Surprised by Rainforest

This week we happened upon the Temperate Rainforest of the Carbon River Valley just inside the remote northwest corner of Mt. Rainier National Park and enjoyed a lovely walk through the woods. Who knew?

Blessed to have all this so close to home!

~  Susanne

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

Late Summer Hike

Sunshine and still summer according to the calendar, but it felt like fall on this recent hike along the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie.  Over the river and through the woods and under the watchful eye of the Cascades we went; a familiar river but our first time together on Trail  #1003.  The trail is open to mountain bikes (we saw none) and horses (we saw evidence) but we encountered only a few hikers like ourselves on foot.

We passed a corner of the plush forest floor

then crossed the river over the footbridge.

Bob took the lead through the tunnel of dense forest canopy

and I followed slowly, distracted as always by my camera.  Here I got a peek of the peaks through the trees,

and here a Fomitopsis Pinicola, a common type of fungus where children may carve their names onto its soft white surface (don’t ask me how I know this.)

We walked an hour or so through the forest, stopping to rest by the river and eat our snack (candy bars and water, everything tastes better in the woods), before heading back.

We got a late start today so will have to return another time to make it to the hot springs, the promised reward at the end of the trail.

Susanne

A Walk in the Woods at Flaming Geyser State Park

Another summer day and another walk in the woods, my first at Flaming Geyser State Park.  Now before you get too excited, I must disavow you of the notion that there’s an actual flaming geyser in the park.  No.  Sorry.  It petered out many years ago;  see empty depression in the ground below for confirmation.

But I am promised by the brochure that it did in fact exist once in this very spot. Yes, in 1911 some miners tapped into methane gas and saltwater 1,000 feet underground, and fire and water shot up 25 feet in the air!  I wish I could have seen that!   They also say that the fire continued for many years until the methane gas finally ran out, so all that’s left is the name, Flaming Geyser. But no matter what they call it, the park is still quite wonderful.  First of all the Green River flows through it with good accessible shoreline for swimming, fishing, boating and inner tubing.  It has a designated area for remote control model planes (and drones these days), as well as horse trails and large grassy picnic areas.

And there are wooded trails with river access!  What more do you want?

And so we walked the easy path through the woods, alongside of giant ferns and berries and shrubs and trees of all sizes and shapes, most of them dripping with moss.

Along the path I saw this tiny orchid like flower which added a nice splash of color to the mostly green landscape.  It’s called impatiens capensis, or more commonly, orange jewelweed or orange balsam.  Pretty isn’t it?

After a mile or so the trail connected to the river and we stopped to rest and watched the happy drifters go by.

We also watched a flock of ducks swim furiously up river in the opposite direction.  They seemed to take turns being the leader, running to get to the front of the pack while the others hung back.  They bobbed underwater when the mood struck them (for food I assume) and stopped by the pools to hang out. They seemed to be having as much fun as the human drifters in their inner tubes.

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The 65 mile long Green River flows from the west side of the Cascades, passes through the Green River Gorge, then through Auburn and the Kent Valley, and finally becomes the Duwamish River which flows into Elliott Bay in Seattle.  Last week I walked an urban trail next to it in Tukwila.  I seem to keep bumping into this river and it’s all good.

~ Susanne

A Northwest Hike to Twin Falls

I follow the trail to Twin Falls along the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River, leaving Bob behind to fish. There are enough hikers on the trail for me to feel safe hiking alone and few enough to provide me with the solitude I need. I revel in having time in the woods, enjoying the nuanced shades of green, the ferns, the Doug-firs, and moss covered maples.

The river flows nearby the trailhead and I find hidden pools where some are brave enough to swim (not me.)

Half way to the falls I stop to rest and take in the view,

then continue on, following the switchbacks upward.

Up, up, up I go and as I near the falls, I’m greeted by a group of happy campers, who assure me I’m almost there and high five my efforts.  I’m cheered by the friendly youngsters.

Around the corner I arrive at the bridge and have it all to myself.  It’s high above the falls and makes me woozy looking down so I don’t linger long.  It’s the journey anyway, not the destination.

Going down is easier and I encourage the tired ones coming up.  Yes, it’s worth it, I say.  You are almost there.

At the bottom again I find out Bob has caught two trout.

We both leave content.

~ Susanne

Green over Blue in the Pacific Northwest

A Saturday and I woke up feeling kind of blue.  Needed some green for the cure and so we hit the road heading east looking for it.  After thirty minutes or so, traffic slowed and cars lined the road on the approach to Rattlesnake Lake.  Oh!  It’s a Saturday in summer and everyone is out.  Further up the road we find the Cedar River Watershed Education Center nestled on the shores of the lake.  No crowds here and we enjoy great views of Rattlesnake Ledge above, in relative quiet and safely on the ground,

rather than with the hoards of brave hikers perched precariously at the top.

A nice stop but on we go to the nearby and lesser traveled Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie where Bob knows the best places to hike and cast his fly rod into the river.

We arrive at our destination and enjoy a short walk through the woods to the footbridge.

On the other side, Bob finds a perfect spot to cast his line and has the river all to himself.

I walk the trail nearby, enjoying the beauty of the river and mountains and every green thing. Happy.

The great thing about carrying a camera is you look more closely at the world around you and see things you never noticed before; like this tiny starry plant (or is it lichen or moss?) growing everywhere on the side of the trail, so delicate yet hardy at the same time, and in various shades of green.

I must have passed it by many times over the years, but today I saw it. Touched it. Marveled at it.  A good day.

~  Susanne

Hiking at Nolte State Park…

One thing I love about living in the Pacific Northwest is the proximity to the woods and many trails.  Today we went to Nolte State Park and hiked around Deep Lake.  Okay walked, not hiked. The well maintained and level loop trail was only a mile and a quarter in length but included all the usual moss covered trees, old growth Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar one expects on a hike in the Northwest.  The cold, fresh forest air is bound to cure whatever ails you. So much to enjoy for so little effort didn’t quite seem fair.

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Though not technically the rain forest I’m not sure I can tell the difference.  Size maybe?  Anyway this was closer.

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The lake itself was frozen solid and stones thrown and bouncing across its surface echoed throughout the park.

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When our hands were as cold as the icy lake, we headed back to the car, and crossed the one lane bridge over the Green River Gorge, stopping to view the river far below.

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Then on to the Historic Bakery in Black Diamond where we enjoyed this view of Mt. Rainier outside our window, along with our sandwiches.

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A simple and satisfying day.

~ Susanne