8.5 miles of hiking • 2250' elevation gain •
Another beautiful day for a hike and the thinking was to head over to Mount Lillian and the site of the 2012 Tabletop Fire to see the last hurrah of this year's larches. With sunny skies and a brisk temperatures, we started out from the Ken Wilcox Horse Camp, across from Haney Meadow. Following FR 9712 for a short walk we turned onto the Naneum Meadows Trail and in a brief time the first larches came into view. After a short climb we picked up the Mt. Lillian Trail and headed through a forest once green now burned, wounded watchmen of the woods, blackened and broken, seared and scarred, twisted into monstrous shapes by the merciless flames of a conflagration that will be forgotten in time, standing as best they can as we passed solemnly by. Here and there a patch of forest was spared for no known reason. There was an other worldly coolness in the air as we passed through, as though the denizens of the forest had colluded to lower the temperature in an effort to forget the searing heat of the fire that attempted to destroy their home. After a while we came to a meadow with a viewpoint that looked out on layers of mountains, larches golden in the sun, and even Rainier and Stewart wearing their mantles of white. Onward along a ridge we stood upon Lilian's heights and gazed out on a world alive and colorful, as the forest behind us stood silent in black and ash. Spires of sandstone arrested our views and sparked our imaginations. After a brief detour to climb a nearby knoll, having first paid our respects to the deceased of the woods, we headed back to Lillian and descended down to the base of the sandstone sculptures which we eagerly investigated with eyes, hands, and feet. Like children on a playground, we explored the formations, climbing up and down those we felt brave enough to test our mettle against. We then proceeded down the Mt. Lillian Trail until we came to FR 9712 which we followed for but a few minutes whence we arrived at the Howard Creek Trail which bid us welcome and, following the trail's namesake, we strolled along the often rutted trail through green and gray and black until wecame soon to the Old Ellensburg Trail which led us back to Haney Meadows first alongside a hill in bright sunshine then through a chilled, thinned forest, death displayed alongside life, and a last short road walk to our cars. While hunters were in evidence throughout the area, we met but one during our journey, he admitting that success had thus far eluded him though we, like he, had seen the signs of elk and deer everywhere. Alas, we too were without success for our cameras captured no images of the beasts. Still, it was a memorable trip which left us wondering what it will look like next year.