Rainier Paradise Snowshoe Round II – December 2014

Sunrising behind Ranier. Driving toward the park
Sunrising behind Ranier. Driving toward the park

Jean

Thursday off. Clear skies. Friends ready to snowshoe. Back to Paradise for snowshoeing!

Crisp clear day
Crisp clear day

Thursday, December 30, 2014. Hike: snowshoeing around at the Paradise Entrance in Rainier National Park. Distance: a few miles? Elevation gain: no clue. High point: unknown.

Snowy trees
Snowy trees

Me, Jonathan, and Eve snowshoed below Skyline Ridge, close to Panorama Point, and near Glacier Vista in the Paradise area of Rainier National Park. This time the roads were snowier and chains were necessary for the full 11 miles between Longmire and Paradise. The area was more crowded this time around too, with clear skies and plenty of people on holiday vacation.

Beautiful Paradise!
Beautiful Paradise!

We got a nice early start, getting to Rainier as soon as we could (gates opened at 9 am, we were there at 9:07) which meant leaving Seattle between 6:30 and 7 am. Rainier was in full view as we drove south, the sun rising behind it with the peak silhouetted in the black, pink, and yellow sky.

Mountains and sand dune-like snow
Mountains and sand dune-like snow

We payed our fee at the entrance, chained up at Longmire, then chatted with the ranger for a few minutes before we hit the mountain. Avalanche danger today: considerable. New to the whole avalanche possibility, this seemed high and so we were cautious in our trekking. (The scale ranges from Low-Moderate-Considerable-High-Extreme.)

We fixed our snowshoes to our feet, stuffed the essentials into our day packs, and headed up into the snow. We went up, right, straight, around a left bend, and over the wooden bridge. Plenty of photo ops on this crisp blue day (turns out the lowest temps for the day were 12 degrees! the morning was chilly).

Beautiful day
Beautiful day
Jonathan and Eve near Panorama Point
Jonathan and Eve near Panorama Point

Just beyond the bridge, we ran into a group of people sledding and building a snow cave – how awesome is that? They may have noticed the excitement in our faces, or maybe they were merely generous sledders, but anyhow they offered us a turn on the sledding hill with their sleds. Wooo! It was awesome. Jonathan, then Eve, then I ran up the boot path then each in turn jumped headfirst onto a sled and bombed down the hill. Snow flew everywhere! It was awesome. Great way to start the hike. We chatted for a minute then continued our way up.

Adams and Hood off in the distance
Adams and Hood off in the distance

We reached the top of the hill and paused for sandwich eating and tea drinking. All of the mountains were out in full force: Mt Adams, St Helens, and even Hood peeking out in the distance (=over 200 miles of visibility = awesome!).

Rainier! In all her glory
Rainier! In all her glory

We continued below Skyline Ridge (going right then up and over would have taken too long) and up the Edith Creek Basin Route to the flat area below Panorama Point. The views were even better up here! Eve and Jonathan wanted to climb the switchbacks to the top of Panorama Point, but were very patient with me when I resisted for fear of avalanches. Instead, we went only about 1/4 of the way up and off to the right where we could sit and eat trail mix while we soaked in the views. We chatted with Canadians who were doing the same.

Pink sun tinged shot. St Helens in the distance
Pink sun tinged shot. St Helens in the distance

There was a single boot path up above and Eve reconned it for us all. But it was too sketchy, so we continued back down instead. We headed as close to the Nisqually Glacier as possible, to the end of a small ridge of snow, also where the furthest tracks in this direction ended. Deciding this was a perfect vantage point of Rainier, the glacier, and the horizon, we settled in for a while. We took a bazillion pictures. Jonathan took out all 3 of his cameras. Several groups of people came up here to the “end of the trail” to hang out too and we chatted when they did.

Nice shot of Adams
Nice shot of Adams

Once our toes were sufficiently cold, we headed back down. We took the more direct route downhill along the Alta Vista route. The sun was getting low and began turning everything a beautiful golden color. Shadows stretched long. The moon came out. Beautiful!

Yay for hiking!
Yay for hiking!

Back down to the parking lot. De-snowshoe. Snap the final pictures of Rainier as the alpenglow faded to pink. Wind our way back down from Paradise to Longmire. De-chain the tires. Then head back to Seattle. A great day playing in the snow!

10/10 day
10/10 day
Tree, Rainier, Eve
Tree, Rainier, Eve
Tree, Rainier, Jonathan
Tree, Rainier, Jonathan
Moon, sky, snow
Moon, sky, snow
Waning daylight and long shadows
Waning daylight and long shadows
Jonathan in action, at dusk
Jonathan in action, at dusk
Golden golden light
Golden golden light

 

Alpenglowy Rainier
Alpenglowy Rainier
Driving down through alpenglow
Driving down through alpenglow
Tips of alpenglow tinged trees
Tips of alpenglow tinged trees
Pink Rainier summit
Pink Rainier summit
And the Paradise area at sunset
And the Paradise area at sunset
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Rainier Paradise Snowshoe – December 2014

Snow on snow
Snow on snow

Jean

Following other snowshoe tracks
Following other snowshoe tracks

Snow! Christmas is fast approaching and the season has been markedly snow free. Of course, this is Seattle and not the ‘shire so the weather is as predicted. It was great to get out and enjoy the fluffy powdery white snow along with Eve and Lee, fellow New Englanders, at the base of Rainier on snowshoes and surrounded by what looked like magical Christmas trees.

Bridge crossing
Bridge crossing

Thursday, December 18, 2014. Hike: snowshoeing around at the Paradise Entrance in Rainier National Park, circa Mazama Ridge. Distance: a few miles? Elevation gain: no clue. High point: unknown.

As we drove south toward the mountain we could see the lower reaches, but upper 3/4 was entirely obscured in clouds. The forecast: rain at low elevations, snow higher. We reached Rainier mid-morning and chatted with the ranger at Longmire for a few minutes. No avalanche forecasting was available so early in the season and not yet a concern. In Rainier National Park, you’ll find the Longmire Entrance and Ranger’s station at the southern end of the park and 2700 feet elevation. East of Longmire is the Paradise Entrance and Ranger’s station situated at 5400 feet – 2700 feet higher! While it was raining at Longmire, there was nearly 2 feet of snow at Paradise! Lee, Eve, and I had to add chains to the tires halfway to Paradise. There was a handful of cars in the parking lot.

Deep snow
Deep snow
Snowshoes!
Christmas colored snowshoes!

We donned our shells and gaiters, buckled our snowshoes to our boots, and set off into the white. We zigzagged up and to the right, following the tracks of another snowshoer. Walking along what looked like a path, we came to trail signs just poking up above the surface of the snow. We walked generally in the direction of Skyline Ridge and could barely see the ridge. Over a frozen river and across a wooden bridge. Snow fell lightly and thick clouds obscured all but the nearest slopes. Rainier could be anywhere. We couldn’t even get the vaguest view of the enormous volcano we were on.

Christmas tree trees
Christmas tree trees

Pictures over the water. Selfies. Selfies of selfies. We got to the top of the hill. Ate some snacks. Drank water and tea. Veered left and continued up. Winds blew harder and pelted us in the face with snow the closer we got to the top of the hill. Upper frozen river crossing. When we’d had enough of the pelting, we turned around and retraced our steps. Back down the hills, past frozen rivers and Christmas tree trees. We chatted with a couple by the lower river crossing and took pictures for each other. Solid snowshoe.

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Me and Eve
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Lee and me

 

Buried signs
Buried signs
Eve
Eve
Gray green white
Gray green white

 

Teneriffe Falls – December 2014

Teneriffe Falls
Teneriffe Falls

Jean

Hiking up the road
Hiking up the road

An afternoon hike. I left the city around 1pm, started the hike around 1:45. Reached top at 3. Sat by the falls and stared hike down at 3:20. To the bottom at 4:30. 6 miles which was short and easy.

Monday, December 8, 2014. Hike: Teneriffe Falls. Mileage: 6 miles. Elevation gain: 1420 feet. High Point: 2370 feet. 

On the right track
On the right track

The first two miles were more flat than up. I follow a forestry road for the first mile, then a gradual trail that eventually skirts the base of the slope for another mile, then a mile of switchbacks. I ran into 3 young guys and nobody else.

North Bend views from the switchbacks
North Bend views from the switchbacks

I prepared for cold and snow, but it was 55 in Seattle and not a speck of snow was to be found on the entire hike. Microspikes not necessary. Trail junctions are very obvious. The trail is green and smells like fall or spring or both. Skies partly cloudy, no threat of rain. Some views of the valley and North Bend before the switchbacks, then open sky and so much brighter.

Rocky switchbacks
Rocky switchbacks

Back into the woods for the falls. Lower falls first then real falls. 400 feet high! Several tiers. Water falling, tumbling over cliff. Pretty sweet. Snack on a cliff bar and drink cranapple hibiscus tea. Sun comes out and illuminates the falls. Break over.

Then down down down. With the sun lower, the sky was even prettier. Nice views of the valley. Down down dusk setting in. Back to the car around sunset. Home! Not much traffic. Tuna mac dinner.

 

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The falls
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More falls
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Sun shining through the trees
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Looking down the falls
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Me at the falls
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Water cascading. Nearly vertical
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Shrubbery
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North Bend views on the way down
Faaaaalllls
Faaaaalllls

 

 

Mailbox Peak – December 2014

Mailbox Peak
Mailbox Peak

Jean

What to do with on a Thursday off with a 70% chance of rain? Easy answer: Hike!

I had the day off so Jared, Jonathan, and I took the the new trail up to Mailbox Peak. Jared and I have been talking about hiking Mailbox for about 6 months and we finally made it! This new trail has been open for only a month or two. The old trail is reportedly an unforgiving thigh burner – straight up. New trail: moderate and forgiving. Stats: New Trail – 9.4 miles, 4000 feet elevation gain. Old trail – (half as long) 5.2 miles, 4000 feet elevation gain. We had a solid hike under gray skies. I admit, gray skies are mediocre. Not my favorite hiking conditions, but it was well worth it. It was great to get out and moving in the mountains. Of course, I do have to come back and climb the steep, old trail on a warm and sunny day…

Thursday, December 4, 2014. Hike: Mailbox Peak, 9.4 miles. Elevation gain: 4000 feet. High point: 4822 feet.

To the mailbox -->
To the mailbox –>

We wake early-ish and, after borrowing Eve’s Discovery Pass and picking up Jonathan, we roll into the parking lot around 10 am. Only one other car is there. Each of us affix microspikes to our feet in the icy parking lot and forge ahead on ice into the gray morning. The air is heavy, but it’s not actively raining. Temps in the 40’s mean we’re warm enough. We are slightly confused by the trail sign pointing us into the new parking lot. After wandering toward the bathrooms, we turn around and easily find our way to the left and the actual trail. The trail is snowy and icy and the three of us are glad for our traction. The new trail is really well made – wide, smooth, well graded, and easy to follow switchbacks.

Snow gives way to dirt
Snow gives way to dirt

As we wind our way up the trail the snow begins to clear and the ice gives way to dirt. We all take off our microspikes. We cross a few streams and a small bridge. We admire the greenery and moss. Washington is always green! This state will never cease to amaze me with it’s persistent greenness.

Jared and Jonathan
Jared and Jonathan

The trail is steady. I’m slightly ahead of the guys when I hear the sound of someone running behind me. At first I think it must be Jonathan? But I turn around to find a trail runner with his two dogs gaining on me. I say hi and they sail past quickly. Running up this trail is pretty badass and makes me wish that I liked running in any way…

Snowy clearings
Snowy clearings

About 3 or 4 miles in, the snow gets a bit thicker and we put our spikes back on. The snow is packed and gets heavier as we climb higher, most notably when we pass through clearings. There are a few clearings – the first gives way to views of trees, but the second and third open up to views of the entire valley. We can even see Seattle in the far off distance. The skies are gray but the clouds are high enough that there are great views to be had. The trail runner and his dogs pass us on their way down.

Nice views from one of the clearings
Nice views from one of the clearings

Toward the top, we hit the junction with the old trail. The two trails merge for the final push to the summit. Immediately the trail is steep. I can see how hiking the entire old trail would be brutal…especially going down. We climb through the woods and then there’s an opening to the right complete with a scree filled slope. The mountain and sky blend together. A group of 4 or 5 hikers pass us on their way down. They tell us that the top is a little windy. One guy is wearing jeans and is disgruntled.

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Mailbox ahead!

Up, up, up. The trail just keeps going. We’re climbing the ridge and the sky has completely opened up – amazing views in every direction! Then we see the mailbox! Woooooo! We arrive at the top. 360 degree views of snow dusted mountains all around. I pile on all of my layers. I know I’m going to get cold immediately. Jared, Jonathan, and I eat snacks, snap photos, and admire the scenery. Jared and I begin our descent and Jonathan sticks around for a few minutes taking pictures.

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Arriving at the mailbox

Down, down, down. Trekking poles are super helpful for the descent. Jonathan catches up to us after a few minutes, having run down from the summit. Then we lose him again. Back in tree cover, Jared and I stop for snacks and hot tea. Jonathan catches up. I take off 4 of the 5 layers I’m wearing. We all snack.

Photo shoot in action
Photo shoot in action

I wander off to pee in the woods while Jonathan poses for a photo shoot on the edge of the snow covered scree slope. The snow is so sticky off trail. With each step all of the snow under my feet immediately sticks to my shoes. Every 3 or 4 steps the massive pile of snow attached to each foot comes loose and tumbles downhill.

We pack up and hike down. The hike down seems longer than the way up. I suppose it is almost 5 miles… The weather is deteriorating. Clouds are lower. Rain begins to fall on us. I bust out my umbrella – my favorite piece of gooby gear. Down, down, down. Across switchbacks, over snow, out of snow, traction off, pictures snapped, less rain, hurrying down to get Jonathan to work by 5. Back across small streams, over the bridge. There’s less snow here than when we were going up. So much has already melted.

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Down…
Down...
Down…

At 4 we finally reach the bottom! Success. A 6 hour hike. Well done. A really fair hike that got serious near the top. Can’t wait to come back and hike the old trail…

Also: we got Jonathan to work in time. We didn’t have time to bring him home. And he ran the last 500 feet because we were stuck in traffic. But he made it with minutes to spare.

 

 

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Snow Lake – December 2014

 

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Snow Lake from the Overlook

Jean

A great hike in a winter Wonderland…Snow Lake is the place to go! A busy trail in the summer, this hike is the place to be on a late fall/early winter weekday. A great way hike to kick off December with: tromping through the woods wearing microspikes, hiking on snow and ice, perfect weather, excellent views, amazingly beautiful lake… The hike was sullied by an unfortunate snowshoe-theft-ish incident, BUT all snowshoe related matters have been resolved and all is right again. Read on for more details…

To Snow Lake -->
To Snow Lake –>

Monday, December 1, 2014. Hike: Snow Lake, 10.0 miles. Elevation gain: 2000 feet. High point: 5100 feet.

Eve and I both had the day off from REI so we decided to put our snowshoes (we were hoping there would be enough snow) and microspikes, to the test. Eve had run the Seattle Marathon the day prior. Yes, you read that correctly. She ran an entire marathon. Yesterday. Therefore, we got on the trail late, around 11 am instead of 8.

Looking to the mountains from I-90
Looking to the mountains from I-90

Traffic leaving the city was manageable. The mountains surrounding I-90 were covered with a perfect pristine amount of snow. A handful of cars sat in the parking lot. We (hopefully) donned our snowshoes immediately. We’ll need them, right? Totally. And walked along the packed snow trail for about a half mile when we ran into our first fellow hiker. He wore microspikes. And told us snowshoes were unnecessary. Ok, time to trade the shoes for spikes. Check. Shoes stashed off trail, check. We propped them against a fallen tree root and buried them in snow to hide them. They were only slightly visible from the trail, so if you squinted you could see them. But having stashed gear dozens of times, we were trusting and we decided this was our best option. After all, this was a weekday, which meant fewer people on trail, and little hiker traffic past our precious snowshoes.

 

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Winter wonderland
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So snowy

 

We passed a pleasant looking family – two men with their two kids – as they skirted patches of ice. They turned around at a treacherous stretch just after we passed them.  Our microspikes were perfect for the trail. We crossed ice and snow like it was our job. And we ran into some fellow REI peeps who recognized us by our REI packs! One of them worked at headquarters. Sweet! We chatted a bit and continued on our way. At the junction to Source Lake, we ran into another pair of guys coming from that direction. Quick chat. Continue up.

Warm snowy switchbacks
Warm snowy switchbacks

Then we hit the switchbacks that lead the ridge. So awesome! Super warm. Such great views. Icicles clinging to the rocks above. Sun drenching the slope. Drips of water falling. And the sound of ice falling on soft snow. Amazing views of the valley from the top.

Ridge top views
Ridge top views

Once at the top of the ridge, we bore left. We stopped to take in views of Snow Lake from the Overlook. We were already in shadow so we put on our puffies to eat cliff bars and cheese-its. Two gray jays joined us and hopped in circles around us. Sorry guys, no food today.

Gray jay!
Gray jay!

With enough sunlight left that the lake was still basking in sun, we hiked out of the ridge’s shadow. Passing through a patch of alpenglow we returned to the warmth of the sun. I quickly realized that I’d dropped my phone at the overlook, so went back for it and was happy/super relieved to find it laying face down in the snow, not gone after careening off a cliff. Whew. We continued right, over the frozen stream, hopped across frozen rocks, and reached the huge boulder at the end of the trail. The entire lake was frozen and criss-crossed with cracks. The lake overlook was gorgeous. We marveled at the fact that such a beautiful spot existed a mere hour from Seattle. After obligatory REI pack shots were snapped in front of the frozen lake, the return trip began.

Excited faces! Snow Lake is awesome!
Excited faces! Snow Lake is awesome!

Back in shadow quickly, a couple and their dog passed us on their way down to Snow Lake. We were impressed/shocked that the chick was wearing casual boots. Total gear judgy time. We passed another couple at the top of the ridge. By now the once sunny switchback-covered slope was covered in shadow. Sun sets at 4:30! Bounding down the trail, we talked about past hiking adventures and continued to remind ourselves to retrieve the snowshoes. Down, down, down. Over snow. Across ice.

We reached the stash spot at last. And discovered to our horror – no snowshoes. Only a void where our snowshoes had once been.  Someone had taken our gear. Bastards! Lame. Bogus. Ridiculous. I was too disappointed in my faith in humanity to be angry. I was just annoyed and confused. Had someone really taken stashed gear? Who would do that? Seriously? I tried to maintain hope…maybe some naive hiker had brought them to the trailhead thinking we had dropped them in a very strategic place by accident? Hmm…

Eve and I picked up the pace. We were at the bottom in no time. And no snowshoes in sight. Not in the parking lot, not propped against the trail sign. Nowhere. Argh. We crossed the parking lot and asked the dude in the rental shop if someone had turned them in? No dice. Harumph. A guy was getting in his car just as we were getting back to Eve’s car, so we asked him. And of course he hadn’t seen them. Lame. The couple with the dog and the casual boots appeared, and we asked them. No sign. Everyone seemed nice and sympathetic and as equally perplexed as us that someone would take stashed gear. Sigh.

So we drove back to the city with two fewer pairs of snowshoes than we’d set out with. But it was a beautiful, beautiful hike. A winter wonderland. Overall the hike deserves a 9/10. It would have been worthy of a 10 if it weren’t for the unfortunate snowshoe incident. But the sunset on the return drive was epic. Pink and orange shades dominated the clouds.

Saturday, December 6. UPDATE:

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Survivors

Snowshoes found! Gear retrieved! Yay snowshoes!

So, it turns out someone took the hidden/buried/carefully stashed snowshoes out of their hiding place so that nobody would take them. Yes, you heard that right. Someone stole the snowshoes so that they wouldn’t get stolen. Weird but true. Anyhow, Eve and I drove to pick them up today. And we are very glad to have them.

Remember folks: if someone stashes gear, don’t take it. Leave it where you found it. Don’t try to be a hero. Seriously. Just leave it.