The Hiker Mama

A Day at Mt. Rainier

Two weeks ago we went on a spur-of-the-moment trip up to Mt. Rainier.  We decided to camp the night before nearby to maximize our time at The Mountain, since it is such a long drive for us.  We left town right after hubby got home from work, and thankfully, luckily, got one of the last campsites at a Forest Service campground along Hwy 410.  Big old trees were there to shelter us, mossy and green.  The kids immediately began exploring around, making little spots for themselves in the moss and bushes.

Annika practiced walking on logs
An idyllic Playground

We set up camp and made dinner, then went for a walk around the loop with the last of the daylight.  The Dalles is a pretty nice campground, green and spacious with large, private spots.  The sites next to the highway aren’t the best, but there are several near the river that looked wonderful.  Unfortunately, the river is swift and dangerous in that part, and there was no river access that we could see in the campground.

The night was mild, and we slept well in our tent.  The next morning we had a big breakfast (bacon!!!) and broke camp to spend the day at Sunrise.  It was overcast when we left The Dalles, but quickly we drove into the sunshine, and we stayed there all day.  Into the National Park and up the road we wound, higher and higher, past flowers in full bloom.  We made a quick stop at the interpretive sign about the columnar basalt (formed when molten lava runs up against a glacier’s edge; the lava cools quickly and crystallizes into columnar patterns.)

Columnar Basalt

Then we continued on and in a short time we were at the end of the road, the Sunrise parking lot.

The sun was brilliant at the subalpine level, the air clear and warm and crystal clean.  We took some time and looked through the new Visitor’s Center, which has been remodeled since the last time we were there.

Gabriel in the Visitor Center

Then we made some lunch and ate it at the car before slathering on sunscreen and packing up for a hike.  The trail to Frozen Lake was open, and was suitable for the kids, so we joined the hordes on the trails and headed up the wide path.  The parking lot was full, and everyone and their grandmother was out enjoying the beautiful day.

The View Back Toward Sunrise

The scent of an alpine summer day is something almost impossible to describe.  Perfumed, spicy, fragrant, heavy, piney, all words fail to adequately get across that wonderful smell.

Notice the bee on the lily – it has pollen sacs full of heavenly loot



And the flowers, oh, the flowers were in full bloom and magnificent in glory.  Yes, I love the flowers, can you tell?

Pink Heather


Magenta Paintbrush

And The Mountain towering imposingly over all, her presence commanding.

Mt. Rainier

We slogged up the path from the parking lot, the children complaining and struggling after lunch on this warm day.

Discouraged Children

But once we got to the ridge trail and saw the views (and the snow) they mellowed out a bit, and we made the 1.5 mile trek to Frozen Lake.

Gabriel looking north, cloud-covered Puget Sound in the far distance
Yet another view of The Mountain
Annika made a dirt-covered snowball & carried it along


Frozen Lake Trail

There were snow patches along the route, but nothing we couldn’t handle.  The color of Frozen Lake was something to behold, and it even had a small “iceberg” floating in it.

Frozen Lake

The lake itself is off limits, but there is space nearby to sit and enjoy the view, or continue on to other destinations.  We thought that was far enough and filled up on snacks and water before heading back up the trail to Sunrise.

Hiker Kids
Hiker Mama

We thought we would be able to make a loop on another trail back to the parking lot, but there was one snow field we didn’t feel comfortable crossing with the kids.

All throughout the hike, Gabriel was begging me to pick up a book he had seen in the gift store about ethnobotany.  How could I deny such a request, a nine-year-old wanting to read about Native uses of plants?  (Annika got a little raven puppet.)  He read it the whole way home in the car.  We made a stop at the Sunrise Point briefly to check out the view before winding our way down the road and out of the park.

Mt. Adams in the distance


Little Lake below Sunrise Point

We made one more stop at a picnic area for dinner and cooking up some coffee for the trip back to civilization.  It was so nice to be home, but I felt our time at Mt. Rainier was too short.  I am grateful for the company of my hubby, though, and the kids had a super time.  Maybe next year we’ll be able to do some backpacking in the park.  (We’ll have to remember the DEET, though, because the mosquitoes were bad, and I reacted pretty strongly to my many bites.)







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