WA – Mount Rainier National Park, Mowich Lake Trailhead (Spray Park) (July 2021)

I remember when I hiked the Wonderland Trail (link) regretting that I didn’t have time to visit much acclaimed Spray Park. With Joan’s help, this was going to be my opportunity for a do over. But first, since I’d had a rest day after hiking, we decided to make it a twofer day.

Eunice Lake/Tolmie Peak

While Joan hiked to the lookout at Tolmie Peak, I enjoyed a swim at Eunice Lake and wished I too could be up on that rim.

Ascending 1,000 feet in 2.5 miles is still quite challenging for me as I regain fitness following my lengthy knee surgery rehab.

Eagles Roost/Spray Park

This was to be my first backpack trip in 10 months. Joan offered to carry part of my weight to ensure success. We were able to secure walk-up permits to this campsite only a couple miles from the trailhead.

We were offered this view of Mt Rainier on the way to our campsite. We were both still pinching ourselves at our luck with perfect weather, amazing views and backcountry permits.

I was incredibly happy to have Joan as my enabler.

Spray Falls

We’d read that we should visit Spray Falls for sunset, and so we did. Well we might have needed to go a bit later but we couldn’t find an easy way to cross the creek for optimal views and were certainly not going to attempt in the dark so we accepted the visit as good enough.

Spray Park

We wondered if there would be a sign welcoming us to The Park, but alas without such a sign we decided this bridge marked the boundary. I’d never heard the word park used to mean meadows until I hiked the Wonderland Trail.

We’d been warned about the skeeters in Spray Park so we came prepared.

In the background is Hessong Rock a very popular day hike.

Mountain Bog Gentian

The Avalanche Lilies were HUGE!

We were headed to a lake below the pointed rock, Observation Rock.

Everywhere we looked were floral delights.

We’d brought our microspikes in anticipation of this. It was so much fun to walk on snow. We met a snowboarder who’d been up to the top and enjoyed his ride down.

We had a few uphill climbs but our microspikes handled it like champs.

When we were hot or needed a break we found a perfect canvas for making snow angels.

Yay we found J&J Lake, an unnamed lake below Observation Peak.

There were 360 degree views.

And of course we swam. YES it was cold and our swims were short.

Looking back at where we’d been.

We found the energy to hike back up to the viewpoint to watch sunset. 

Pacific Coralroot was a highlight of our campsite.

While the miles might not have been impressive, I was thrilled to complete my first backpack trip in 10 months.

Thanks Joan for making this trip possible. What a wonderful week we shared in Mt Rainier National Park, making memories and living without regrets. As my niece would say, living our best lives!

I wonder if my surgeon and physical therapist would have approved this activity? I stayed away from the snow all winter and spring, but by the end of July I could no longer resist.

DATE(S) HIKED: July 29-31, 2021

RESOURCES:

Other Jaunts in Washington (link) including the Wonderland Trail (link)

MT – Glacier NP – Going to the Sun Road . . . where 2 are better than 4

Experiencing Glacier National Park has been tops on my list for the past few years. While I wasn’t planning an April visit, it seemed destined. When it became apparent Utah’s tourism season had arrived, I escaped to the north spending time in Wyoming visiting Flaming Gorge NRA, Wind River RangeGrand Tetons NP, and Yellowstone NP before continuing onward to Montana and eventually to Glacier NP. First stop was Lake McDonald.

Crews were working hard to open the Going-to-the-Sun Road, but with it still closed I had limited options for early season camping and hiking. Apgar is only open to tent camping and since I planned to sleep in my car, Saint Mary was my best option. It took me a couple hours to reach the northeast side of the park.

You won’t hear any complaints from me when you have near solitude and this great “dinner with a view” lakeside seat. 

This was a pretty great campsite. How about going to sleep and waking up to this scene?

While wondering around I came across this lily. According to my research, this lily is not native to Glacier and may have been planted as a joke. I took this photo with my phone and I believe it was a solo plant. Is this really a Fawn Lily aka White Beauty (Erythronium californicum)?

The next morning I hiked the Going-to-the-Sun Road. It was mostly clear of snow and obstacles. I was a little jealous of the cyclists cruising the pavement but in other ways it was nice to take my time and enjoy views along the shores of Saint Mary Lake. 

The flat light and gray skies may have reduced the drama of these spectacular mountains, but they didn’t dampen my spirits. I know I’ll be back to capture these images with a pack on my back and feet on real trail.

The 2003 Roberts Fire may have left a 135,000 acre scar; however, it opened up views once hidden by vegetation.

Are you St Mary or Virginia Falls?

Are you Gunsight Pass? Are you Jackson and Blackfoot Glaciers?

With all the snowmelt, water was plentiful. Who needs recorded music when you have nature’s soundtrack?

As much as I wanted to make it to Logan Pass, I decided it best to turn around after 7.5 miles at the Jackson Glacier Overlook. My decision was reaffirmed when I met a guy on his bike who said he was blocked by snow at Siyeh Bend, not far from my turnaround point.

The burned trees were a sad distraction.

I’m looking forward to returning another day when I can experience the beautiful colors of these mountains. 

Making my way back to the Saint Mary Lake campground. 

When I wasn’t tripping over my feet staring in awe at the big mountains, I found a few wildflowers, including Eastern Pasqueflower (Anemone patens) and Yellow Avalanche or Glacier Lily (Erythronium grandiflorum).

I just loved the pasqueflower. I’ve seen them frequently in the post-bloom stage when they look like they belong in a Dr. Seuss book, but never in this soft pastel lavender fuzzy stage. 

Glacier Lily (Erythronium grandiflorum) and Spring Beauty (Claytonia lanceolata)

Shooting Star (Dodecatheon pulchellum)

Darkwoods Violet (Viola orbiculata)

? Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana)

Rocky Mountain Clematis (Clematis occidentalis).

A good reminder to carry bear spray and be bear aware. ‘Tis NOT the season to surprise a hungry bear, especially a mom with cubs. 

Date(s) Hiked: April 22, 2016

Road Trip Day(s) #64 out of 88

Tips:

  • The hike from Mary Lake Campground to Jackson Glacier Viewpoint is about 15 miles round trip with 2,000+ feet elevation gain/loss.
  • The only campgrounds in the park open during the winter/early spring season are Apgar and St Mary
  • Come prepared with grizzly bear spray or buy at Visitor’s Center upon arrival
  • Microspikes or YakTrax are a good option for early season travel.

Resources:

Links: