by Melanie and Jim
Earlier this month we visited our son in Washington. (See posts here and here. Please, wear your helmet. Really.) People who live there enjoy outdoor adventures all year long. The mild weather, ocean and other waterways, and the Cascade Mountain range provide lots of opportunities to get out.
We were out a lot, too. One of our primary goals was to hike at Mt. Rainier National Park.
On a day with forecast for clear, mild weather, we headed for the park, entering from the northeast side. This is the entry that goes to the Sunrise Visitor Center. According to the National Park Service, “At an elevation of 6,400 feet, Sunrise is the highest point that can be reached by vehicle at Mount Rainier National Park.”
After checking with a ranger and a very early lunch (might as well carry it in us as on us,) we headed out on a 4-mile loop to Shadow Lake. The first part of the trail heads up a pretty steep incline. To the right of the trail below was a valley with a small lake. Below to the left was the visitor center. The truth is, the first part of the trail was rough. Most of the 900 foot rise in elevation was in the first mile. Going from sea level to over 7,000 feet took its toll in fun. Fortunately once we were at the higher elevation, we had no more problems.
Soon the trail leveled out. You can see in the photo below as we look backward on the trail. In the distance to the right is the visitor center. Click to embiggen the next two for better views.
And this was the payoff. We’re looking to the south and slightly west. You can see the peak of Mt. Rainier on the right, as well as the glacier fields. In the center of the picture you can see the reflection of the small Shadow Lake, which we rounded on the way back out.
And from farther along looking back along the trail:
It seems every time we go out, Jim finds a big tree to stand by and Melanie finds a big rock. Before we turned the “corner” of the loop, Melanie found her rock. We were impressed by the sharpness. (Yes, she always wears a hat outside.)
The marmot seemed to not care about our being nearby. There were several impressive rock strata standing vertically instead of horizontally.
Once we reached Shadow Lake, we encountered a family of casual hikers. They asked if the way we’d come from was the way to the parking lot. (It was much closer to go back the way they came from!) Jim said, “It is. If you just head that way more than a couple of miles, and mostly uphill, you’ll get there.”
Happy hikers — what a beautiful day! We’ll go back again someday. When we do, we may stay overnight a little closer to the park entrance so we have more time to hike and less for driving. If you get the chance to hike there, or in any of our amazing national parks, enjoy!