July 20, Day 49: Yesterday, we watched the sunrise at Rainier; today, we set out to hike Skyline Loop Trail. Snow still covered much of the mountainside, even in late July. Where it had retreated, bright green grass and wildflowers of every hue displayed their brief glory.
Views for Miles
Our hike started about mid-day, in Mount Rainier National Park near Paradise Inn. The trailhead was too crowded to be paradise, but the views were impressive even here. As we climbed, the bustling parking lot and paved paths gave way to snow, and the crowds thinned.
Even on the snow, the hike was hot. Temperatures were 75-80F, the sun direct and glaring off the snow underfoot. As we climbed, we quickly shed our jackets, then applied more sunscreen. Our footing was generally ok, but we wished for hiking poles. There were a few precarious points where the snow path worn by the hikes before was narrow and the slope quite steep. A slip would result in an unintended slide several hundred feet down the mountain. Wheeeeeee!
The views and all directions were phenomenal. The pristine blue sky with fluffy clouds occasionally casting shadows across the mountain against stark, jagged peaks. Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, and Mt. St. Helens were all visible on the horizon.
The Mountain in Bloom
Nearer, tiny wildflowers burst pink, white, yellow, and purple. In the background, the music of snowmelt streams rushing down the mountain.
Fun in the Snow
We shared the mountain with critters – songbirds, deer, chipmunks, and wrestling marmots. Mountain goats enjoyed the sunny afternoon, gazing at a trio of summer skiers plying the slope. Lacking skis, we improvised and slid down some of the paths on our slick jackets and cooled off in the snow.
The Swiss Alps have nothing on the Cascades.
As we returned to the car, with feet soaking wet and limbs exhausted, we felt satisfied by the Rainier hiking adventure. Hungry, we headed back to our (very) modest hotel for chipotle beef stew. And to nurse the sunburned bottoms of our chins, gifts of sunlight reflected off the snow.