Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Skyline Trail Rainier National Park

This post has been a long time coming. I've uploaded the pictures twice. The first time I closed out of the page without saving. The second time I got busy and forgot to save again. This will be a photo dump of epic proportions. This was our big hike in Rainier NP, Skyline Trail. A 5 mile loop that took us almost 7 hours. But man, it was so much fun!

Here I am, bright-eyed and ready for a hike at 7 AM. With beautiful MT Rainier right behind me.

Here was the first snow field, just 1/4 mile up the trail. 

And a baby freaking marmot! It just trotted across the trail in front of us.

There were marmots everywhere. And apparently, these guys are territorial. These two were fighting for a good 10 minutes before one ran off. We decided they were fighting. It's hard to tell with marmots. They squeak and roll around, and they're so fluffy...it's just a bunch of cute.

It was the perfect day for hiking to this elevation. Despite the wildfires in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. We could see Mt. St. Helens which fueled our desire to visit it the next day!

We could also see Mt. Adams as well. 

Ok, so this crazy snow bridge was the bane of the hike. It was a one foot in front of the other steep climb, and huge steps over cutouts that had worn away. It's hard to see those in this picture, but the last step was over three feet across with a 75 foot snowy drop below if I didn't make it.
The first and second picture give an idea of how high we were up on this snow bridge...can you see the guy in red in the second picture. It was a scary section. By this point I knew I had to finish the loop because I was not going to go back through this snow bridge.

In this picture we had a trifecta of peaks. Adams, Hood and Helens. You'd have to zoom in to see Hood. But it was there. 

Us at Panorama Point.

Here is us being goofy at the highest point in the trail. The closest I've ever been to Mt. Rainier. Just about half way up!

On the back side of the trail we started to encounter huge snow fields. You couldn't see the trail because it was covered under tons of snow. We followed the well stepped in paths of other hikers. And eventually I glissaded down one slope on my butt.

The snow fields were so big that eventually we started running them. I was walking through them at such a slow pace. So we held hand, with a hiking pole in my left and a hiking pole in Andrew's right and we literally ran down the snow fields. At one point Andrew described our descent as a frolic and I had to stop moving I was laughing so hard. That sure did get the blood going and the adrenaline pumping. After our running we were hiking on a natural endorphin high. 

Eventually we made it back to the beginning and stopped at Myrtle falls, which was very busy because it's only 1/4 mile from the visitors center. 

I have compiled what I think is a hilarious set of pictures. When we were maybe 1/2 mile from the start of the trail we looked back down the valley at the bridge over the Nisqually river and noticed how tiny it was. Then on our way back to camp, from the bridge we took a picture of where were hiking. The arrows point to our different locations. Kind of fun. : )

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bench and Snow Lakes Trail Mount Rainier National Park

On our second trip to Rainier, we had the afternoon for an easy hike in mind for the beautiful afternoon we had. So we chose Bench and Snow Lakes trail, a relatively easy 2 mile hike back to some amazing, crystal clear and freezing cold lakes!
The hike starts uphill (with stairs). Man, I hate stairs...As soon as you clear the first patch of forest you can turn around to the amazing view of Mount Rainier. Plus, the added bonus of Bear Grass in the meadow.

Bench lake was pretty, but Snow lake was gorgeous! It had the snowy mountains along side it and the water was so clear and blue. So wonderful!

You get to a point on this trail where the maintenance ends. It's not that bad afterwards, just a bit more climbing over rocks. 

See? Rocks.

Wandering a little more down the (unmaintained) trail means you're rewarded with a nice little waterfall and no people. At least not while we were there. As we left, of course, a sizeable group was heading to where we had been hanging out. 

Andrew filled up our filter bag with deliciously cold water and we sprawled out on a flat rock and chilled. Hermit thrushes were singing in the woods, you could hear the waterfall in the distance and nothing else except our breathing. It's those moments I love when we go hiking. It's not the trudging to the destination. It is those in-between moments where we stop and absorb the world around us.

And this was a wonderful place to have an in-between moment.

If you are in Rainier and are looking for a hike that relatively easy (lots of stairs like I said), this is a good idea. Go find the in-between!