August 5, 2019
From the ocean to the mountains, the transition is rather close along these coastal states. Our next campsite allowed us to visit Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, and the Columbia River Valley Gorge. Each of these places are unique and worthy of their own time, so I will share with you only about Mt. Rainier on this post.
Mount Rainier is a dormant volcano with an elevation of 14, 411 ft. The most popular hike is the Skyline Trail, though it was listed as strenuous. We passed through creeks, over snow, and across skinny wooden bridges with no sides. We also climbed up boulders; let alone the elevation itself was notable. My son’s step tracker recorded 6.9 miles, 16, 718 steps, and 119 floors climbed when all was said and done. This took us 5-6 hours to complete.
Instead of blindly following the crowd, we heeded the ranger’s advice to hike it counter-clockwise. I am glad we did as it was a more gradual approach to the Panoramic Point at the top. Granted, this was definitely not a walk in the park kind of hike, but I think that information helped us flatlanders. Now we know exactly what the ranger meant when he referred to this trail as a “healthy hike”.
Now that it sounds like I talked most of you out of this hike, let me assure you it was well worth every step of the challenge. The Skyline Trail also provided so much interest along the way to the climatic view at the top. In fact, my family ranked this park even higher than my beloved Glacier National Park.
We adored the scenic mountain meadows with its vibrant, delicate flowers. I felt I was walking through God’s colorful bouquet – red, blue, purple, orange, white, and yellow filled the green mountainside. The backdrop of snowcapped mountains completed the picture with the brilliant blue, sunny sky.
The trail transitioned back and forth between the meadows and fir with pine trees inserted into the mix. Eventually the elevation only afforded meadows as the scenery with perhaps some residual snow still melting away. Finally near the top, the trail was exclusively rock and gravel with glaciers in the backdrop.
A sense of relief existed when we approach the top. It was pretty much all downhill from this point. We looked down at the snow packed lower than us. A class of hikers were being trained in on how to stop a person’s fall. Being all tied together, the first person would fall down and then a chain reaction happened. The rest of the group would plant themselves on the snow as well, stabbing picks into the snow beside them. Behind us, a different hiking group was being escorted up to the base camp so they could reach the summit the next day. Off in the distance, we saw Mt. Adam, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Hood as it was a perfectly clear day.
At this point, I found a nice rock to eat my lunch that my sons graciously carried for us. Meanwhile, the rest of my crew sat lined up munching on some peanuts. A nearby ground squirrel must have been conditioned from the tourists feeding him. He found a little rock between Dad and the boys and hopped right up there between them. From my point of view it looked like the little critter wanted to join my guys in the breath-taking view as they all faced the same direction. He was so bold, he climbed on Joel’s lap and arm as he tried to reach the peanuts in the clear, plastic bag. My men thought it was pretty cute, but I thought he overstepped his animal boundaries.
When we began our descent, we passed by a glacial area. This is the closest I have been to one. The top had a dirty snow look, but the vertical edges had an ice blue tint towards the lower front side. I also saw the sharp ridges from chunks that had broken off. In the mix, the dark boulders and debris popped out of the top. A small waterfall from the melting ice flowed from the glacier down onto the rocky surface below forming creeks that made their way down the mountainside.
At the bottom once again, we spotted a marmot crossing the path. We quietly and slowly approached the critter. He did not seem to care as Joel captured some great shots of this little guy. I walked ahead around a corner and beckoned the guys to catch up to me for what I was witnessing – two marmots chasing around tackling and fighting each other. We captured some video of this event. That was a totally different side to marmots than what I had ever seen before.
Once back at our truck again, we were satisfied, though exhausted, from the healthy hike we partook in. A hot tub and a couple down days sounded like a good plan.
Until we meet again,