To compensate for the lack of snow around here (we only saw it once this winter and it was gone the next day), my parents took me to White Pass. Parna, Maha, Frough and Mohammad joined us for a two-hour drive split by a lunch break. Not only we saw a lot of snow, but also a big castle. Although originally made of snow, the castle had turned into an ice castle (it was very slippery everywhere one could set foot). We played about 30 minutes around the castle, then we retired inside the cabin to drink tea and eat cookies. By the time they were getting ready to close the cabin, we got out once more to slide down the hill, then we drove back home.
If you read one of my previous posts, you may believe that snow is something to be afraid of. Today I decided to put these fears to rest and prove that the elements can be confronted quite easily. Daddy made a snowman the day before, thinking that it might suppress my fear of snow. Wishful thinking. I didn’t really care for his snowman. I posed in front of it because my parents kinda forced me, not because I wanted to.
Now let’s talk about my alleged fear of snow. What fear of snow? Are you kidding me? I had a lot of fun going back and forth in the driveway and on the street. That was after my parents finally accepted that I would not spend my time admiring a snowman. Some may argue that the layer of snow was not as thick as last time. Half of the driveway was almost clear because daddy had shovelled the snow twice. The other half had a relativelly thin layer of snow (daddy shovelled that section only once), which almost turned into ice because of hours of freezing rain. That’s a valid argument, but I will address it at some other time.
This morning I woke up to see that everything outside was covered in white. I pointed to something generic outside, asking “ahe?”. Daddy answered “snow”, so I concluded that this is how the white stuff is called. I cannot pronounce the word as ‘snou’, but I immediately threw the word back at him as ‘nou’. I happily pointed outside repeating ‘nou’ throughout the day.
But wait, there’s more. Daddy came from work earlier than usual and I got to go outside. It was snowing last time when I got out in the snow, but there wasn’t really much snow on the ground. This time the layer of snow was so thick that walking was kinda scary (almost as scary as walking on sand). Actually, I couldn’t even walk because the snow layer was so thick (once I even fell and I requested a rescue team to get me out of the snow). That’s why I was very critical of my parents’ attempts to let me walk in the snow and why they had to hold me most of the time.
Last year I was too little to enjoy the snow, but this year I got out of the house as soon as it started snowing. Mommy bundled me up in a thick jacket and put a pair of boots on my feet to make sure that I was warm. There wasn’t a lot of snow on the ground in our back yard. However, walking on the lawn did not come very easy: after I fell a few times, my parents decided to become more supportive instead of letting me walk by myself. I had a few minutes of fun in the snow followed by a warm bath and a nap.
Here are a few more random pictures from the same day:
Based on driving time estimates, we were supposed to leave Yellowstone some time around noon to make it back home at a reasonable hour. The target for this morning was the Yellowstone Canyon, part of which we already visited a few years ago. We started with the road following the river on the south-east side toward the Artist Point. The sun sent its rays into the mist of the Lower Falls at a perfect angle to paint a beautiful rainbow. Unfortunately, the rainbow didn’t last long – we could see it fading while trying to capture it in pictures. We stopped at the parking lot next to the Upper Falls, hoping that we could hike – at least partially – the Uncle Tom’s Trail. We got lost after less than 20 minutes of hiking because the trail was covered in snow. This unsuccessful attempt gave us enough time to explore the north-west side of the river.
The North Rim Drive takes the visitors through a series of amazing viewpoints. From the Brink of the Lower Falls one can see the water going over the edge and the canyon. The Lookout Point is where I would go if I only had time to stop at one viewpoint: it offers good views of both the waterfall and the canyon. Unfortunately, we couldn’t hike to the Red Rock because the trail was closed due to snow. After another awe moment at the Grand View, we were again disappointed because the road to the Inspiration Point was also closed due to snow.
Driving again for three hours convinced me that reserving a room closer to the park makes perfect sense. The Paradise area had a little more snow than we saw in Sunrise the week before. The Reflection Lake was unfrozen, but the snow was still lingering around it. The mountain reflection was disturbed by a light breeze creating waves on the lake surface.
Across the road from Reflection Lake is the trail head for Pinnacle Peak. The trail starts with a long hike through the woods with limited views. The trail was still more than 50% covered in snow. The time for good panoramic views came after gaining some altitude and leaving the trees behind. Unfortunately I can’t say what type of flowers I saw along the way, but they were plenty, colorful and pretty. A huge marmot crossed the trail a few meters in front of me than stopped to chew its lunch while keeping an eye on me taking pictures of it.
The maintained trail ended after a few more switchbacks at the saddle between the Pinnacle and Plummer peaks. A new window toward South opened up to show Mount Adams surrounded by clouds. Encouraged by a fellow hiker, I continued beyond the maintained trail toward the Pinnacle Peak. It was the first time in my life to climb such steep rocks and it was intimidating because others were using ropes and wearing hard hats. Taking pictures became a luxury – I had to put the camera in the backpack and take it out only on stable grounds.
Reaching the top gave me such an adrenaline rush that my knees started shaking. The view of Mount Rainier dominating the Paradise Valley with beautiful dark blue Reflection and Louise Lakes was worth every minute of the hike. Rock-climbing proved to be easier on the way down and we got to the saddle on time to take a few more pictures with the mountain in the background. While hiking down I observed thick clouds surrounding the summit and slowly ruining the view. People were still hiking up and probably ended up enjoy their time less than I did.
We simply had to get back to Sunrise to see the place in a good weather. Hiking on the Sourdough Ridge Trail felt completely different than two weeks before. The snow disappeared almost completely: the ridge where I took a picture of Lida hiking on a pile of snow taller than me barely had a little patch left. Of course I took another picture of her gloriously standing on top of the remaining patch. We finally saw what the fog was hiding last time: steep rocky slopes and green valleys. Shadow Lake was visible from the trail, this time completely unfrozen. The Frozen Lake was still partially frozen with a huge pile of snow surviving on its West side. The fence cutting the access closer to the lake was as frustrating as the last time.
At this point the original plan (hiking to Mt. Fremont Lookout) changed (to hiking the Burroughs Mountains). Going up the First Burroughs was tough and dusty. Here is the sad part: I realized that we got on top of it only much later. We were hiking the Second Burroughs thinking that we would soon make it on top of the first one. A really nice view of the mountain was waiting for us and for the other several dozens hikers. Some of them got so inspired that they took their lunch boxes out and started stuffing their faces.
The descent gave me a hint that I got my mountains wrong, but it was too late to realign everything in my mind – I did it later when looking at the pictures. The meadows were full of flowers, the pictures don’t do any justice to reality. After getting below the tree line (in other words hiking through the woods) we lost the view of the mountain for the most part. Nothing impressed us much before we reached the areas ravaged by the 2006 flood, but hiking on the extremely unleveled terrain was not impressive. It was just tiring. After reaching the Glacier Basin Trail the trail condition raised our hopes that the hard part was over. It wasn’t. Most of the trail to White River Campground was difficult. The mountain was visible from time to time, but the sun was in the perfect position to ruin the pictures.
The difficult hike affected Lida’s right knee, which started to bother her. The last part of the hike – on the Wonderland Trail – was not exactly pleasant for her. The scenery was lame again – since we were hiking through the woods, we saw lots of trees, so many that it became too repetitive. I decided that the trails starting or ending in White River Campground are not worth the effort. The only highlight of the trail was a waterfall. This showed up when we were pretty high up and marked the point where the trail became interesting again. The trees obstructed the panorama only from time to time and a large variety of wild flowers decided to bloom for our viewing pleasure.
Nothing more pleasant than waking up with the promise of a sunny day! And nothing more disappointing than realizing that you cannot trust the weather forecast! The ranger at the Paradise Visitor Center was trumpeting a gloriously sunny Monday, which didn’t console much the Sunday visitors like us. However, he gave us a little hope when he said that hiking high enough may get us above the clouds line.
We started on what seemed to be the Skyline Trail, adventuring deeper and deeper inside the fog. It was somewhat encouraging that there were plenty of people showing up from different trails running parallel to ours and hiking up. A sudden change in decor left us without any trees, on a completely white background. Or almost completely white: here-and-there some big stones that got rid of their snow cover. There was one point where the trail shook off the snow and made it easier to hike. Sweet relief for a few steps on solid ground before the snow took over again and trail became steeper.
While hiking we could hear a creek rushing down, but we could not see it for a long time. It may have been the fog obstructing the view or, more likely, it was flowing under the snow. The trail finally intersected the noise-maker (Peeble Creek). While having lunch we were meditating at the absurdity of being at the Panorama point with no panorama to look at. But we were already high enough to see the Rainier summit clearing from time to time. It took just a little bit more effort to get above the clouds line and see the mountain in its full splendor.
We continued hiking on the Skyline Trail and found it harder and harder to find our way: there were no more markers and we completely lost the trail after crossing a few snowbanks. Getting lost didn’t make much sense, so we turned around and gave up hiking the loop. The fog was thinner and the valley cleared up (partially) a few times. Hiking down on snow – or I should say sliding down – proved to be extremely enjoyable.
The rest of the day was dedicated to waterfalls. We actually had enough energy to hike to the Myrtle Falls, but the rest of them (Christine Falls and Narada Falls) were close to the road. The picture we took at the Christine Falls reveals a bit of the disaster that haunted us the following days: we hiked on snow above the clouds with no sunscreen to protect us from the sun. It lasted only one hour, but we paid for it for a week: our faces turned red on Sunday, red and swollen on Monday, red, swollen and cracked on Tuesday, red, swollen and peeling on Wednesday and Thursday, peeling on Friday and Saturday. We learned something that week. The hard way.
Box Canyon was – again – the place where a park ranger persuaded us to change our plans by suggesting that hiking in bad weather (as we were lucky enough to experience) was easier in Sunrise than in Paradise. According to the weather forecast, we were looking forward to a sunny 6th of July, so we turned back and drove to Sunrise. At the Visitor Center we were advised to hike the beautiful Silver Forest Trail. The trail offers good views of the Glacier Basin and the White River carving its way through. Unfortunately the thick clouds completely obstructed the visibility above a certain altitude. After hitting the end (after 0.8 miles), while eating lunch, I decided that the trail was mostly lame.
On the way back we continued toward the Shadow Lake despite the patches of snow which covered a good part of the trail. It became quite an adventure when the fog changed to fine drizzle. The Shadow Lake – mostly frozen – was thawing a couple of meters inside its borders. The Sunrise Camp was under a thick layer of snow and (not very surprising) completely deserted. It was a last minute decision to digress from the easy way back to Sunrise and see the Frozen Lake. This turned out to be a pretty difficult ascent on snow. We could barely see the Frozen Lake even when we got close to it. Better said, as close as we could because there was a fence around it, which made the scenery so naturally beautiful.
The snow still covering the abrupt slopes of the Sourdough Ridge made the last part of the hike quite dangerous. The limited visibility gave our brains the opportunity to imagine the surroundings hiding behind the thick fog. The weather improved marginally by the time the Sunrise Lodge became visible. We were exhausted, so we only spent some time in the gift shop to get our magnet, then drove back to our White Pass condo.
Driving from a sunny Richland to a very cloudy Mount Rainier was somewhat disappointing. On our way West we stopped at the Box Canyon, where a park ranger suggested to turn back and head for Ohanapecosh, where the weather is usually friendlier than in Paradise. It was drizzling at the time we parked at Ohanapecosh, but the sky cleared after we ate our lunch.
The Silver Falls Trail goes between Ohanapecosh river and the vehicle road through the park (123). While we could hear the vehicle traffic from time to time, Ohanapecosh river was impossible to spot. I was afraid that Lida would compare the trail with those in Olympic NP (which she didn’t find very enjoyable), but she thought it was similar to those in Glacier NP. Silver Falls marks the first visual contact with the river and makes the hike worthwhile.
The next part of the hike offered very good views of the river, both as turbulent (while approaching the falls) and as calm (around the Grove of the Patriarchs). Crossing the Ohanapecosh River one person at a time on a shaking bridge seemed like an adventure for the little kids. The Patriarchs were big-old trees that reminded me again of the Olympic NP. The rest of the Silver Falls Loop was very similar to the first part, without the vehicle noise. In hindsight, I would park right after the Stevens Canyon Entrance and hike from there to both Silver Falls and Grove of the Patriarchs.
While still on the trail, we saw the sun conquering the sky and chasing the clouds away. As soon as we got back to the car, we decided to give Paradise a second chance. Rainier was out in all its glory, only with occasional clouds disturbing the view. After stopping at a few viewpoints, we discovered the trailhead for Bench and Snow Lakes. Two families with very small children were very determined to hike despite the snow covering the trail. We followed them to the Bench Lake viewpoint, then a little more until we figured out that locating the Snow Lake was more problematic. We were so tired after hiking in the snow that we gave up the park exploration for the day and we drove to our base: White Pass Village Inn.