Friday, August 24, 2012

Day 121, Hey Mt Rainier

Daily mileage: 33
Mile 2313-2345

Ever seen a herd of elk? How about have you ever scared a herd of elk, because that's what I did at 5 something this morning. Wandering down the trail in semidarkness to turn a corner and think hmmm those are really big deer, oh wait nope way too big. And then they saw me and started running all over the place. Those things are big, loud, and fast. At least standing next to a tree and muttering please don't run into me seems to have worked out pretty well. So with my heart hammering I set off to get off of the valley floor and away from all of its mosquitoes.
Nothing to eventful at first. Soft dirt trail pretty beat up by hooves, I'm thinking elk. At least it's not muddy right now. Got to a pretty big creek which thankfully had a big old log across it (used to be a 2 log bridge, very much no longer a bridge, gaping holes sort of undermine the integrity of those things). But good enough for me. The trail followed the creek for a bit and wow was it rushing down the canyon next to me. Pretty soon I veered away and was staring at the Bumping River. No nice logs this time. I paced the banks a bit and then just gave up on dry feet. The beauty of hiking in sneakers is that they dry super fast, my socks take longer to dry than the shoes. So with nice cold feet I started climbing.

As the trail continued to climb I was taken out of the forest and started to head towards some pretty imposing cliffs. Nice change of scenery,unfortunately pretty poorly captured on camera.

As the climb finally switchbacked to an end I officially entered Mt Rainier National Park and got my first mountain view of the day.

So glorious. Weaving in and out of mountains with intermittent views of Rainier, not exactly a bad morning. Started to see more and more day hikers as I continued to dodge mosquitoes and enjoy the sights.

Down past Dewey Lake and then it was time to start climbing again.

The number of day hikers became overwhelming as I got closer to the park entrance and Highway 410. Lots of fun talking to folks but it was hot out and as much fun as chit chatting was I don't particularly like the blazing sun so I moved on. Quick stop at the bathroom and parking lot to dump all my trash (seriously any weight you don't have to carry is great). Then on towards Sheep Lake which was a nice refreshing break after the heat. I met two section hikers, Ron and Fairytale there and headed up the last big climb with them after chatting and taking a dip in the lake. I said goodbye at the top and headed off to contour mountaintops for miles. Honestly it was some 7 odd miles of contouring the sides of mountains and then heading around to contour a whole new side awhile later.

You can see the faint line of trail as it heads across the mountains.

Hours later I was getting tired and thirsty and was pretty close to stumbling not walking. Thankfully I made it to the beautiful piped spring at mile 2343 and made my much desired dinner. 9 miles hadn't been too long of a dry stretch but after the heat of the evening I was mighty grateful for that water. After dinner I headed off for just a few more miles. Down I went and then back to climbing yet again. Stopped in a little bit of a saddle and set up camp. Normally I don't care about sleeping on the trail but lately it's looked like an elk thoroughfare with all the tracks and scat so I voted to sleep off trail tonight. Not that this will actually stop me from being stepped on but I sure can hope.

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