I intended to tell you about our 4th of July last week. Or maybe the week before. Where is July going and how do I put on the brakes? As I write this I am propped up in the hammock in the backyard in 90 degree weather. Sipping lemonade. Which is quite tasty but would be improved with the addition of gin. Perhaps the next cup. My faith orange companion is laying in the dirt under a tree, occasionally complaining at me. He says he would prefer to be inside in the AC, but he doesn’t want to miss anything. It seems the perfect time to catch up…
We traditionally do not stray far from home on the 4th of July. Primarily because it’s a moving target and is usually on a weekday. I recognize that it is impossible to give the 4th of July a fixed day on the calendar, but it sure would make life easier.
This year the husband suggested a hike. The weather looked promising and I always experience wildflower fever this time of year, so a hike was an easy decision. I scoured the Washington Trails Association website for the “perfect” hike and zeroed in on Glacier Basin, on the Sunrise side of Mount Rainier.
We had no idea what to expect as far as traffic into the park, so we agreed to leave early. Like 6:30 early. Have you ever noticed how easy it is to get up out and the door early when it’s something you want to do versus the ass-dragging that occurs on workdays? Just sayin’. We hit our favorite coffee shop on the way out of town and up the freeway we went.
The two hour drive went swiftly. Turns out there aren’t a lot of people out on 4th of July morning. There were only half dozen cars in front of us at the White River entrance of the park. Though one took an excruciatingly long time. We always toss out the questions we suspect are being asked as we wait in line: “Are there bears in this park?” “Is there a restaurant at the top?” “A gift shop?” “A petting zoo?” “McDonalds?” “Is there cell reception?” Those are the ones that I can share with you.
We zipped out way to the White River Campground, where there was still plenty of parking available. The campground itself was largely empty. Note to self: when retired, go camping in Mt. Rainier National Park from Tuesday through Thursday. We strapped our packs on and headed up the trail.
I chose Glacier Basin for a number of reasons, the obvious being that we’ve not hiked it before. I was also hoping that there would be fewer people on the 4th, as I imagined access to this trail on a typical summer weekend was difficult given it’s proximity to the campground. It was a good decision. I should have bought a lottery ticket.
The trail itself started out wide and relatively flat. The White River was an almost constant companion. I was struck, after having hiked at Mt. St. Helens a couple weekends before, by the sheer amount of water up at Mt. Rainier. We crossed and passed too many streams to count, all of them gorgeous and lush.
A few miles up the trail we took a side trail to view Emmons Glacier and the gorgeous green-blue glacial lake that sits below it. I had hoped to get down to the shores of the lake, but it would have required a bit of mountain-goating, so we determined that I would have to be satisfied with more distant views.
The last mile or so up to Glacier Basin was a steady gain. We had passed quite a jumble of wildflowers on our way up, but I was delighted when we started hitting meadow and glacier lily came into view. Not carpets as we’ve seen before, but enough to make my heart flutter happily.
I failed to mention that the entire hike up was a game of peek-a-boo with the mountain. I love hikes like that. She’s never far away, dipping behind trees and then popping back out an unexpected moments.
We reached the basin and took in the view. Craggy. Gorgeous. The top of Rainier gleaming glacier-blue. The basin below us a tumble of rocks and river. We found a lunch rock, peeled off our packs and dug in. Staring at the snow-covered crags across the way we could pick out climbers. The serious ones. Some undoubtedly headed for the summit, as you can summit Rainier via Emmons Glacier from where we were.
Only 8511 feet from the summit (Rainier stands at 14,411, we were at 5900), we elected to turn around. We packed up our lunch remnants and headed back down the trail. The parking lot had overflowed by the time we got back, though trail traffic remained light. After changing into our flip-flops (is that not the best feeling? Tugging off the hiking boots and putting on the flip-flops) we pulled up a picnic table and celebrated the 4th like any red-blooded American…with an ice-cold Coors Light.
Home by 5:30, we threw some hot dogs on the grill and were laying in front of the TV by 7:30…with our eyes closed. Just another wild 4th of July.