Friday, July 15, 2016

Spray Park, Rainier National Park

 Signs showing the way

This week we returned to Mowich Lake in the Rainier National Park and took the trail that goes to Spray Park with a side trail to the viewpoint for Spray Falls.  The falls are well worth taking the side trail to see.  Including the side trail to view the falls the round trip was 6.3 miles.  

Bob climbed out on some rocks to take a photo but I took a picture from a safer spot.  A dad and two teenage kids from out of state had been crossing our path all the way up.  The dad was worried that Bob might slip on the rocks so he held onto him for safety.  It was a very kind thing to do and just goes to show how many kind, wonderful people we meet when we are out hiking.

Bob on the rocks in the rushing water taking his photo

My view of the falls from a safer spot

One of several other smaller falls along the way

The weather report suggested a cool morning followed by sun and warmth breaking through the clouds in the late morning or early afternoon.  The sun breaks never came and we walked in clouds all day, the temperature stayed between the high 40s F and mid 50s F and never got as warm as it did in the city where it was sunny and reached 75 F.

The trail heads into the clouds

Stone steps above with lilies and paintbrush on both sides, wooden stairs below

Bob had gone on this trail about ten years ago but had forgotten about the hundreds of stairs, wooden and stone, although he did remember that the last section had several switchbacks and was steep.  There are 12 switchbacks and it is very steep for the final ¼ mile or so, also there are many rough places filled with roots and loose stones.  The first portion of the trail has lots ups and downs and the side trail to the falls adds some elevation too so by the end of the day even though the map says the up is 1200 ft we really did closer to 1600 ft.  I have a lot of trouble with stairs, both going up and coming down and have to rest frequently.  From all the paths that detoured around the steps and go off to the sides I’m guessing I’m not the only one who finds a regular trail with switchbacks much easier than stairs.  

 Avalanche lilies and magenta paintbrush cover the meadows

We kept our layers on all day and remained comfortable.  There were small patches of snow but not many at 5800 ft. the real snow began about 6400 ft.   A few areas can be skied year round.  We met and were passed by two young back-country skiers who were carrying in skis and gear planning to go up to where the snow was still deep.  When we saw them again at the end of the day we found out that they hiked up to 8500 ft. before skiing down to about 6500 ft.  Their boots and skis probably added 20 pounds to the packs they were carrying.  Unbelievable, and only for the young avid skiers, I think.  

Tiny patch of snow

 More stone steps and a walkway through the bog

We had our lunch sitting on a log surrounded by lilies.  One little chipmunk darted back and forth on the rocks when we stopped for a snack in the upper meadow.  Sometimes they will come pretty close but this little guy was too shy and stayed well away from us.

Even though we saw 36 hikers they were spread over 7 hours of hiking making most of our time quiet and very peaceful.  Dogs are not allowed in the park so no doggie poop bags on the trail and no surprises of the barking, jumping kind coming around corners.  There were millions of wildflowers all along the way and showy fields of lilies, paintbrush and beargrass.  We counted 55 different flowers in bloom by the end of the day, a small sampling below.

 Magenta Paintbrush

White Paintbrush (very uncommon)

Scouler's Corydalis, uncommon but not rare (related to Bleeding Heart)

 Queen's Cup

 Just part of an army of beargrass marching down the hillside to greet us

 Shooting Stars

 White Heather

Avalanche Lilies


 Mountain Arnica

Pink Lousewort


 Mountain Daisy

Bog Orchid (left) and Yellow Monkey Flower (right)

All along the trail but especially in the lower and upper meadows we were greeted on every side with dazzling displays of wildflowers.   

One word of caution, the dirt and gravel access road to Mowich Lake is 14 1/2 miles of very rough bumps, washboard, and pot holes.  It is posted at 30 mph but we took it at 20 or less.  Four wheel drive is not necessary but patience is.

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