We awoke earlier today I guess we caught up on all of our sleep yesterday, had a quick breakfast and drove up to Chinook Pass to hike the 5-mile Naches Peak Loop trail, one of my favorite, “have to do every year” hikes. The scenery is stunning in all directions and though Mt. Rainier, which is usually visible for the last half of the hike played hide and seek today the hike though is always worthwhile. Wildflower season is essentially over but we did see a few remaining monkey flowers, lupine, pearly everlastings, bistort, magenta paintbrush, asters, bluebells or harbells (not sure which) and just a few hellebores that were still in good shape. At the peak of the wildflowers the meadows below Naches Peak are ablaze with color. This hike was a little easier than yesterday even though it was 2 miles longer and had and additional 700 feet of elevation gain. The ascent was gentle, spread over a longer distance making it an easy walk. Midway are Dewey Lakes down in the valley, we didn’t go down mainly because I didn’t feel like climbing back up the steep trail. Instead we found an outcropping where we sat and had lunch soaking in the surrounding grandeur.
Back in camp we stopped at the ranger station to ask about the trailhead along Laughingwater Creek. We had directions but could not find the trail marker as we drove along the road. The young ranger described how to find it and where to park; we may try that one tomorrow. We talked to her for a bit and learned that she comes from a long line of rangers, her mother and father were both rangers and her grandmother hiked and camped all of her life. She had some photos of her family, 3-generations of forest stewards. She also had a display table set up with photos and other park information; she was conducting a survey about the National Parks. She had a number of photographs and each had a question written on the back, questions like do you think there should be more roads in the park to increase accessibility . . . NO! How do you feel about the reintroduction of fishers in Mt. Rainier NP? They are a member of the weasel family and were lost to hunting in the 1930’s when their pelts were quite valuable. I couldn’t answer that one, I really don’t know enough about the subject of species reintroduction. It sounds like a good idea on the surface though. Another question was about installation of cell towers another easy NO! Another question was what we thought was the biggest risk to the national parks . . . I said people. She also had a board where people were invited to write their definition of wilderness on a sticky note. One little boy wrote “love”, other definitions were “quiet”, “majestic”, and you get the idea. I can find no way to describe the wilderness and certainly most people to Mt. Rainier never really experience true wilderness because they enter in cars and view the park from their cars but still gain an appreciation for the importance of preserving what nature has created.
Counting our evening walk around the camp after dinner we logged about 6 miles today and just as we got back to the van the rain started pitter pat on the roof.
Little did we know at the time but this was to be our only glimpse of the mountain, by the time we finished hiking Naches Peak Loop trail the mountain was shrouded in clouds and remained so for the rest of our stay.