Sunday, September 16, 2012

Camping in Mt. Rainier

Catherine was good enough to let me go camping in Mt. Rainier on very little notice this weekend - which meant she had to watch the kids (thank you, Catherine!!!).

I planned a quick trip up to Indian Henry's Hunting Ground on the western slope of Mt. Rainier. It involved a lot of climbing, almost 3000 feet of vertical in two long climbs. When I got there, the improved campgrounds were already reserved, but I was able to snag some off-trail "accommodations". Basically I had to climb up to Indian Henry's, then walk another mile up to Mirror Lake, and then another mile past that to a nice little place between Copper Mountain and Pyramid Mountain.

Totally worth it!

I set up my camp a decent ways off the trail, and after the last climbing party passed on their way back down about 3 pm, I didn't see another soul in that valley. It wasn't exactly silent though, as the glaciers on Mt. Rainier were on the move. I could hear the cracking and popping of the glaciers, as well as the waterfalls streaming off the mountain.

After setting up camp, I walked the mile or so back to mirror lakes where I made my dinner and set up my camera to wait for sunset. I had a couple of hours to wait there, and saw a couple of people passing through, but basically had the place to myself. Once the sun started to set, I got to see an amazing show of colors.

I hustled back to my campsite before it was completely dark, and settled in for a very lonely, very remote night in the deep backwoods of Rainier. Sunday morning I awoke quite early and walked around my little valley looking for some nice photos. I don't know that I succeeded, but the photo below is nice enough. My campsite was in the far left, probably about a quarter mile or so just out of frame.

I hit the trail at 8 sharp, and got back to my car at about 11:45, somewhere between 8 and 9 miles, what felt like all down hill. It was good to get home, and now both kids want to go camping with me. I'll find something a bit more tame!

Have a wonderful day everybody. Cheers,


Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day Weekend Fun!

I'd seen some photos of Mt. Rainier and the wildflower bloom that made me want have to go there. So I packed up Catherine and the kids and we drove to Paradise, which is aptly named at this time of year. There are a boatload of trails around the Paradise Visitor Center, but we chose the Deadhorse Creek Trail to the Skyline Trail.

The sights and the scents were sublime! There was more color here than what I had experienced at the Hurricane Ridge area of the Olympic National Park, but that was because I went before the peak of color. We (that's the royal "We") decided to hike up to the Panoramic Point from Paradise. It gained a lot more vertical than I had anticipated, but everyone hiked like a champ.

The trail got quite steep at a couple of points, with sheer drop offs to one side. This guy, below, was climbing up to his girlfriend. The photo was taken at one of those steep-trail points. It looks a lot worse than it actually was, but had he fallen it would have really ruined his day.

We eventually made it to Panoramic Point, but the Skyline Trail we were following had a sign warning of ice and steep trail conditions. So we had to climb some more to the High Skyline Trail to avoid the snow field. The photo below is from us finally starting our descent, however that wall of snow is not the snowfield we were avoiding.

We saw some folks sliding on their bottoms since our trail overlooked the Skyline Trail. It would have been fun, but just for me. The high trail eventually met up with the low trail, but the going was still fairly steep. Below you can see the kids with the Tatoosh Mountains in the immediate distance and Mt. Adams in the far distance.

At one point, I took a different trail so I could go see the wildflower show on Mazama Ridge, which added a solid 3-4 miles to my trip. Since everyone was good and tired, it was a good choice to separate here. The photo below is one of my favorites from Mazama Ridge looking south towards the Tatoosh Mountains. Since the Skyline Trail was soooooo crowded, this trail was awesome. Once I turned off, I literally never saw another human until a quarter mile from the parking lot. That was nice, except for when I encountered a bear. Luckily, I scared that one off too!

Not far from the photo above, I turned around and took this photo of Mt. Rainier with a bunch of wildflowers in the foreground.

All in all, it was a long but glorious day. Not a bad way to put summer to bed! Enjoy your Labor Day everyone, we are. Cheers,