Just Another Day Trip to Mt. Rainier, at Mowich Lake

We’ve visited Mt. Rainier more times this year than any other that I can remember. Maybe we’re finally taking full advantage of not working? (Okay, we’re retired, though I don’t like that word.)  Or maybe it finally dawned on us how very close and accessible that wonderful Mountain is?  Today we got off to a late start and when we arrived in Enumclaw, we learned the route ahead on Highway 410 was closed. No matter. We put Plan B into effect and headed south on State Route 165 to the less frequented Northwest corner of the Park.  Into the wilderness and onto a gravelly, pitted road we went (oh yes it was) towards Mowich Lake. The views of the mountain were worth it.

After 11 miles of a bumpy, dusty, ride, we entered the National Park without any fanfare, save a self-service box for the entry fee, and a sign that told us we were in for a rough ride up the gravel road. (Yeah, we noticed; next time we’ll bring the truck.)  Dusty cars lined the side of the road the last two miles, and we realized just how popular the area was to the locals. Still we carried on and arrived at Mowich Lake (el. 4,929 ft.), where my husband kindly dropped me off while he went to park the car, his first hike of the day.

Notwithstanding the number of cars, peace could still be found in secluded spots next to the pristine lake, the largest and deepest in the National Park.  The temperature was in the nineties so the smart ones were swimming or boating in the lake.

The trails in the area are part of the Wonderland Trail that encircles the base of the mountain for 93 miles.  We saw a few well equipped hikers on the trail hiking 12 to 15 miles a day (sturdy young men with large backpacks, strong legs and determination), but mostly we saw day hikers like ourselves opting for shorter hikes, including families with children.

We stopped to eat our snack in a shady spot on the lake, before taking the hike to Ipsut Pass, which followed the lake through the woods, providing great views of the Mountain, before turning away and gaining some elevation.

On the trail up to the Pass we encountered many hikers coming down, mostly from Eunice Lake which was further than we intended to go.

‘How much farther?’ we would ask and always got the same general answer.  Eunice Lake and Tolmie Peak were a couple of grueling miles further but well worth it (though not to us.)  Ipsut Pass being half as far, was ‘just a little bit further’, ‘maybe 3 more switchbacks ahead’ and the trail was ‘not too steep’ though ‘rocky and rooty,’ a description I rather enjoyed. I suggested to my husband that we stop asking ‘how much farther’ as it only disappointed us when the estimates proved inaccurate.

Still, the camaraderie with other hikers is what makes hiking fun and that was the easiest thing to say to one another.  One family coming down had two little girls, covered with dirt from the dusty trail, no more than five years of age, and cute as can be. They had come from Eunice Lake.

“How much further?” one of them asked us.

“You have a way to go to the bottom,” I replied having already learned the disappointment of bad estimates, “and actually we were going to ask you that very question!”

While we were chatting, she glanced at my watch and her eyes lit up as she exclaimed, “Oh what a beautiful watch!  A blue watch!  Blue is my favorite color!”

Charmed by her exuberance, I was almost tempted to give her the (cheap) watch.  She surely appreciated it more than I did.

As they moved on down the trail she hollered back to me, “I love your necklace!” and I had to laugh.

We continued on under the shade and cover of the woods, though one short section sent us into the brilliant sunshine and onto a ledge with craggy rocks above, where the trail overlooked the valley below.

Shortly afterwards we passed the cutoff to Eunice Lake, and arrived at Ipsut Pass,   a rocky area which dropped sharply below us where the Wonderland Trail continued on.

After a quick visit with a couple of backpackers who were taking the pass down to the Yellowstone Cliffs for the night, we headed back finding the way much faster and easier than coming up.

Back to the car and down the dusty, bumpy road we went, but not without a stop for another view and photo of the Mountain.

The long summer drought shows on her.  But it won’t be long until winter will return and the mountain will be covered with snow once again.

Looking forward to it.

~ Susanne

Wonderful Whidbey Island

Forgive me in advance for overdoing it with the ‘W’s, but we had a Wonderful visit to Whidbey Island on Wednesday this Week!  Since my husband and I are no longer working (I don’t like the “r” word; retired sounds old, even to me) we like to take mid-week excursions and avoid the crowds and traffic.  This week we opted for a day trip to Whidbey Island, an hour or so north of Seattle.

On the way we stopped by Anacortes, an unassuming working town on Fidalgo Island, known mainly as the gateway to the San Juan Islands.

From Fidalgo Island we crossed over to Whidbey Island at Deception Pass. The view from above is amazing but neither of us had the courage to cross the bridge on foot.  With the skinny walkway and at 181 feet, it’s too high up for us!

On the other side, we stopped by Deception Pass State Park, the most visited state park in Washington, complete with campgrounds, beaches, lakes, hikes, and views of the bridge.

Then it was on to the charming town of Coupeville, first laid out in the 1850’s and part of Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve.

In downtown Coupeville, Penn Cove has great views of the floating Mt. Baker to the north.

The next stop was Fort Casey.  According to the Washington State Parks website: “Constructed in the late 1800s, Fort Casey was equipped for defense and used as a training facility up to the mid-1940s. The fort houses a pair of rare 10-inch disappearing guns. While the guns were the height of technology in the early 1900s, improvements in warships and the advent of airplanes soon rendered them obsolete.”

A boy’s playground, no?

We left the fort as the cloudy sky was preparing for sunset.

We headed toward Clinton on the southern end of the island where we took the ferry to Mukilteo, for dinner and home, just as the sun was setting.

A wonderful Wednesday trip!

~  Susanne

Snoqualmie Close Up

We took a day trip yesterday to one of our favorite local attractions: Snoqualmie Falls.

Up the road we found the river flowing deep and wide, silently through the little town of Carnation.

We stopped at Tolt MacDonald Park where the foot bridge is the best place to watch the river flow and also frames the farmland and Cascade Mountains nearby.

~  Susanne

Mt Rainier Up Close and Personal

Did you know there is a Paradise on earth?  Well yes, there is!  And it can be found at Mt Rainier National Park!

After being teased by beautiful local views of the mountain we decide to take the drive to the National Park for an up close and personal look at Mt. Rainier.  No, not for the first time, but for the first time this year.  A sunny day is promised and the roads are clear.

We arrive at the south entrance to the Park at Longmire, and after lunch at the historic National Park Inn, take the drive up to the Paradise Visitor center.

Mt Rainier National Park was established in 1899 and was the fifth U.S. National Park.  It was the first to be designed from a master plan to include entrance arches, rustic buildings, scenic lookouts, trails and visitor centers, becoming a pattern for National Parks to follow. We stop at many viewpoints and waterfalls on our way to Paradise.

Near the top we spot a red fox by the side of the road who wisely climbs the snow bank to safer ground.

We arrive at the Visitor Center at 5,400 feet and enjoy close-ups of the 14,410 foot volcano, the second highest mountain in the continental U.S.  It is also one of the snowiest places on earth.

It is from Paradise that climbers make their way to Camp Muir at 10,188 feet so they can rise under the darkness of night for the climb to the top. Over 10,000 people a year attempt the climb and almost half as many make it.  With binoculars, you can already see climbers making their way up to Camp Muir. Others are content to play in the snow a little closer to the ground.

After our visit we head back down for a short hike at Longmire in an area where meadows meet the forest. We take the boardwalk through hot springs, skunk cabbage and fragrant woods.

Under the tree canopy I tell Bob to look for the buried treasure ahead.   ‘X marks the spot’ I say, but he walks on by.

We complete the loop, following the trail into golden meadows where more views of Mt. Rainier await,

until we are finally back to where we started.

On the drive home we pass by the Recycled Spirits of Iron Sculpture Park near the small town of Elbe.  For just a donation you can walk among the unusual sculptures created by artist Dan Klennert which we did,

finishing up with a song.

And so after a wonderful day under sunny skies at the most beautiful mountain in America we head back home, once again counting our blessings that we live in such an amazing part of the world.

~  Susanne

A Daytrip to Lincoln Park and Alki Beach

We finally got the rain free day we were waiting for and decide to spend it on a trip to Lincoln Park and Alki Beach in West Seattle.

After a short drive we arrive at the park and hike a lovely trail through some patches of old growth forest to the bluff overlooking Puget Sound.

A slight wind is blowing as we descend to the beach below where it is crisp and cold,  and the Olympic Mountains are seen in their full glory. The fresh air and saltwater do us good!

On our return through the park we come across this giant and stately maple tree.

Then it’s onward to Alki Beach where the first group of white settlers landed and founded the City of Seattle in 1851.

We stop to eat at nearby Spud’s Fish and Chips for the best fish and chips in Seattle.  Founded in 1935 it’s also Seattle’s oldest fast food restaurant.  On it’s walls are pictures of early Seattle history including Luna Park, considered the Coney Island of the West, which operated at Alki Beach from 1907 – 1913.

I was pleased to see photographs taken by O.T. Frasch, an early Seattle photographer who also happens to be my great grandfather.  (Maybe that’s where I get my interest in photography?)

After lunch we move on for views of Seattle’s skyline, starting with a sneak peak at the Space Needle and the Cascades behind.

Speaking of mountains, in addition to the Olympics and Cascades we also find nice views of Mt Baker to the north;  while Mt Rainier can be seen blending into the milky sky to the south.

This outing should tide us over until the next rain free day which according to the current weather forecast may be a week out.

Such is life in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

~  Susanne