This morning I woke up to clear blue skies…that promptly clouded over. Yet I had an inkling that the clouds were low lying this morning. As I headed out of town into the foothills the clouds floated behind me. The drive to sit on Rainier’s edge was a pretty one. It was one of those spring days – warm with a light breeze. Not a lot of traffic as I wound my way through the back roads then up Hwy 410. I took my time and enjoyed the drive for once. I didn’t have a goal besides seeing Tahoma up close for the first time this year.
The main bridge on Hwy 169 over the Green River Gorge has been closed since last fall, when after torrential downpours the State detected that the bridge had moved (oops!). Since then to get to Rainier from where we live you have your choice of two detours. The car one goes through pastures/farm land that meanders all over. I prefer the truck route that heads for the foothills. The drive reminds me of what rural Washington State was like when I was young. There are pockets left here that haven’t changed. I love driving the Benz up there – she was made for roads like them…..curvy and fun!
As I left the valley of Enumclaw behind I passed through Federation Forest State Park, the highway divides the tiny park. It is a ridge on one side, the White River on the other. The park has taken a bad beating this year. The floods last fall were ginormous. I wasn’t able to get any photos (it just isn’t safe to walk on the road there – it is very dark from the trees). What I did see was amazing. I knew the road had been cut off for awhile…but wow. The hillside on the ridge basically carved itself troughs as the rains poured down, sending down all the top soil, rocks, boulders and old growth trees down the small creek beds, over the highway and across into the forest, towards the White River. I can only imagine how scary that would have been to see happen. What it left were vertical creek beds scoured to gray rock/soil. I counted at least 5 of these along a very short section of highway!
Not much farther along the highway is the viewpoint for Skookum Falls. There is a trail across the river – Skookum Flats – that is a cool hike in the woods to the base of the falls. But for viewing it you need to be on the highway side of the river.
It is a multi tiered fall, that falls for quite the distance. In the photo above you can see part of the White River in front. The White River is born on Rainier.
Back on the road I headed up to Cayuse Pass at 4,675 feet. Hwy 410 is closed here for at least another week – Chinook Pass sits much higher at 5,430 feet and the drive is switchbacks up what is an avy field. While I was tempted to park the car and walk the road….I also knew they are doing road work up high and yeah, that isn’t the best place to be…..ah well, soon enough! The snow at the pass was pretty good. The ridges around Cayuse are melted out nicely, but down at 4600 ft the snow is still holding. Ghost Lake which sits nestled under this ridge was sill covered in snow. It sits in a cold sub alpine basin and doesn’t melt out fast. The outlet creek for Deadwood Lakes was still snow covered as well.
A little bit below Cayuse Pass, looking kind of East/South:
As I looked at this photo later I thought…”that wasn’t the best place to park!” due to the snow hanging over the poor Benz.
Looking at Rainier:
Rainier (with Little Tahoma visible to the left) and the White River far below:
Farther up (but not where I could get photos) I could see the Sunrise Road and Yakima Park. Both are still quite snow covered. Burroughs 1,2 and 3 were thickly covered in snow – though these are all areas well above 6,000 feet. (Burroughs 2 is at 7400 feet or so.) The White River valley has some snow though the car campground far up still holds a lot.
I sat up there in the sun, with wispy clouds flitting over, in the sun and just enjoyed it. The insects are buzzing quietly, birds singing. The wind quietly sighing. A storm is coming in this evening that promises snow in the high mountains. But yet….it is there. The smell of summer is there. In another month the snows will be gone, the avy lilies will come.
I can wait. Being able to sit there and see another year with Tahoma makes the world right for me.