WA – Mount Rainier National Park, Paradise (July 2021)

After a couple days at Stevens Canyon (link) it was impossible to ignore the pull of the mountain. So on a Sunday, yes a Sunday, during peak summer tourist season, two crowd-adverse gals decided to test the waters. Joan and I left our campsite at 5:30am for optimal crowd-avoidance strategy. It worked! We got our pick of a parking spot in the main area at Paradise.

After a stop at Reflection Lake, we decided “sub alpine” filled with hordes of skeeters was less appealing than hordes of people at alpine. I was reminded of my hike around Mt Rainier on the Wonderland Trail in 2014 (link).

Reflection Lake

Skyline Trail

We couldn’t ignore a calling to the Skyline Trail. With much trepidation about my knee and body performance, we began our hike. The views kept me smiling. It was my kind of WOW per mile. So many views and wildflowers. I felt like I could touch the mountain. How lucky to have beautiful blue skies devoid of smoke and fires. Temperatures were warm but with plenty of water and snow we stayed comfortable. At the end of the day, I was thrilled with my recovery and performance. The long steep downhill tested my body but my hips complained more than my knee so I figured this meant I’d moved on from knee rehab to rebuilding general fitness.

The first section of the Skyline Trail is paved which really helps with dust and erosion given it’s high use. Notice the marmot laying on the big rock in foreground.

The marmots are such portrait hams.

This was a flower power tour.

The lupine smelled strongly of grape jelly.

We had a few snow patches to hike through and were wishing we’d carried our microspikes.

This is the Nisqually Glacier. Notice the waterfall.  There are 25 major glaciers on Mount Rainier and numerous unnamed snow or ice patches, which cover about 35 square miles.

Nothing like Glacier Lilies to accompany the Nisqually Glacier.

Trail reality . . . we definitely weren’t alone. Funny this viewpoint is of the Goat Rock wilderness where Joan had hiked the PCT the previous week (link), and where I’ve hiked two times previously.

I was thrilled to find Sky Pilots (Jacob’s Ladder).

Water water everywhere, fields of green and loads of floral color.

This was my third day in a row to hike. I was beyond excited about my performance and recovery.

DATE(S) HIKED: July 25, 2021

RESOURCES:

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

CA – Lassen Volcanic National Park, Flowers, Ice and So Much More (May 2021)

As the snow recedes in the high country, Snow Plants (Sarcodes sanguinea) welcome spring. When I caught wind they’d arrived, I made it a priority to go see them the next day. These are the most pristine specimens I’ve ever seen.

Snow plant has no chlorophyll; it derives nutrition from fungi underneath the soil, and for this reason the plant is called “mycotrophic”. These fungi are the mycorrhizae (“fungus-roots”) of conifers, an interesting topic by itself. Many conifers (among other plants) require these fungi to live normally. Mycorrhizae are composed of strands of cells (mycelia) that grow about in the soil; these strands are quite numerous and extensive, and the conifer uses them to bring water and minerals to itself. In return, the conifer provides the fungus with some of the products of its photosynthesis. Snow plant takes advantage of this felicitous arrangement by parasitizing the mycorrhizae of the photosynthate provided it by the conifer, which makes sense, given that it is a plant without chlorophyll, and therefore a plant that cannot photosynthesize. In this indirect way, Sarcodes is a parasite of conifers; this is why they are always seen beneath (or very close to) them.

https://www.fs.fed.us/…/plant…/sarcodes_sanguinea.shtml

The snow plant emerges like a bright red nose.

Soon they look like a red pinecone.

As the plants matures, flowers the candle-like leaves open revealing a flower. Eventually fruit will fill the flower. “The fruit is a capsule containing sticky seeds. Once ripened, seed is released through an opening at the base of the style.”

Seeing the aquamarine ice of the melting lakes had been on my must-see list. While the lakes are conveniently located next to the road, winter closure keeps them inaccessible until the road is plowed unless you want to walk or ride about 5 miles from the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center. This is Helen Lake with Brokeoff Mountain, Mount Diller and Pilot Pinnacle in the background.

What causes the color? I’m guessing it has to do with (1) the minerals in the water and/or (2) glacial silt. There are no longer active glaciers at Lassen but maybe there is enough silt remaining? I wonder how long it’ll take the lakes to melt? This is a closer view from Emerald Lake.

Most trails are still buried under the snow and with limited mobility I was limited to wandering around mostly snow-free lakes although Summit Lake still had a bit more than I should have navigated. This is a view of Lassen Peak from the shores of Summit Lake where there is a one-mile perimeter trail.

One of the views of Lassen Peak from the 2-mile trail around Manzanita Lake.

Reflection Lake offers this reflection of Chaos Crags and Lassen Peak as one wanders the one-mile loop.

This view of Chaos Crags was captured from the road. It was shocking to see it nearly barren of snow in early May. But then again it’s been an extremely low snow year and I read this is the earliest the 30-mile road through the park has opened in 40 years. “The road clearing process in 2019 wasn’t finished until June 22, and it went all they way to July 26th in 2017.”

Lassen Peak should be buried but instead it’s ready to be hiked, and in fact on this day the road opened there were at least a dozen vehicles in the parking lot.

I returned ten days later and found a few more blooms including these Marsh Marigolds.

These were tiny Fawn Lilies.

Not to be outdone in the tiny flower department, these were miniature violets.

There are lots of plants hiding their identification including this one, although a botany friend guessed Pedicularis attollens aka baby elephant heads, another favorite.

Lily pond was filled with yellow buds. I’m looking forward to a colorful mat on my next visit.

I anticipate this meadow showcasing Pilot Pinnacle will be filled with Corn Lilies.

Meanwhile Helen Lake was still in the melting stage.

Another round of snow plants were emerging from their winter nests. My goal is to find mature plants sporting seed-filled fruits in the flower.

Just outside the Park on the southern end is Child’s Meadows and I was hopeful to find mass distribution of camas. It appears I should have stopped during my previous visit.

I never regret stopping to enjoy this view of Brokeoff Mountain from Child’s Meadows.

What will June bring? I plan to return to Lassen regularly to enjoy the transition from spring to summer. It’s a great place to continue to work on my knee rehab as many of the trails are gentle. Until then . . . .