Backpacking Trip: Mount Rainier

White River area/View of Rainier
Micah and I had been going back and forth for several weeks trying to decide where we should go backpacking this summer. I really wanted to do -part- of the 93 mile Wonderland Trail, but was a little discouraged when I read that the permits would be hard to come by. We had initially decided on Spider Meadow and Phelps basin, but once we heard that it would be pretty crowded, we decided to choose another destination. There are so many places we want to go- but most are too far away for a three day trip (The River Styx in south Oregon, Banff National Park in Canada, The Muir Trail- to name a few). We went to a backpacking basics class at REI, and the instructor gave us several ideas, which we immediately looked up. Unfortunately, nothing seemed to really stand out for one reason or another (honestly, the idea of crowded backpacking and campgrounds seemed really unappealing despite all the pros- scenery, distance, elevation gain- of the hikes themselves).

One thing I really wanted to do with him this summer was take him to Panorama Point (up past Paradise) in Mount Rainier. I went there last year (see blog post here), and loved it so much that I wanted to go back asap. I think everyone should go there. There's nothing quite like it- the view is spectacular. We were going to make this a day trip, but then....

We decided to put the two trips together and go backpacking in Rainier and visit Panorama Point.  Sounded like a good plan to me!

Start of the trip:

We started at White River campground in the NE part of the park. We put on our packs. Got all saddled up. Grabbed our walking sticks that we had found elsewhere, and then set off in the wrong direction by mistake. Yup, wrong direction. About 30 minutes into our hike, we realized that we had gone the wrong way, so we had to turn around and hike back to where we started. It wasn't a bad mistake... we really enjoyed that hike. I think we probably went about a mile or two before we realized we messed up.  Oh well. Things happen!

Getting ready to cross White River.

From White River, it was about 2.6 miles up to Sunrise camp. What we didn't realize when we planned this trip was what those 2.6 miles would entail: a 2400 foot elevation gain.

We decided to try it even though we knew it would be hard. We went about 1/4 way up (which took an hour to do). At this point it was almost 4:00 in the afternoon. At the rate we were going, we would have gotten up to sunrise at around 7, and that didn't sound like the best idea because we wanted to set up camp and make dinner.  We had already hiked several miles anyways, and we were getting tired. We decided it would be a better idea to turn around and drive up to Sunrise and then hike from Sunrise to Sunrise camp (roundtrip it's 3.5 miles).

We stopped at the lookout point at Sunrise to absorb some of the scenery.
Mount Adams on the far right.

And then we made it to Sunrise and started the short hike to the campsite.

It was a beautiful hike.

False hellebore. This plant is pretty cool looking. I'm making it a goal to learn more about plants of the Pacific NW so that I can appreciate them more when I go out.

The park ranger had warned us of several things up at Sunrise camp: snow, bears, and mountain goats. We saw some snow, but didn't see any bears or mountain goats. We did see some chipmunks and a few deer though. Oh, and tons of mosquitoes and bees.

There was a lake next to our campsite which was our water source.

Shadow lake- A tarn with travertine. Tarn=small mountain lake, travertine=calcium and iron carbonate (at the bottom of the lake, reason for the reddish color). There is a dusting of travertine all over the mountain-the winds move it around. Makes the snow a reddish color (which is cool when you know what it's from, not cool when you don't).

This water was ice cold, but the lake was beautiful. Wild flowers were starting to bloom all around.


Boiled water from a waterfall to use for dinner.

Trees grows like this (instead of straight) because they have to endure the weight of the snow for most of the year. Crazy that they are still able to grow despite immense amounts of pressure.

Bear poles for our food and toiletries.

Water source in the tent/attempt at drinking water without being harassed by mosquitoes.
I woke up several times throughout the night with odd thoughts drifting in and out of my mind. The first time I woke up, I thought about my dinner and how delicious it was. I had dehydrated Mexican rice and chicken. It was so amazing. Honestly, I'm still thinking about how good it was. ;) The next time I woke up, I thought about banana slugs and what would happen if they were as large as bears. I felt like I was hallucinating at one point during the night and that I was floating in my sleeping bag too. Haha- what a night.

The next morning we woke up and packed up our camp, ate a quick breakfast, and began the hike back to the car. Originally we were going to hike to Glacier Basin, but since our car was up at Sunrise now instead of down at White River, our plans were all thrown off. So we changed our plans (once again) for the rest of the trip.

I love how the different types of trees can grow together.


We drove around Rainier to Paradise to do some hiking there. I assumed that since the snow was manageable up at Sunrise (6400 ft) that Paradise (5400 ft) would be just as manageable.


[Ya know what happens when you assume?
Yeah, you know.]

The drive up to Paradise was beautiful, of course.  It was a picture perfect day.

Stopped to boil water to liquify/heat up some freeze dried mac n cheese.


Holy crap was there a lot of snow there! We hiked up to the top of some hillside to soak in the view, but unfortunately could not get to Panorama Point because of all the snow. Going up was hard- it took awhile. Going down was fun, lots of slip and slide action. And it was so. freaking. bright. I put on sunscreen and then sat on the bottle of sunscreen by mistake. It squirted out all over the passenger seat in my car. Ah! Haha.

Paradise. So much snow here. The trails weren't visible at all.

I was super bummed that we didn't make it to Panorama Point, but seeing as how we now own an annual pass... I know we'll get up there another time soon :)

We went to check out some other areas around the SW quadrant of Rainier, stopped to wander around and take photos a few times, and then checked out a campsite that we were thinking about camping at for the night. It was so crowded though, so we nixed that idea and kept going.

Down in the SW portion of the park.

Eventually we decided to just start heading home. We were both exhausted and home was a good 3 hours away.

All in all, it was a fun trip even though it seemed like nothing went as planned.  But it did remind me of something: You know you're with someone really special when everything can go wrong, yet you can still have an amazing time together :)

...even when you're ambushed by mosquitoes...

End trip: 42 mosquito bites total. This is my knee cap...

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