We are gearing up to begin our school term in another week, and we wanted one last big trip to enjoy the gorgeous weather at the end of summer. I had been yearning to get to Paradise to see the flowers, and also had an overnight backpack in mind for us.
We snagged a spot at Cougar Rock Campground when we arrived in the early afternoon on Monday. I must say, this campground is nicer than I thought it was. There are some spots with more privacy, and some that are tiny, but it was pretty and was only about half full (mid-week.) Some spots are reservable, and some are first-come, first-served. We found a site we all liked, and set our tents up.
Then we drove up to Paradise. We wandered around and enjoyed the late summer flowers. We missed most of the lupine and paintbrush, but the gentian were rioting, and asters and yarrow were still in bloom.
There’s something amazing about the alpine meadow fragrances. We breathed them in, savoring the scents of summer.
We walked up and down the paved paths near the lodge, eventually making it over to Myrtle Falls for a photo session.
The Mountain had started off wreathed in clouds, and I feared a late thunderstorm would bring an early end to our walk, but the clouds cleared off as the sun veered lower in the sky, and the light became clear and lovely.
As it was nearing 7:00, we thought we should make our way back down to camp for dinner. On the way back, a peregrine falcon swerved right in front of us, swooping down and away. What a thrill!
I decided to stop in at the ranger station in the Visitor Center to inquire about camping the next night at Bench and Snow Lakes. We were able to secure one of two permits for the night, which put my mind at ease. I learned that you can get permits the day ahead of time, as long as you start hiking within 24 hours of getting the permit. Permits are free.
We also saw signs advertising an evening sky talk that would take place later that night. Stargazing was one of the activities we were looking forward to at The Mountain, so we decided to go to the picnic area near Paradise to cook dinner and wait until dark. That worked out really well, as there were picnic tables and bathrooms with running water. Then we drove back up to the main Paradise parking area, where the evening gathering was just starting. The ranger had brought out two telescopes to view the night sky. He knew so many facts and details about constellations and stars, and knew stories to go with them. We got to see Saturn, the Andromeda Galaxy, and another galaxy far away. We stayed until after 10:00 then went back to camp to crash into bed.
In my next post I’ll share the story of our overnight trip to Bench and Snow Lakes.