Usually I go to Sunrise during the peak of the flower season, which is also the peak bug season. But this year we didn’t make it up there until recently. The flowers are mostly gone, except for a few intrepid late bloomers, and much of the herbal foliage is dry and crispy.
Everything looked faded and tired, but you can’t beat that awesome view of The Mountain from so close.
I purposely picked a day that was cooler, since we’ve had too many sweltering hikes this summer. On our way up, we stopped at Sunrise point and admired the fog hanging out low and seeping over the passes.
I found out I had a strange vortex of cell service on the Point, which surprised me. Then it was on to Sunrise. The parking lot wasn’t even half full on this sunny weekday, and we slathered with sunscreen and packed an over-abundance of snacks for the day. We still felt the elevation up there, even with temps in the 60s.
We hiked up to the ridge trail out of the Sunrise parking lot, and turned west toward Frozen Lake. That first half mile or whatever it is up to the crest of the ridge is so tough – I don’t know what it is about that wide, dusty trail, but we lose all energy in the first few minutes of every hike up it. We stopped often to catch our breath and take in the views of the clouds and fog in the valleys.
We noticed some Mountain Chickadees in the trees, and some other little birds I couldn’t identify.
The rocks near Frozen Lake make a good stopping point, and we had snacks and tanked up on water. The lake was surprisingly low, and there was no ice or snow in sight.
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I’ve never seen it without an iceberg or two. The squirrels and chipmunks there are brazen and obviously overfed. I truly felt like they would jump right into our laps, so we did our best to be menacing and scare them off.
I gave the kids a choice of hiking to Fremont Lookout or the Burroughs. Gabe said he thought The Burroughs looked easier (I tried really hard to stifle my chuckles) and they thought it would be cool to be closer to The Mountain.
You can see much of the trail as it traverses the hillsides. We started up, and Gabe took off like a rocket way ahead of us up the first section. Annika and I took our time and admired the tundra-like vegetation and rocks.
Ground-hugging shrubs form mats and pillows of dense leaves, sheltered among larger rocks. Krummholz trees are twisted and stunted, making one wonder how old they really are. As we rose up above Frozen Lake, the wind picked up and blew strongly enough we needed to put our coats on when we stopped to rest. Annika was quickly losing steam in our mid-afternoon energy nadir, and I had to resort to promises of jelly beans and cookies at the top. That wasn’t even enough, so we played the Alphabet Game, where we thought of different animals that started with all the letters of the alphabet. That game worked really well, and, along with holding her hand, helped her continue up the trail. Peregrine falcons flew right at eye level, soaring and searching for food. We stopped on the top of First Burroughs and had another short snack and water break.
Somehow, miraculously, I enticed the kids further along to Second Burroughs. It looked deceptively close and easy. Annika and I continued several more rounds of the Alphabet game, thinking of foods and geographical names to keep her distracted.
We had to stop 3 or 4 times up that last, steep section, while Gabe sped off out of sight. Finally we grunted and sweated our way up to the flat top of Second Burroughs.
Wow, what a view! Shaly rock fragments tinkled as we walked on them. Evidence of Rainier’s volcanic origins was everywhere.
The wind was brisk and cold up there, and we layered up and tried to keep our foam sit mats from blowing away.
We sat for a bit on the seat that is built into a round, turtle-like structure. It looked like there were supposed to be plaques on it to explain its purpose, but they were gone. We admired the view, ate some more snacks, and took lots of photos. Annika tried to do some sketching. I kind of felt sorry for all the folks who were up there in shorts and t-shirts, with no coats or warm clothes, or even water. How did they even make it that far in the dry alpine air?
We rested as long as we felt we could, but soon had to retrace our steps back down the mountain. As we were coming back down First Burroughs, we saw more falcons and some mountain bluebirds. As we looked to the north, we could see a giant plume of smoke exploding up from one of the wildfires. It was scary even from that far away.
When we got to the 5-way junction at Frozen Lake, we chose to head down the slightly longer path to the right toward Shadow Lake.
We didn’t go all the way to the lake, but continued back to the parking lot along the dusty dirt-covered Sunrise Road Trail. It’s a bit farther, but it was nice to see a different part of the area, and there were no other people along that whole stretch.
It was getting quiet as the shadows lengthened and we were sheltered from the wind. I wished we had our overnight gear so we could soak in the peacefulness. But we trudged the road back to the parking lot and our waiting dinner, which we scarfed down before the long drive back home.
We made a brief stop at Sunrise Point again to catch a photo of the shadow of The Mountain on the other hillsides, and we had to break along the way for a herd of elk crossing the road.
Trip Stats: By my calculations, we hiked about 6.5 miles, with a little over 1000 feet elevation gain. The kids said this felt like the longest hike they’ve ever done, and I believe they might be right. They did remember that the last time we were at Sunrise, Annika said it was her worst hike ever (Sadly it looks as if I didn’t do a trip report of that hike!). I hope this one helped ameliorate some of those bad buggy memories. It took us over 6 hours, and we went through about 3 liters of water and tons of food. Most children will enjoy the hike to Frozen Lake, but younger kids should turn around there. This hike can have some dangerous, steep snow fields in the early summer, so ask about trail conditions before you go.