Tuesday, July 28, 2009

On The Wings of Raven

On the Wings of Raven

Adventures in Mt. Rainier National Park"

The Ascent was gradual as we climbed the rocky slopes. Looking down made me a bit dizzy, so I focused on the trail ahead. At last we felt we had arrived at our destination, we have been waiting for this for over a month now. The snows have melted away and Mother Earth has given birth to new growth. Broadleaf Lupine and Magenta Paintbrush illuminate the mountainsides, shades of purple, pink and yellow glow under the cobalt blue skies. We arrived at Frozen Lake, with icy blue colors around her shore, we looked up high and the Big Guy smiled down upon us. When I say the Big Guy I am referring to Mt. Rainier, The sleeping giant whose immense girth cradles us as we walk the trail. We are hiking on the Sourdough Ridge Trail on the Sunrise side of the park. This is the South Western edge of Mt. Rainier National Park where 1,000 foot drops ascend down to Glacial Lakes and fields of Wildflowers color the slopes and meadows. When we arrive at Frozen Lake we stop to take in the views around us. Everyone got excited when a Bear was spotted on the slopes of Burroughs Mountain. Plotting along the hillside the Cinnamon colored Black Bear is well known as he is in his older years of life. Soon he fades beyond the ridge and disappears. Here the trail spurs off into four different directions. The trail to Burroughs mountain in the south, The Wonderland Trail which encircles the park heads off in the west where you can continue to Mystic Lake… an optional trail through some snow fields takes you back to Sunrise Village and then to the North the Trail to Mt. Fremont Lookout. We opted for the trail to Mt. Fremont as it reminded us of one of our favorite hakes in Glacier National Park, the Ptarmigan Tunnel. A Narrow Ridge climbs to 7, 104 feet which is comprised mostly of shale and rock. Often the trail seems to disappear as you are walking on the shale. As we ascend we stop to look at the view around us. We are walking on the edge of the world, up to the top of Mt. Fremont where there is a lookout tower. Without notice, suddenly we are swarmed by hundreds of Mosquitoes, buzzing about and attempting to drain our juices. We spray ourselves vigorously with repellent to ward off the pesky beasts that persist to no end. For no reason they are here, except for the possibility of draining us of our precious blood. The air is dry; there is no water to be found anywhere, and not even a spot of shade. Despite the attack we continue to the top, and it was well worth it. Our stay at the top is brief to the increased numbers of those blood thirsty insects, long enough to photograph the views around us and look out at the world. The descent down is quick, and we make another brief stop at Frozen Lake to relax for a bit and admire the aqua blue icy colors of the lake. Along the route back we gaze around us, admiring periwinkle shades of spreading Phlox, the deep blue of the Alpine Lupine, and the sun glow hues of Shrubby Cinquefoil. By far there is no where else that I have been where the Wildflower diversity even matches this. Glorious colors of rosy pinks, yellows and purple are scattered in great abundance across the mountainside. We return to Sunrise village to have some chow before heading back to our campsite at White River. We we arrived back at our campsite, I took time to reflect on the day and feel gratitude for all that nature shares with us.

Day Two:

I awoke early to the bright sunlight shining through my tent. We feasted on breakfast then packed up to set out for another day of exploring. First stop was to be Tipsoo Lake off of Chinook Pass. This small alpine lake is set below Naches peak and surrounded by wildflowers. A short .5 mile hike takes you around the lake to admire the clear reflections of the Big Guy gazes into the glassy water. Again, the meadows are covered in wildflowers making this another gorgeous spot. The lake is an easy stroll, and a nice way to begin the day. More great photographs to be taken and gorgeous sunshine once again. Now it is onward to Ohanapacosh , a beautiful area surrounded by Old Growth Forests and Aqua Blue waterfalls. First stop is the trailhead to Silver Falls. The hike is a casual one, a mile and half to a beautiful waterfall cascading down through aquamarine waters. For awhile we sat by the rocks and just took into the beauty. I sat close to the edge and put my feet in the water which was very refreshing. Apparently awhile back some kayakers decide to go for a plunge ride over the falls, only to be met by Rangers at the end and provided with a pretty hefty fine. So much for foolish people, they pay the price in the end. After the refreshing hike, we continued on to our picnic site. Located amongst the Old Growth Forests of Cedar, Hemlock and firs, we feasted on yummies including some Corn on the Cob. The temperatures were soaring that day and it felt good to just hang out in the shade. After our picnic we began our ride pack to Paradise with a few pit stops along the way. Most of the towns in this Valley are pretty pitiful little places with no character what so ever. We had hoped to find a cool spot to go swimming in the River, yet could not find a pull out that was decent. Nevertheless the day was glorious as the entire trip. From Wildflowers to Rocky Ledges, and cascading rivers it was a breath of fresh air.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Wandering the Wonderland

Wandering The Wonderland

The Wonderland Trail is a 93 mile trail that encircles the entire portion of Mount Rainier National Park. For those in tip top shape the entire trail takes about 9 days to hike. For others whose pace is a bit slower you can take around two weeks. Yesterday, I hiked a whopping 4.5 mile portion of the trail from Narada Falls to Longmire Historic District. I began the hike from the top of Narada falls, a pounding and thrashing waterfall that comes crashing down from the misty mountain top. Perfect for a hot summer day, to stand at the base of the falls and allow the cool mist from the falls to make you feel completely refreshed... After around .2 miles I came to the intersection with the Wonderland Trail that continues on to Historic Longmire. The trail continues to descend somewhat steeply and I encountered a lot of wash out areas where there are uneven parts of the trail. Despite that, the trail is gorgeous through the Old Growth Forest and I had it all to myself. After around ½ mile I noticed a very small baby Fawn near the trail. The little fawn saw me and was frozen as I imagined the mother was foraging below. She was probably under a week old and so adorable. I decided to hide behind a tree so I wouldn't frighten her more and stayed behind the tree for a bit. When I peered out she was gone, so Mom must have come to get her. The sun was glowing through now and again, which made the light in the forest so beautiful and the color apple green. After another ½ mile I finally came to the first river crossing. At first I was a bit intimidated by the bridge to cross the river. Part of it had been washed away and you had to climb up a precarious looking stump to even get on the bridge… since I was hiking by myself I wasn't all to sure whether I wanted to even cross it, however, soon a couple approached and I always believe in safety with numbers. Amazingly it wasn't too bad; I climbed up pretty easily and made it across rather swiftly. The Paradise River continues to flow down another 2.5 miles nod I a good place to perch myself on the rocks for awhile. It was so beautiful and peaceful and for me it is very healing and rejuvenating to be by the water. I sat there for awhile and then I decided to move on.

The trail then continues through the forest , and I then made two more small stream crossings and both bridges were new so that was a breeze. There were still a few patches of snow along the way, however, most of the snow that low has melted away .At the 2 mile mark I came upon another waterfall, affectionately known as Madcap falls. Even though it was a smaller size than Narada it still had an incredible amount of power and the sound of the pounding water was healing to me. There was an overview point and at that point I encountered more hikers. The most I had seen so far. After another couple of hundred yards I came to Carter falls, the final waterfall on the trail. Carter was much higher than Madcap and was breathtaking. I absolutely adore waterfalls, the refreshing mists that shower you are so calming, and definitely allow my mind to drift away. I was starting to see more and more hikers at this point, since the Cougar Rock campground is less than a mile away. Not to worry, soon I would be in my place of solitude once again. After Carter falls you hike down a pretty flat trail and soon come to the junction with the Nisqually River. This River is one of the largest Rivers in the park and has experienced a great deal of damage from storms over the past few years. There are wash outs everywhere and debris floating throughout the river. Since the Nisqually Glacier dumps into this river, is full of Glacial Silt and the color is a grayish brown, and thundering at speeds of light. As I approached the continuing trail, it began to turn into sand and I started to notice people who were attempting to cross the river in spots that they really shouldn't of. Along the way I ran into a really awesome Backcountry Ranger named Kelly. We had a really nice conversation about her job and the area so that was great. After that I crossed the final bridge of the trail , which if you looked down was rather scary. The roaring rapids of the river below were awesome, yet you do not want to fall off that bridge. Again, there were many hikers as the campground is so close. After crossing the river, I climbed up towards the main road and soon it reconnected with the trail that continues another mile and a half to Longmire. Once again I was in solitude and did not see a soul. The trail at this point follows the Nisqually River so there were views the entire way. As I began to approach Longmire I heard sirens coming and soon I saw a couple of ambulances. I was curious if one of those silly people attempting to cross the River at unsafe points had fallen in. Later I found out a woman had fallen on the same trail and broken her ankle. No one knew exactly how, yet it took the crews three hours to get her out. The trail in many sections was only one way, so apparently she was in a precarious area and it was quite a challenge getting her out. I say always been cautious when you are hiking and be aware of where you are walking. As I continued to follow the Nisqually I felt very peaceful. Not a soul in site which is what I wanted. Soon I saw rooftops coming into my view and I knew I was near the Historic Longmire district. So, I hiked a mere five miles of the Wonderland trail, only 89 more to go.

Oh! I forgot to mention that along the way I met this amazing woman. She was carrying quite the load so I thought she was going long distance. As it turned out she was on a conditioning hike. She was 67 years old, and she had a goal of hiking the entire Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trail before she turned 70. So far this year she has hiked over 700 miles. I was in awe of this woman. Determination and spirit keeps pushing her. I really admire people like that and it was very inspiring.

So all in all it was a wonderful day, with beautiful waterfalls, old growth forests, wildlife and interesting people along the way.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Tails of the Marmot

Tails of the Marmot

Marmots, cute and fuzzy they are. Here at Rainier these cute and adorable animals are now out in abundance at least until the end of summer. You might even get lucky and find them posing for you on their favorite rock, standing tall and proud for the photographer. These fuzzy and curious members of the family Rodentia are one of the favorite local residents. They are both comical and bold and seem to not be too afraid of that strange creature driving by in their cars staring at them. They must think that we are pretty odd; stopping to take photos of them while they are munching on their favorite flowers or roots. Marmots are the second largest members of the Rodent family, only Beavers are larger. They are furry with big bushy tails and remind me of miniature Bears. They are so cute and precious, A few nights ago, I was taking a night time stroll on the valley road, if it wasn't paved it would be considered a hike. It loops around to reconnect with the main road, and the scenery along the way is breathtaking. With the wildflowers blooming everywhere it is a gorgeous site. Snow melting away, with green fields of Yellow Glacier Lilies popping out, and the Bright pink of Cliff Penstemon gracing the rocky hillsides. Avalanche lilies and Paintbrush are striking shades of orange, magenta and glistening white, and the sapphire blue skies with still snowcapped peaks make it a phographers dream. Yet, the most adorable character of all, The Horary Marmot makes a stroll along the Loop road a blessing for all. Families of Foxes are beginning to romp about, and my friend the Raven is continuing taking to flight over the mountaintops.

Other curious creatures are the notorius Campground Robber, the Gray Jay who seems to always be close by in hopes of someone's dropped potato chip to appear. Stellar Jays cackling away also in hopes of that stray piece of yummy delight. Please do not feed the Wildlife signs are posted throughout, yet some visitors just do not get it. The results of habituating wildlife are costly for both parties. So at last summer seems to be making an appearance in the high elevations of Alpine Wonder with life out and about everywhere you look.