26 July 2006, 7:30pm. Lake Eleanor, Mt. Rainier NP.
After Shasta I drove north to Fern's where I spent the weekend lazing about.
Left Fern's the following Monday and spent most of the day at the beautiful downtown Medford public library, online and posting. Headed up to Crater Lake to spend the night. Not much of a sunset or sunrise.
Although it sounds ridiculous, even a year off doesn't give you enough time to do everything. It was already late July and the conditions on Rainier would be worsening the later the season got. So Sisters, Opal Creek, John Day, Mount Hood, the Owyhee, and the Columbia River Gorge all had to be bypassed. Bittersweet. But then, if you cross of everything on your list, what next? Continued north through the rest of Oregon and up to Anne-Marie Davidson's in the south Puget Sound. Picked her up from work and headed into Seattle for dinner with Pomona alums Nate Derby, Ian Dobson, Matt Shelhammer, Geoff Moyer, Heather Hopkins, Becca Shortle, AMKD & I. Also Charles (Nate's partner) and Damon (w/ Becca).
Ten-plus years later: Charles, Ian, (Matt), Damon, Anne-Marie, Heather, Becca, Nate, Me, Geoff. Thanks to Anne-Marie for the photo. Sorry, Matt.
The next day, Wednesday, I headed up to Mount Rainier. A late start after reorganizing. Trail run to Glacier Basin, late afternoon nap, sunset photography at Sunrise. Good wildflowers. Headed down to Paradise on the south side on Thursday and hiked up past Panorama Point. Camped at Cougar Rock. Woke up early Friday morning to get up to Comet Falls while it was still in shadow. Was going to come down after that (hadn't had breakfast) but was convinced by two local hikers to continue on up to Van Trump Park--similar to Paradise, but hike-in. Also went over to Mildred Point, a stunning view of about 10,000' of vertical up the southwest face. Heavy rivers; falls and rockfall audible even from far away. Not enough food or water, though; toasted by the end. Lazed about Cougar Rock campground all afternoon. Sunset from an overlook above the Nisqually River--beautiful underlit clouds to the west. Camped that night. Back to Anne-Marie's on Saturday for a get-together with Gus and Steph, Greta, Becca and Damon, and Fred. Also stayed Sunday; an unexpectedly warm welcome.
The Cowlitz Chimneys from Sunrise
The mountain, taken above Paradise. Two hikers that are crossing the back of the front snowfield provide some scale.
The mountain and wildflowers from Paradise
False Hellebore (one of my favorite subjects)
Upper Comet Falls
Sunset on the Mountain
From email last spring, I wasn't clear if Gus would be interested in climbing Rainier, but both he and Steph are headed down to Weaverville for her to do a pharmacy rotation there. Most of us are on unexpected paths after Pomona/CMC. Had heard from Mike on the drive north that he wouldn't be able to make it up, so plans to climb the mountain are scuttled for this year. Thought I might hike the Wonderland trail instead.
Left late Monday and headed back to Mount Rainier and up to Mowitch Lake. Couldn't find a ranger; spent the night at the walk-in campground there. Found out that the drop is down at the Carbon Glacier entrance, so I headed down there to drop off a food cache. Explored briefly, then headed out around to White River. Picked up a permit. Nap and reading at White River campground--"Return to Wild America". Excellent. Fifty years later, the author revisits a route traced out by Roger Tory Peterson and James Foster looking at wild bird populations in North America. I recommend it. An excellent story that addresses some of the successes and challenges facing contemporary conservation.
Wildflowers near Mowich Lake
The White River
Late start today after sleeping in, final repack, and a missed start. Couldn't get the permit to do the Wonderland effectively, so I was headed out on what is called "the Northern Loop". Briefly on the Wonderland, then north to Berkeley Park. Great wildflowers. Down to Berkeley Camp, then back up to Grand Park. Stunning view of the mountain, but no wildflowers right now. Then a disappointingly long descent through forest to Lake Eleanor. Surrounded by woods.
Delightful solitude, but a chorus of mosquitoes. 9.2 miles with a fairly heavy pack, say upper-fifties. First serious backpack of the year and disappointing. Feeling it. Not used to the weight. As always, have to try lightweight sometime. Some photography of backlit pines and mosses. Think about: Small knife, Big Agnes SL2, lighter tripod, smaller light/headlamp. Mosquito netting!
Lakeshore pines at Eleanor
Lake Eleanor. Yes, those little brown flecks are mosquitoes. It's so nice to be welcomed by the natives.
8:00 here and finally cooling off. It's been hot.
27 June 2006, 5:00pm. White River.
Failure. Didn't check everything before taking off and went to set water iodining last night and found only four tablets remaining. Not nearly enough. Checked the map and found no clear alternatives, so I retreated and came out. I'll resume tomorrow from Mowitch. Stupid. Will bring filter instead.
Mosquitoes were bad last night. Woke up intermittently from the harmonic droning throughout the night.
So instead of an 8-day trip, 4 overnights. Steadily less and less interesting. Rainier to Wonderland to North Loop to overnights. Bleah. After Shasta, I feel like I haven't done anything interesting to justify this summer. What comes next? I can't keep wasting opportunities like this. Frustrating. I should have joined a guided group and gone ahead and done the peak. Conditions were great and I was in shape for it. Damn. Someday, come back and do it right.
Journeys, Paonia, Taos, Santa Fe, Pomona, Santa Cruz, Hudson Valley, Prescott, 4 Corners, Idyllwild. Ten weeks. More? I want to get started. Don't feel like I'm accomplishing anything. Need to start reading, at least. (1) project, (2) experiential, (3) non-fiction, (4) homeschooling, (5) tech. Need to get a calendar and map things out.
Walking back up through Grand Park
Berkeley Park wildflowers and cascade
The White River. Melting off the Inter Glacier and the Winthrop Glacier, this water is cold and fast. Cold, as in two-seconds cold. Your fingers hurt in two seconds of immersion. Upper thirties? Fast: standing by the side of the river, or on the simple log bridge as I am here, you can hear the rocks moving in the water below you.
28 July 2006, 10:00pm. Eagle's Roost Camp.
Late. Just now having dinner (refrieds, rice, cheese). Left White River and drove around through Enumclaw and Buckley (large second artery-clogging breakfast in Buckley) through Wilkeson to Mowitch. In the short hop to Eagle's Roost--just under two miles. Left water iodining (after picking up more in Enumclaw) and ventured up to Spray Falls, maybe an additional half-mile further. Nice, many photographs. Considering the rest of the day, I stayed too long. Back on trail and up the hump to Spray Park.
Amazing. Just amazing. On the edge between alpine and sub-alpine, with gorgeous wildflowers sprinkled amidst dwarf and krumholz pines. Lupine, paintbrush, glacier lilies, phacelia, flowering evergreen pine ground cover. Patches of snow. Clouds flirting with the serrated tops of Mother Mountain; Rainier completely obscured. One phenomenal overlook down to Mist Park, which had vividly lush grasses, tiny ponds and streams, and pines casting distinct shadows--similar to Robert Glenn Ketchum's Wood-Tikchik aerial work in flavor. I'm immensely saddened to think that I didn't get the lens seated properly on the 645, so the exposures are likely all blown. Grrr.
Farther up into the alpine the clouds began descending and thickening, like Idyllwild in early winter. Very much like my imaginings of the Scottish Highlands. Raw, primal, beautiful.
Stayed up far too long, so I had to make a foot-pounding descent back to the campsite to get back before dark. Timed almost perfectly, except that I stopped to make a 2-minute and an 8-minute exposure of a mossy cascade. Made it back to camp at 8:35pm and saw a spot of pink on the (otherwise obscured) horizon and raced over to the lookout, but to no avail. Back to camp by 9:00 to set up the tarp. There are heavy clouds in the sky and I'm not familiar enough with Pacific Northwest weather patterns to judge what's safe. Quite tired.
Along the Spray Park trail
Coming down from the pass, happy to have been up in the alpine
29 July 2006, 7:30pm. Golden Lakes.
Packed up camp and walked out to the car at Mowich. Made hot chocolate (backpacking's manna of the gods) and repacked the car while listening to the radio, then got back on trail. Started at Mowich lake at 4400', then down to the Mowich river crossing at 2500' and right back up the next ridge to the Golden Lakes Camp at 5100'. The net elevation gain is only 700' (trivial), but the gross elevation change is 4500'--urf.
Mostly a green-tunnel day. Minimal long views, mostly up the Mowich river's braided channels. A nice small cascade not far below the trail junction, then a couple of hours just getting the miles in, mostly on autopilot.
Was invited to join lunch at the river by a couple backpacking and their two friends dayhiking with them. A spread of sourdough, ham, hummus, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, chips, watermelon pieces... wow. Lacking the wilderness-solitude aspect, it's evidently my turn to be social because after Zander and * turned back, I kept leapfrogging Sophie and *Mike the rest of the day, then met more people at the camp: John and Joanie Oshinsky and their sons Charlie and Michael and two backpackers, Jeff and Gary, doing the ultralight approach.
Some photos of the lakes in the heavy overcast late-afternoon light. The lakes are shallow and last week's hot temperatures warmed them enough that they're giving off mist in today's colder air. We're on the west side of the mountain, so I had hoped for sunset light, but no luck. The clouds that were descending yesterday have solidified and stuck. Colder, too.
One of the Golden Lakes, near camp
30 July 2006, 8:00pm. Bonney Lake (AMKD's).
Oof. It started raining last night around eleven pm and continued through the night. I guess the good part is that it shows that the tarp works (and significantly better than the department-store tents the Oshinskys were using). I think tarps are the way to go for most people in most conditions short of serious storms. And how many people risk those anyway?
A little rain last night
Backtracked all of yesterday's mileage (but not to Eagle's Roost, obviously). Down to Mowich river, back up. We had a brief respite of sunshine by the river and yard-saled the gear to dry it out. Almost completely successful--the tarp only holds surface water, and that was by far the wettest when packing up this morning. Looking up the river channel, I think there might have been a fresh dusting of snow (!) on one of the cliff faces higher up: there was a delicate filigree that I didn't remember from yesterday's hike in.
Looking up the Mowich; fresh snow may be on the upper left cliff face.
Back into the green tunnel and back into the drizzle. Was generating enough heat with the climb to hold off from the jacket for quite a while, but eventually broke down. Topped out not long after Jeff and Gary, picked up the now-unimportant food cache.
Beautiful at the lake in fog and overcast; mist rising into the cold air.
I waited for the Oshinsky family to come out and cooked them a dinner of couscous, olive oil, chicken, summer sausage pieces, golden raisins, and sunflower seeds (tasty!). It seemed like they hadn't been getting enough food, and I know from experience that that colors your entire outlook. Just trying to shepherd the newbies so they have a good first experience.
After that, I bailed. I had to come out anyway to head around to Sunrise; that meant that I'd be in Buckley and only 20 minutes from Anne-Marie's, so that was an easy choice. Shower, good company, warmth. There was a beautiful rainbow over the Carbon River valley coming down into Wilkeson.
Rainbow over the Carbon Valley
1 August 2006, 7:30am. Mystic Lake Camp.
Okay, so most of the time when the watch goes off at 5:00am you have to pry yourself out of the bag if only to build up good photo karma. But every once in a while, the conditions are so good you have to pull your chin back up and just hope you don't blow it (like Mist Park...). Morning alpenglow, clear skies, the mountain visible, popcorn clouds above.
And this after a gorgeous sunset last night. Wow. Sometimes you roll double sixes and you just have to hope you're ready for that.
A good section early yesterday but shortly dropped back down into the trees for a long descent down towards the Emmons glacier. It's a relatively long one (although not as long as the Carbon) but by the time it gets down below timberline, it's almost entirely covered by rocks. Only at the front face is it visibly ice, where the rocks are falling off... but, understandably, the park service doesn't want you going anywhere near a consistent rain of falling rocks, so the trail is diverted far below. Bummer. Like active lava, the remnant geologist in me wants to get closer.
The Emmons Glacier
Went across an old, relatively open basalt field then back into a short treeĠd section to Mystic Lake Camp. Just before arriving, it clicked that this camp, too, would be below timberline. Beautiful, but I find myself missing the alpine traverses of the Sierra.
Made camp--taking an obnoxiously many iterations to rig the tarp before starting over from scratch--and waited for the others to come in, having hiked across from Mowich. Went up to the lake for sunset. Clouds were flirting with the peak, with an intermediate volcanic ridge, and a night-dark lake below. Gorgeous. Hopefully I got it on film.
Came down, made dinner, slept.
Sunrise on Mount Rainier from Mystic Lake
Morning frost, early August
The ad-hoc collective: Me, Michael, Charlie, Joanie, Gary, Jeff, John. Unless I've got the boys mixed up.