Our Summer Hikes at Mount Rainier

Mt Rainier Van Trump Park

I really love that my husband and I live so close to Mt. Rainier. Over the years, it has become my favorite place to hike, and I find myself saying to my husband often, “Can we go to Mt. Rainier this weekend?” With so many options, from day hikes, to overnights, to extended backpacking trips. Even climbing for those so inclined. This summer, my husband and I did a variety of those options, with the exception of climbing, in order to enjoy nature, and to rejuvenate the spirit.

Mt Rainier Emmons Glacier

Mt Rainier Gobblers Knob

Mt Rainier Naches Peak Loop

For the most part, we had great warm, sunny weather on many of our trips, but there was also that mix of some colder, cloudier, foggier weather from the mountain that is known for creating its own weather patterns. But no matter what the weather on Mt. Rainier that we encountered this summer, the hikes were still beautiful. Especially when the wildflowers were in bloom.

Mt Rainier St Andrews Lake

Mt Rainier St Andrews Lake

Mt Rainier Emerald Ridge

Mt Rainier Wildflowers

I share some pictures of our trips along the Emmons Glacier Trail, Owyhigh Lakes, the Naches Peak Loop, Tipsoo Lake, Gobblers Knob, Lake George, St. Andrews Lake, Emerald Ridge, Comet Falls, Van Trump Park, and…Paradise. Most of these were new hikes for both of us. I find it fascinating that no matter how many times I have hiked on Mt. Rainier, there are still new places to discover and enjoy.

Mt Rainier Lake George

Mt Rainier Tipsoo Lake Naches Peak Loop

Mt Rainier Owyhigh Lakes

Mt Rainier Comet Falls

Whether we hiked up to a knob, around a loop, to a lake, to a waterfall, or on a ridge, there really is a place on Mt. Rainier called Paradise. And a feel of paradise no matter where we hike on the mountain.

Mt Rainier Van Trump Park

Mt Rainier Emerald Ridge

Mt Rainier Paradise

Sweet Travels!

The “Other” Gobblers Knob – on Mount Rainier

Gobbler's Knob Mt Rainier Punxsutawney Phil

“The “other” Gobbler’s Knob? What? What do you mean?” you ask. “I thought there was only one Gobbler’s Knob. The one two miles east of the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. You know, the one where each year on February 2nd, Punxsutawney Phil, the famous groundhog, ‘the Seer of Seers, the Sage of Sages, the Prognosticator of Prognosticators, the Weather Prophet Extraordinaire,’ makes his weather prediction from Gobbler’s Knob. The place from where, since 1887, Phil has told us whether there will be six more weeks of winter, or if spring is just around the corner. The one at about 1,620 feet elevation. The one where you climb up the roads of Punxsutawney approximately 394 feet from the town to get there. You mean there is another Gobbler’s Knob?”

Gobbler's Knob Punxsutawney Pennsylvania

Well, actually, yes, there is another one.  Located on the other side of the country. In the state of Washington, at Mount Rainier National Park, at an elevation of 5,485 feet. A place where on a clear day, you get the perfect views of Mount Rainier, the Tahoma Glacier, a few alpine lakes, and the forests of trees beyond in all directions. There is even a fire lookout built in 1933 at this Gobblers Knob, one that was historically used by firewatchers to spot and report smoke and lightning strikes in the area. Occasionally still used today, this fire lookout is one of four remaining at Mount Rainier. On a really clear day, from this Gobblers Knob, you can also see the peaks of Mount St. Helens, Mount Hood, Mount Adams, and the Olympic Mountains.

Gobblers Knob Lookout Mt Rainier 1.6 Miles

Gobblers Knob Lookout Mt Rainier .4 Miles

What is extra special about this “other” Gobblers Knob is that Punxsutawney Phil has actually been there! Well, ok, maybe not the actual Phil, but his picture sure has. He climbed the 1,195 feet of elevation with me in my backpack from Lake George below, up the one and a half miles to reach this spot. Well, actually we climbed 1,585 feet of elevation gain from where we parked our car, and five miles from the car.

Gobblers Knob Fire Lookout Mt Rainier

Gobbler's Knob Fire Lookout Mt Rainier 5485

“And why would you bring a picture of Phil to the “other” Gobblers Knob?” you ask. Well, there is a “Worldwide Adventures of Phil” photography contest that I am entering in, and this is just one of the several places that I have taken Phil with me this year on my travels that I will enter into the contest. “And why would you do such a thing?” you ask. Well, because my birthday is on…Groundhog’s Day. Even this past February, my husband and I went to the Gobbler’s Knob in Pennsylvania to see the grand event. So when my husband and I decided to do a backpacking trip this August, for our one year wedding anniversary, we chose to go to Lake George, the perfect launching place for a trip up to the “other” Gobblers Knob, and to bring Phil along. Phil has been on a backpacking trip!

Gobblers Knob Mt Rainier Punxsutawney Phil

“And where else have you taken Phil this year?” you ask. To our 12-day walking travels in the Cotswolds area of England, followed by a few days in London, and to the restoration project we are involved in at the Burrow’s Island Lighthouse. I will be entering photos of Phil at these places as well. Wish me luck.

Cotswolds Stanway St Peters Church

London Bridge

Westminster Abbey London

Burrow's Island Lighthouse

“Oh, and did you know that ‘marmot’ is another name for a ‘groundhog’?” I ask. My husband and I happened to see a couple of cute juvenile marmots playing at Mt. Rainier as well. And Phil saw them too!

Groundhog Marmot Mt Rainier

And get this…There are a few “other other” Gobblers Knobs in the United States that I discovered as I was preparing this blog. At 10,246 feet there is a mountain near Salt Lake City, Utah in the Wasatch Mountains called Gobblers Knob. In Alaska, there is a 3,018 foot mountain peak near milepost 132 on the Dalton Highway named Gobblers Knob. One in the San Bernardino National Forest in California at 6,955 feet. One in the Crater Lake area in Oregon at 3,459 feet. There are even a couple of Gobblers Knobs in Colorado, and one in Mississippi.* Looks like we will need to take Punxsutawney Phil on a few more adventures!

Sweet Travels!

*Most information about the various Gobblers Knobs from Peakbagger-Gobblers Knob.

The Northern Loop Trail of Mt. Rainier: A Five-Day Backpacking Adventure

Mt Rainier Northern Loop Yellowstone Cliffs Camp

The Northern Loop Trail is a 35-mile, 8500-foot-accumulative-elevation-gain backpack journey through some of Mt. Rainier’s most remote wilderness. Last week, My Love and I took 5 days and 4 nights to hike through some exotic, breathtaking, and challenging scenery. Long days of hiking with elevation gains and losses that seemed to never end, were matched with weather that thankfully cooperated without a drop of rain. (Unless you count the 5 minutes of rain in the middle of one of the nights while we were asleep in our tent.)

Mt Rainier Northern Loop Valley River

Previously, I have backpacked the 93-mile Wonderland Trail which encircles around Mt. Rainier. The Northern Loop utilizes a couple days of this trail, but then ventures north, to campsites where we were the only people there for two of our four nights.

Mt Rainier Northern Loop Mountain Meadow

Mt Rainier Northern Loop Mountain Meadow

Territory in the entire Mt. Rainier National Park is inhabited by black bears, mountain goats, elk, and marmots, none of which we saw during this adventure. We did however see a few pikas, chipmunks, a frog, a tadpole, and fortunately just about no mosquitoes.

Mt Rainier Northern Loop Yellowstone Cliffs

Mt Rainier Northern Loop Yellowstone Cliffs

Sheer rock cliffs are part of the scenery, as are forests of fir, cedar, and pine trees. Water in the form of lakes, waterfalls, roaring rivers, and gently running streams provide plenty of places to relax and take a break from the exercise. Valleys and hills, dried-up river beds, and views of glaciers and snow-covered Mt. Rainier itself make the days filled with beauty. And meadows containing some wildflowers that are still lingering from the summer were up against the changing colors of the autumn leaves on the trees.

Mt Rainier Northern Loop River

A day of hiking would last 6 to 9 hours, anywhere from 5 to 10 miles. Of course this included many stops to enjoy all the varied landscapes. And to eat. Sitting at various locations along the way, lunches sometimes consisted of almond butter or peanut butter on spelt tortillas. Jerky and protein bars made fine side dishes.

Mt Rainier Northern Loop Filtering Water

Mt Rainier Northern Loop Yellowstone Cliffs Bear Pole

In the late afternoon as we arrived in camp, we started the “chores” of camping, getting as much done before the sun set with the shorter autumn days, and continuing in the dark with the light of our headlamps. Setting up the tent, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads; filtering lots of water for cooking and drinking; changing into warmer clothes for the evening.

Mt Rainier Northern Loop Trees

Mt Rainier Northern Loop Trees

Boiling water to cook our freeze-dried food for dinner was part of the evening activities. Examples such as spaghetti with meat sauce, beef stew, beef stroganoff, chicken teriyaki with rice, and macaroni and cheese were all filled with lots of calories to replenish what we burned off during the long days. We each even ate our own 2-serving bag each night! Chores continued with brushing our teeth, and finally hanging all of our food, garbage, and any scented toiletries on a bear pole before finally drifting off to a well-deserved sleep. (Although the bear poles were also to keep the food away from the elusive chipmunks and any other creatures who might want to nibble in the middle of the night.)

Mt Rainier Northern Loop Meadow

Mt Rainier Northern Loop Meadow

We would awaken just before the sun came up to get a start on the morning chores. Taking down the tent, putting away the sleeping bags and pads; boiling more water for the morning’s breakfast of freeze-dried eggs with bacon, and oatmeal flavored with peanut butter and raisins; washing my hair with extra hot water left over from the boiled water; changing back into hiking clothes. We would finally throw on our backpacks (which initially weighed 45 pounds each as we needed to carry 6 days worth of food), and begin hiking once again only to discover new scenery and new adventures not experienced the day before.

Mt Rainier Northern Loop Berkeley Park

Sweet (and adventurous) Travels!

Wonderland Trail: Weighing out the Options

I didn’t know that My Love would show up on the tenth night of our Wonderland Trail backpack trip. He didn’t know that he would show up on the tenth night of our Wonderland Trail backpack trip. Until the day before…

Just two days earlier, Melissa and I had a re-supply day, where My Love Scott, and her love, met us at Mowich Lake to bring our extra food, our changes of clean clothes, and other supplies we had previously set aside for this day.

On this day, and prior to this day, Scott wanted to hike on this 12 night trip. But we have a cat, Norm, whom Scott cares for very much, and whom he prefers not to leave alone for long periods of time (even with visits from caring friends). Definitely not for the 12 nights we were backpacking.

The Wonderland Trail

I know Scott struggled with the desire to be out there in the wilderness. But all along, he supported me in my desire to backpack, and I supported him in his caring of Norm.

On our re-supply day, seven of the 12 nights had passed, and we acknowledged that we had missed each other terribly. And knowing that we had five more nights to go, we made our loving, supportive good-byes.

But then Scott went home, and unbeknownst to me, did some fast, and I mean fast, planning and packing. He got out maps and books, and along with our itinerary, he realized that there was one campground that he could meet us at, and be able to then spend the last three nights/three days on the trail!

During his quick planning time, Normykat (that’s my nickname for him) was a big help, pointing to the possibilities on the map, reading the books, and carefully, together, weighing out the options.

Normykat with books, maps, and pointing paws

For Scott, it could mean taking a side trail to the particular campground we were at. If he were to take the actual Wonderland Trail itself, he would have two days of catching up to do, and that was too much. The side trail, however, was eight miles in, and a good possibility.

Several years earlier, one could actually drive five of those eight miles, but that was no longer an option. The road had been washed out with some storms, so the only way now to navigate this stretch of the road would be to hike…or bike.

So Scott grabbed not only his hiking gear, but his biking gear as well, and on the morning of the tenth day, he drove several hours from our house to the entrance to the road, biked five miles through gravel and rocks and trees, sometimes paralleling a river, with his backpack on his back, then carefully hiding his bike and camouflaging it amongst the trees, and finally hiking the last three miles to show up to our campground that night. Wow, what a day for him!

I was so surprised, and of course, so ecstatic that he showed up. And for the next few days, he was able to be out in the wilderness!

Scott, and Me and Scott

Normykat was alright for those few days. Our friend Vanessa, who also loves Normykat, came over to feed him, pet him, and visit.

And as for that bike left in the woods…well, the day after I completed the entire backpack trip of 60 miles, Scott and I walked the five miles of the washed out road, with my bike at our side, recovered his bike, rode back to the cars, and drove back home.

the camouflage, the recovery, the ride back

Sweet (and adventurous) travels!

Wonderland Trail: A Family That Hikes Together Stays Together

You meet some very interesting people when backpacking on the Wonderland Trail (WT). Not a lot of people, as you would encounter on a day hike in a popular area of Mt. Rainier on a warm summer day. But some people, who are sharing a similar experience as yourself.

When you cross paths with a fellow WT hiker, you usually stop and chat for a few moments and compare notes. What campground did you just come from? Where to next? How many days are you taking to complete the trail? Seen any bears?

Mirror Lake Photo (352 x 450)
Mirror Lake

Most people take 8 to 14 days to circumnavigate Mt. Rainier. But then you run into those hearty-folk who take only 3 or 4 days. The 3-dayers were trail runners. Truly admirable. Fully supported, so they don’t have to carry heavy packs, and in their running shoes rather than hiking boots, they travel 30 to 33 miles a day. Wow!

The 4-dayer was still carrying a pack, but quite a light one, and had a few re-supply days. But still, an impressive 20 to 25 miles per day!!

St Andrews Lake Photo (429 x 450)
St. Andrews Lake

Many couples share the WT experience together. And solo travelers, even solo women, camp and hike on their own! And families, such as the two mothers with their three teenage sons, who were taking three years, doing one-third of the WT at a time.

You also run into “old friends” on the trail. Now how ironic is that! (Not sure how often you run into the same person two years in a row on the WT.) Last year a group of us congregated at the Indian Bar shelter for a night, talking, laughing and staying dry. And lo and behold, this year we ran into one of them this year. Nice to see an old friend, compare WT stories, and catch up on life.

Aurora Lake Morning Photo (300 x 245)Aurora Lake Photo (241 x 300)Aurora Lake Night Photo (300 x 273)
Aurora Lake in the morning, during the day, and in the evening

But there was one particular group of very interesting people that truly amazed me. A dad, a mom, an uncle, a grandfather. And four children. Not teenage children. But young kids, aged 3, 5, 7 and 9. Yes, 3, 5, 7 and 9!! Doing the entire 93-mile WT together!

For the most part, the kids seemed to be enjoying themselves. Well, the three year old was crying a bit at one point while walking, but perked up again once she got to ride on her daddy’s shoulders.

I was lucky enough to witness all the kids in this family having kid-type fun several times. Playing in the streams and rivers, and swimming in a lake. I even found out that for the three oldest children, this was their second year hiking the WT.

Golden Lake Photo (351 x 450)
one of the Golden Lakes

Of course the adults carried most of the weight and supplies, and the family was taking 14 days to complete the hike, but the older kids did their share, too. One of them had the responsibility of carrying all the toilet paper!!

What an awesome, remarkable family. I believe that a family that hikes together stays together!

Sweet Travels!