Monday, September 13, 2010 Sunny all day!!!! 65 degrees
Mount Rainier is one of the highest mountains in the Lower 48 at 14,441 feet. It has more glaciers than any other single mountain in the Lower 48, and today it was showing off. It was not creating its own weather which means no clouds, no fog, and no snow or rain which is very unusual for a mountain of this height. Rainer's white-capped summit sparkled all day in the bright sunshine. It was mesmerizing. It may have seemed all that more impressive because the mountains around its base are heavily forested so the contrast is that much greater.
We drove to the Sunrise Visitor Center (which closed today) located at the highest point in the park that is accessible by car. We spent the entire morning hiking. The Sunrise Trail led us to a point where we could see the Cascade Mountains to the north and Mt. Rainier filling the horizon to the south. That trail connected to the Sourdough Ridge Trail which looked down into a valley with glacial streams meandering through it.
We decided to continue along that trail to Frozen Lake. It seemed much further than indicated on the map, and when we finally reached the lake, we were unimpressed. It looked like a farm pond. But that didn't diminish the value of the hike since along the way, we could look down on Shadow Lake which was reflecting trees and sky on its surface, and we were face-to-face with Mt. Rainier. It can't get any more impressive than that.
In the afternoon we went south to the Ohanapecosh Visitor Center. The contrast between these two sections of the park is phenomenal. While the Sunrise section is alpine-meadow, this section is a very damp and forested area. This center was open, and we studied a relief map that identified all the glaciers on Mt. Rainier. There were also displays of the animals and trees that are indigenous to that part of the park.
We grabbed another trail map and headed out. The Hot Springs Nature Trail was an interpretive trail, identifying plants along the path, and as it name suggests, it led to warm springs that bubbled up out of nowhere. We decided---not too wisely---to continue on to the Silver Falls Trail. This wound along a stream and on through the forest. By this time it was late afternoon, and we were very tired. We plugged along and were rewarded with a waterfall that fell multiple times, tumbling over rocks and flowing around fallen logs. A nice reward for the effort.
Tomorrow we plan to visit the Paradise and Longmire sections of the park.
TODAY'S ROUTE: from Buckley, WA 410 to WA 123 to US 12 in Packwood