Hiking To Lillian Lake

It has been several months since my last hike to Lillian Lake. While Blair Lake is the more impressive of the two (sitting as it does on the Continental Divide), the Lillian Lake hike offers some expansive vistas, a chance to cross the upper reaches of Hell Roaring Creek (the furthermost source of the Missouri), and less elevation gain. Thus it was the perfect destination for a hike with friends last week.

The day dawned grey - which meant a cooler hike but flat light for photographs. The intermittent breeze helped, but did not totally remove the overly friendly bugs! Nonetheless, my hiking companions and I started for the mountains determined to enjoy the sights!

Within the first half hour our 'Fearless Leader' (my 10-year-old son) started asking, "What time is it?" It took him asking several times for me to figure out he was very concerned we not miss lunch! Thus, about 1 pm, we settled on a lovely knoll overlooking the upper drainage of Hell Roaring (and catching a nice breeze to keep the hungry bugs at bay).

Fearless Leader and I even posed for our picture. I must say, I think he outdid us all. He was still running by the day's end! In fact, after his bath he informed me he as ready to take another hike - right now. Oh, for a kid's energy!!

Lunch over we started down off the ridge to continue our journey. Our Fearless Leader headed boldly over the steep edge. However, after surveying the scene, even the dogs decided to join the rest of us in taking the gentler slope back to the trail.

About 45 minutes later we reached Lillian Lake. I've always wanted to explore that meadow behind the lake. It didn't happen today. However, we did enjoy watching the birds, soaking in the lovely view, and catching our breath.

Little did my companions know (and I chose to keep them in the dark - no sense in worrying about the inevitable :-), the 'real' fun was just beginning. While we had crossed numerous little creeks - with Josie showing us her impressive dance step at one - Hell Roaring, even at the upper end, was the largest of all. Those logs don't look very wide when you're evaluating their 'bridge-worthiness'!

Perhaps the worst part, however, of a cold stream crossing is knowing you cannot safely drink the water, even from a high mountain stream. Although I had a filter straw in my pack, no one else was able to take advantage of the water's cooling properties. So when we came to the pipe driven deep into a fresh water spring a few yards later, we were all eager to fill our bellies and our bottles.

Refreshed our journey continued downstream toward Hell Roaring Canyon and our vehicle. The view remained amazing - the bugs hungry - the breeze intermittent - and the grey skies relentless.

One more challenge awaited us before the last push to our car. I have noted this before but I still wonder: Why does every other stream crossing of any size warrant a bridge (and even several piddling swampy areas), and this major crossing has nothing - not even a log? Whatever the reason, while the water felt good, walking across the slippery rocks is quite the foot massage! I suspect we all (except our Fearless Leader who scampered across with glee!) might have looked for another way out were this not the shortest way to the car.

But, we made it - and the consensus was a great time had by all. I must admit I love introducing people to my backyard and some good clean healthy fun - Centennial Valley style!

Lady of the Lake


Daniel and Lindsey said...

Hi- I enjoyed your post on Lillian Lake. We're thinking of taking a Girl Scout troop there for a backpacking trip in July. A couple questions -
1) Are there decent areas for pitching a dozen or so tents?
2) We also want to go over to Blair Lake - have you been there and, if so, what are your thoughts on that hike/lake?
3) Finally, you mention mosquitoes frequently in your post. Just how bad are they? Typical bug levels or are they more extreme because of marshy areas, etc?

Lady of the Lake said...

Daniel and Lindsey,

I am glad you found the post on Lillian Lake enjoyable and helpful. Actually I have posted on hiking to Blair Lake as well (see below). To answer your questions:
1) There should be adequate space for pitching a dozen tents around Lillian Lake. While the shoreline is heavily wooded in places, the head and foot of the lake are fairly open.
2) I have been to Blair Lake numerous times. In fact, I'd suggest hiking to Blair Lake and camping there then taking a day hike down to Lillian. However, you can do it either way. The hike from Lillian to Blair has a decent elevation gain (although you can come in to Blair from the Corral Creek Trail and avoid most of the ups and downs which create more elevation gain). (Look at my post on 11/30/2010 for more information and photos from one of my hikes to Blair Lake - If you enlarge the map - second photo - you will see a BLUE line which follows the 'general' location of the Corral Creek Trail. While this trail is no longer maintained and is not 'graded' - thus has a few short steeper spots - it is the route I would recommend you take if you decide to stay at Blair Lake.)
3) Bugs at that elevation are usually just a pest not extreme. In fact, if your hike is scheduled for late July, there is a chance they will be mostly gone (as the nights begin to get cold enough - although not bitter - that they die off). Either way, if you bring adequate amounts of decent bug spray, I do not think they will be too much of a problem.
Feel free to contact me via email through our website if you have further questions.
Lady Of The Lake