We headed to the mountain today. Mount Rainier. Sunrise side. The road to Sunrise is only open a few short months a year (approximately July through Labor Day). It takes us about as long to get to Sunrise as it does to Paradise. And, we don’t go to Paradise in the summer. Why?
Ummm…have you been to Paradise in the summer? It is a touristy nightmare. The parking lot often fills by morning. The popular trails are packed with people in flipflops who appear to be unfamiliar with (or don’t care about) basic hiking etiquette. They think nothing of tromping off-trail to take photos or gape, completely oblivious to the delicate meadows they’re crushing beneath their feet. Frankly, Paradise in the summer pisses me off.
Anywho, during summer months we head to less-traveled locations within the park. Sunrise, while busy, is much quieter than Paradise and offers many a trail that allows us to get away from people.
Today we selected an embarrassingly short hike (3.5 miles) in order to accommodate the ongoing saga that is the knees. Sigh. Stupid knees.
I am happy to report that we ended up doing well over 5 miles and, though they chirped at me towards the end, they were tolerable. Now, that 5 miles had negligible gain, but I’ll take it. As we drove down from the mountain I told the husband that I’d rather be able to get out and do just a few miles than not be able to get out at all. That being said, some of our favorite summer hikes appear unattainable this year. And, yet, as we were out today we began discussing the possibility of training to summit Mt. St. Helens. That would be an amazing thing.
Now, you may be wondering if I would consider summiting Mt Rainier, given my obvious obsession with her. In a word? No. As I told the husband: there are crevasses. There are ice fields. And it’s a really tall mountain. Did I mention the crevasses? No. I have no desire to summit Rainier. I’m happy to admire, love and adore her from many a trail, not curse her as I struggle up her slopes.
The weather threatened to be sketchy today; and we did hit some light rain and fog on the drive up. But, once we hit the trail the clouds largely pulled back and the sun shone brightly on our shoulders. It’s still a bit early for wildflowers at that elevation (6000 feet). There were a few glacier lilies in bloom (and blankets of buds). A smattering of paintbrush. The pasqueflowers were starting to bloom. There was lots of phlox along the gravely trail. In a couple of weeks it’s going to be wildflowerpalooza up there. My favorite kind of palooza.
We did a 3.5 mile loop that took us past a beautiful little lake and kept us captivated with gorgeous views of the mountain. We returned to the main parking lot and followed signs to a picnic area. We felt spoiled sitting at a table with a view of the mountain as our normal trail lunches involve pulling up a rock. Not that we mind.
After lunch the knees were still feeling good so we climbed up a small hill and walked along a ridge line (with breathtaking views of her) before dropping back down and calling it a day. We agreed that a good day is a day with packs on our back.