The weathermen didn't lie, that was a crazy night. After 8 the rain started in earnest and while it got a little lighter sometime in the early hours it never stopped. I think the thunder and lightning stopped around 2 am but sleep was pretty minimal. I would wake up, stare at the lightning, and my steadily wetter gear and once again look at my watch. At least if I'm hiking I'm doing something.
It was finally light enough to head out. The plan was to get down the 3 or so miles to White River where there was a ranger station and hopefully change up permits so I could have days more to my liking.
That's Rainier, at least as much of it as I was going to see while I hiked down towards White River. I got down there and was surprised to see 4 hikers milling around in the rain. They had camped there the night before and stayed somewhat dry sleeping on the porch of a building. Man was I jealous. After chatting trail for a bit one of the guys turned out to be a section hiker and offered me a lift to the Ranger Station. After stalling for a bit James and Steph showed up and both James and I ended up getting a ride. I thought the station was 0.5 miles away, nope way farther than that. I was super glad for the ride and the rangers were very accommodating. We both were able to make at least one change to our permits. Back in the car and after a bit more repacking back on the trail.
|Looking up the White River|
And then it was time to climb. I've heard that the very best camps along the trail are Summerland and Indian Bar. Lots of people even recommend a very short day as the two sites are only 4.5 miles apart just so you can stay at both spots and enjoy what many swear are the best views on the mountain. My hike would take me up 2000' to Summerland and then up another 1000' to Panhandle Gap and then all the way down to Indian Bar. I was crossing my fingers that I would get at least a few glimpses of the supposedly spectacular scenery.
|mountains peeking out|
|waterfalls as I climbed|
|and the trail heads somewhere up there, looking out from|
|Looking back towards Summerland|
|and Summerland is eaten by a cloud|
|negligible snow, easy time over the ridge|
|and it's gone...|
|over the top and into the mist|
|marmot traipsing across the land|
Down and down the trail went, wet and mysterious I felt like I must be getting closer. I was in a hurry to get to basically no where so I took my time. Mumbling songs like here comes the sun and I've got high hopes. There were also about a million delicious berries which caused me to stop every few minutes, in other words a slow trek down.
And then I was at the bottom. My knees thanked me and I dreamed of setting up my gear and drying even a fraction of my stuff. I was dripping wet and walking along a glorious river on Mt Rainier. I was enjoying my day a surprising amount but definitely tired. I headed up to the campsites and very slowly trudged around. Those campsites are spread out! And required way more climbing than I felt up to. I finally picked a spot and set up my tent in the drizzling endless rain. I picked the biggest spot I could find because Steph and James were planning to camp with me. While we had been able to make a few changes to our permits nothing had been available that night and the ranger had said it would be just fine for them to camp with me. So I needed space for 2 tents.
Don and Dave were sitting in the doorway. Turns out they had the same thought as me, but had found the place empty. We decided to kill time and beg the group to let us stay when they got there. An hour or so later James and Steph stumbled in looking pretty rough. They were cold and beat, apparently they got no small break of blue sky and uplifting spirits and were pretty down. Steph didn't even talk the first hour she was so worn out. Finally warming up a bit and spreading out gear at 7 pm we decided to call it, no one was coming and we were staying in that shelter.
It was glorious. The fireplace was built over but it was still dry after an entire day of rain. It was fun spending time getting to know folks, Dave and Don have decided I should have a second career as a motivational speaker. Apparently I was still obnoxiously cheerful after such a hard day and seemed genuinely happy to be on the mountain which no one else could figure out. The other 4 were all plotting how to bail. I was still hopeful, the storm was supposed to clear sometime in the early hours and I was praying for sunrise.
Honestly I had a great day. My gear was wet, my shoes were literally dripping water the entire day but I was grinning like a loon. The marmots made me smile, I loved the climbs and even in the mist it was all gorgeous. I am so lucky to be out here, not even a chance I'm bailing.