Sunday, July 26, 2009
Mt Rainier adventure
Despite a few communication hiccups today, we had a fantastic trip to Mt. Rainier. We were making up for a trip we tried to take there a couple years ago when the fog was so thick we couldn't see three feet in front of us. Today was a gorgeous, sunny day, rather hot in the mid-nineties. We had made plans to go hiking with my friend Laura and her boyfriend Chris, but somehow had communication errors about where we were meeting, and with no cell service on the mountain, we ended up hiking it separately because we never found each other.
We began the hike on the "Sunrise" side of the trail (Eastside). We had the lovely trail almost to ourselves. We spent about two hours wandering through the blooming wildflowers, which smelled incredible-- the air was permeated with a sweet honeysuckle scent. We hiked down to a glacier-fed lake, through trees and across snow. The only negative to the East side was the prolific mosquitoes, which would swarm if we stopped moving for any length of time (I woke up this morning with 22 mosquito bites!). Marc said they were like tiny personal trainers-- pushing us to keep going to avoid getting bitten. I had meant to bring repellent, but decided at the last minute not to bring it-- decisions made before 6 in the morning are seldom good ones! It was a very romantic hike-- the relative solitude, beautiful scenery and a lovely breeze. After our magical hike, we sat near the visitors center and ate our lunch-- hummus and gluten-free crackers for me, PB&J for Marc, with carrots and cherries shared between us. We next set out to drive to the West side of the mountain, to hike the very popular "Paradise" trail. The main road was closed, and we had to go more than 20 miles out of the way to go around. When we finally arrived at Paradise, it was incredibly crowded-- we were lucky to get a parking space, and the space we did get was about a mile from the trail head.
Paradise was lovely of course, but after our near perfect hike at Sunrise, it seemed contrived. The paths at Paradise are all either paved or gravel, with steps on much of the steep portions and the edges between the paths and the wildflowers are very carefully manicured. This combined with the sheer volume of people there made it feel more like a Swiss Alps theme park to me than a real mountain. Not that some of the hikes there weren't steep or a good workout, but it was annoying having to fight "traffic" going up and down the paths. We did find a less popular and less manicured trail on our way back to the car past some waterfalls which was fabulous-- but much of Paradise seemed very surreal.
We did see a few creatures-- a chipmunk very unafraid of people, and a hoary Marmot that was happy to hold still and pose while I struggled with the camera focus. (We didn't know what it was called at that time and dubbed it a mountain bunny.) I also loved the funny flowers shown in the top picture above-- they looked to me like alpine dandelions, (or alpindelions as we named them-- we like to give names to things.)
We left the house yesterday morning at 6:30am, and returned just before 9pm-- tired, hungry and absolutely filthy (the dust we kicked up stuck to the sunscreen we applied when we got there). It was definitely worth the long drive and tired muscles.