly down.
The river rapids created a wonderful roar all along the route
There are four of these log bridges and one horse bridge that cross the river on the way up to the two lakes.
We saw perhaps the first butterfly of this year, an orange and black Fritillary that returned several times to rest on the warm rocks near where we stopped for lunch. As we began our return trip to the trail head we saw a large white bird some distance away in the lake. Bob thought at first that it was a white goose but upon closer observation we both agreed that the long neck, black eye mask and black beak meant it must be a Trumpeter Swan. Not a common sighting at 3,000 feet (900 meters) but the online birding news indicated that these swans have been seen in several localities in the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately, while we could see it well enough with our eyes neither camera had a strong enough telephoto lens to capture a good shot of the swan.
Sunlight coming through the trees
It was cold, 35° F (1.6° C), when we started out and warmed up to 42° F (5.5° C) by lunch. Some of the long grass in the river shallows had frost rime on it.
We met a couple of emergency room nurses on the trail who were having a day off from work. They took this photo of the two of us standing on the trail by the river.
At this elevation it is still too early for flowers but we did see bunchberry leaves, rattlesnake plantain with last year’s flower remains, wild ginger, miner’s lettuce and other green shoots too small to identify. We met a family visiting from New York State and Bob explained that this is one of those once every ten year winters in the Pacific Northwest that is warmer than usual with very little or no snow. They were not complaining as they had plenty of snow waiting for them once they returned home.