-on a midweek getaway, to a self-contained cabin in Packwood, Washington, with our own food, following all Covid-19 precautions. We have seen the stunning wildflower displays of summer a few times, and had long been wanting to see the the mountain in fall colors.
September 29, 2020 – Comet Falls/Van Trump Park
This trail, west of the Nisqually River and Paradise, follows Van Trump Creek all the way up to the stunning Comet Falls, then farther up the slopes to magnificent views of Mt Rainier from Van Trump park. (P.B. Van Trump was one of the first to stand on the summit of the mountain, in 1870). A very challenging and satisfying hike (7 miles, 2500 feet).
The trail continued upward steeply, into Van Trump Park.
Views of the glaciers from a new angle:
The trail down seemed steeper than the trail going up; that might just be my knees talking.
We stopped at a couple of roadside viewpoints on our way out of the park.
We could not resist stopping to see the mirror image in Reflection Lakes.
September 30 – Naches Peak/Tipsoo Lake Loop, smoke haze at Sunrise, Silver Falls.
We hiked this loop trail (4 miles, 600 feet), with our views increasingly shrouded in haze. Wildfire smoke began drifting diffusely in, creating a grayish white sky that was so startlingly blue yesterday.
We were almost alone as we walked around Tipsoo Lake, admiring the beautiful reflections in its mirror-like surface.
Then we hiked the loop around Naches Peak – following the Pacific Crest Trail.
We passed a small lake with a friendly chipmunk.
Once over the shoulder of Naches Peak, we could see the Dewey Lakes to the southeast as the smoke haze increased.
The trail circles back west, with stunning views of Mt Rainier when there is no haze, as it passes more small lakes.
We stopped to admire Upper Tipsoo Lake near the trailhead before finishing the hike.
After lunch we drove up to Sunrise, elevation 6400 feet, but the smoke haze obscured views, so we didn’t stay.
Instead we hiked to Silver Falls, on the Ohanapecosh River, through old and mossy forest, to see clear turquoise waters, and bright falling waters cutting through a slick rock gorge. All in all a lovely ‘recovery’ day from yesterday – the hikes being not so steep. We hope the smoke will blow out for tomorrow.
October 1 – Paradise, Golden Gate Trail, Panorama Point
The mountain was ‘out’ behind a thin veil of translucent haze! Smoke would gather throughout the day below us to the south on the flanks of the Tatoosh Range.
We hiked across Paradise Valley, and up the Golden Gate switchbacks and granite steps, to the High Skyline Trail that circles the valley (6 miles, 1700 feet).
We saw a black bear foraging in the meadows below, and at least eight marmots foraging and nest building on our way up.
The slopes were still green, and full of fading wildflowers with a few remaining blooms.
Once to the ridge, stark, glaciated landscape dominated.
A mountain goat was resting near one of the snow fields in the cirque.
Over the rocky top above Panorama Point, near Pebble Creek, we sat on the rocks and ate our lunch with a full mountain view: 7000 feet of vertical relief, glaciers and sculpted rocks. We heard an occasional boom as something up there, heeding gravity, fell.
We made our way back down the steep granite steps, past Panorama Point and more glacier views.
The bear was still roaming in the valley below.
We crossed through the brilliant red huckleberry foliage on the flank of Alta Vista.
After a last stop at Edith Creek and Myrtle Falls, I was done walking for a while. My legs were tired, my cup full! I have to agree with the sentiment carved in the steps at the trailhead. This is one of the most beautiful places I have been. I feel so lucky to have seen it in the fall!