It sucks getting up early, but it can be so worth it. In this case it meant being up at 4 am, and out the door to meet my friend Janelle to hike to Tolmie Peak.
But if anything, getting up early pays off. Morning light on Rainier? Oh yes. Those pesky clearcuts can be a good thing on the long drive in….
When we arrived at Mowich Lake, in Mt. Rainier National Park, the sun hadn’t crossed the ridges yet. Chilly even. But hey, I’ll take chilly and no bugs over hot, humid and swarms of biting bugs. The last time I had been up here was in August of 2009, when I was pregnant with Walker, but didn’t know it yet. No wonder I was pooped by the time I had reached Eunice Lake. And thing is…I had been up this trail a couple of times and had never been past Eunice Lake. I looked up at Tolmie Peak/Lookout every time and then said no, for various reasons. It is a hike that seems simple enough – and so it lures casual hikers. The part on the Wonderland Trail is an easy walk, the section pass Isput Pass is rooty, rocky and muddy. And muggy/buggy later in the day. So that is why we got going so early.
Mowich Lake was pretty as always, especially in the early dawn.
The Wonderland trail section was quick, and the beargrass just popping up –
Isput Pass was windy, sun filled and smelled like pure awesome. The flowers were popping, it was so fragrant. Janelle below the pass, trying to get some Tiger Lily photos.
Around Mowich Lake there was still a fair amount of snow, with Avy and Glacier Lilies shooting up. There was a point where the lake was still high enough the trail was under water. Fun rock hopping was had. As our hike progressed, we came across so many section of lilies it really made my hike.
Finally, after endless slogging (OK, it always feels like that on this trail), the trail curves, and there was an amazing display of lilies waiting for us early birds. Chirp chirp!
Quite a bit of the lake shore still had snow, but was easily crossed. The meadows above were just starting to bloom. Oh… and notice that little brown hut waaay up there on top of the ridge? That is the lookout.
A side trip came out of late night Google Map gazing. For one, even though I had been up there a number of times, I had not noticed all the melt ponds tucked away. Oh really? Well, I tucked that away in my mind…
Janelle had not noticed them before either and well, we were rewarded. The first one, the biggest was spectacular.
Looking back at Tolmie Peak –
The second pond was accessed by crossing a snow bank – carefully – since it was over water (no drowning fears…but hiking out with wet boots is never fun..not that I know about that or anything from past trips)
The two pond-lakes were near each other –
A little cross-country over rocks and snow and a lovely view was to be had – of the large pond, along with Eunice Lake and Tolmie Peak.
Happy with our exploring, we headed up to the lookout, enjoying the views down to Eunice Lake and Mt. Rainier.
Beargrass in bloom –
How the trail wraps around the ridge is interesting, once it reaches the ridge, it is a lovely lightly forested hike, with views down both sides, and a breeze.
Popping out at the top, with Tolmie Lookout and Janelle ahead of me –
The views from the lookout were worth the climb. I am so glad I pushed myself to finish this hike finally.
The lookout towers in the park have these sheds. I had never noticed the mt. goat cutouts before. Love them.
Looking into the very rustic lookout tower –
It might be a veritable Hantavirus Hut, but if the park would rent these out, I’d pay for the honor. Imagine the sunsets and sunrises up here….
Although this mattress might have seen better days. Like back in the 1960’s.
The view down from the lookout, down to Eunice Lake –
And to the meadows with the ponds –
And of the ridge, extending beyond the lookout –
I’ll admit that I don’t like walking around the deck of old lookouts. The railings come to barely mid-thigh – and I am short.
Until then we had barely had any bug issues. The wind doesn’t blow well by the lookout. We put our packs down to have a second breakfast and were getting chewed almost instantly. Ugh. Easily solved though by moving 10 feet or so away, where the breeze did run.
The tower above, and below the lake far down.
Mowich Lake is to the right of my head –
On the way down, we stopped back at Eunice Lake and talked about dipping feet. The bugs were awakening so we nixed it. Oh well. About this time we met our first humans on the trail.
Looking back up at the top from the lake:
We got sunrise, solitude and all the views to ourselves. Coming out? The last 1 -2 miles was a parade of hikers coming up.