Would Heaven Be Grand Park?
I have a bias. It is that I love few places more than I love Grand Park in Mt. Rainier. I have been there three times and I hope in my life I will go there many more times. Even in those three times I have seen so little of it. It is so vast. The first time I saw it so many years ago I was on Dege Peak and I looked over and saw this swath of flatness. I had no idea what it was. I looked from a hike later from Fremont Lookout and saw it again:
I knew then I had to go. My friend Tori and I set out with a tiny Ford toddling behind us. We went the “long” way from Sunrise that trip. It was a hard dayhike. By the time we barely entered the park we knew we had to turn around to be done by dark.
Ford and I with Skyscraper Mountain and Rainier behind us:
It was a long 5 years till I came back, and we came up via the “backdoor” way. We encountered a lot of snow that time but it was worth every step.
This morning Jared and Jeff picked me up. Kirk pushed me out the door and gave me a ‘kid free’ day. How could I say no to that? We met two ladies from our local hiking forums at the trailhead, HikingQueen and TrailDiva.
Being curious I ran Kirk’s fab GPS, a Garmin GPSmap 60CSx and plotted the mileage. I had wondered how long the unofficial trail from the NF logging road was to Lake Eleanor. It was .99 of a mile, a lot longer than I had thought.
Lake Eleanor was still in the morning…though the bugs were not. Yeesh. I knew the bugs would be pesky but overall as long as one kept moving they stayed mostly off.
Water was still to be found down low, the first open meadow had its lake but the trail was dry which was nice. Last time here we encountered a wall of snow not much longer and had route finding fun. Rainier was just starting to pop out of the cloud cover, we have been having foggy/cloudy cool mornings and warm sunny afternoons – which I love!
From the meadow the easy trail stops and it shoots up classic Rainier style – that is getting somewhere quickly without much ado. It shoots up a wooded ridge and then pops out into subalpine forest. The lilies were just starting to open. This area holds snow often late and it had only recently melted out.
Avalanche Lilies in bloom:
I love how just as you wish the endless climb will end you come into subalpine and then as you blink you come over the rise to see her:
Jared and Jeff always far ahead of me:
We went to the far side of Grand Park, to the Northern Loop trail junction and decided to check out a viewpoint I had heard about and that Jeff confirmed that was worth going to. As we hiked we encountered the first Bear Grass of the day:
You head up and down a forested/meadow ridge and suddenly pop out onto a rocky corner with a view I had not seen before. Far below is the confluence of Winthrop Creek and the West Fork of the White River. The large gray area is the massive Winthrop Glacier which is also visible from the back side of Skyscraper Pass on the Wonderland Trail.
The peak on the far left is Fremont. The lookout is visible to the eye.
Jeff dwarfed by the Sluiskin Mountains:
I was loving the hike even if I was huffing and puffing
We headed back to Grand Park and started our walk out:
Looking back at Tahoma:
We did a shy 9 1/2 miles, and outside of the massive flies (they were at least an 1″ long) it was great. The flowers were not quite at prime though the color show was starting with Lupine and Magenta Paintbrush.