Shrouded Mt Rainier with Patricia & Bobby 8 August 2008

Mt RainierThe day after Katie & Scott’s wedding, Pat and Bob and I drove the 50 or so miles to Mt. Rainier and camped at White River Campground. We got there around 3:30pm, after getting side-tracked at the ‘mother ship’ REI store!! Wow…what a place, complete with a climbing rock and mountain bike testing trail landscaped with hills, a creek and waterfall, and completely tree-hidden. Bob got his first rain shell, and Pat and I got some cool Mt. Rainier maps. Driving down, we got a few peeks of the mountain through the clouds, which I had not seen since I arrived.

We followed Dad’s teachings, and drove carefully all around the campground, noting which sites we liked, their merits, etc., and then went to pay for the one we chose, only to discover that someone else had reserved it! Dang…we could have checked. So we drove around again , and found a lovely one – actually better than the first, next to a burbling stream we could hear all night and with a huge tent site with soft pine needles. After exploring the area, crossing the wide washed out rocky riverbed on log bridges, Bob and Pat built a lovely fire, and though we had no goodies to cook, we did heat water and enjoy a nice wash before bed. (It was actually funny how much we forgot, I guess thinking that this was just a one-nite trip!…Pat forgot matches [Bob brought his] and her headlamp, I forgot my rain shell hood…) We had borrowed Scott and Katie’s tent – a 5-person, so it was like a penthouse with all the floor room we had. Good thing, cause it drizzled all night, so we were able to avoid the walls and stay dry.

Morning brought the end of the drizzle, so we headed out at about 8:30am, past a crew of about 15 who were preparing to summit in their heavy ice-climbing boots with huge packs and ice axes. We had chosen what I considered an ambitious but very do-able 11-mile circuit along part of the Wonderland Trail (which circumnavigates Rainier) with 2000’ of elevation gain, from the campground at 4300’ to 6300’ along a ridge that would have a spectacular view of the mountain. The first part was very steep, going up and up, and we were good with that, because the downhill looked longer, therefore not so steep. GOING UP

When we got to 6300’ 2.6 miles later, we traversed across to a lovely lake, john, and cabin. While stopping there, Patricia studied the map and discovered that we had another 1000’ feet of climbing to do, before we even got half way!! But heck, we had no reason to rush back, and were having a blast – the view, though cloudy, were wondrous indeed – so green, and flowers carpeting the hillsides. To me it was a cross between the Rockies and New Zealand’s Milfort Track and the Tongariro volcano hike I did. map reading

The scenery changed often, taking us above treeline along a narrow ridge, well before we reached our highest elevation at 7400’. We did in fact cross a small snowfield on a long patch of scree that was 45% of slope…spooky. We had passed and chatted with another group who was impressed with our route up from White River, and they said “Well, you won’t really need the ice ax today!” Had the snowfield been any bigger, or steeper, we would have! As it was, Pat was nervous, and me too, actually.) ice slope

The route back down was beautiful, with very short, steep switchbacks for about 1.5 miles. When we got to the bottom of that trail, meeting the trail the summit team had taken, we said to each other, just a stroll from here, eh? Hah! Little did we know (though we probably could have guessed, from the look of the river by camp) that nature had done quite a job on that section of trail. It was quite fun, taking all the cross-country, cross-river, detours required from the trail being washed out. Amy Marie, we even crossed an area where a tree-slide had covered a snow field – it was cool, and I thought of you for some reason, roughing it in winter in Utah! white river

The 11.6 mile circuit took us about 8 hours, though we didn’t push it at all. When I get back from THIS trip I’m on now, I’ll try to find and upload a map and/or GPS track of our route.) We never saw the mountaintop once, but that is all the more reason to go back. We did get a peek at the ridge we climbed from the visitor’s center we drove to afterwards. Incredibly beautiful country, that!

Here is a link to a map of where we hiked…the Wonderland Trail straight up from the White River Campground to just west of Sunrise, the along the 1st and 2nd Burroughs ridges and back down to travel east along the Glacier Basin Trail.