Saturday, November 18, 2017

SOBAD 2017--Mt. Rainier!!

 forest fire smoke and natural misty clouds kept Mt. Rainier out of view most of the time, but I caught it in a semi-clear moment up from Devils Dream camp

Our annual SOBAD (Sisters Of Backpacking Adventure Divas) backpack trip was spectacular this year, but we missed our fearless leader, ML. On the day we left for Mt. Rainier she was in an operating room undergoing back surgery.

That came about with no warning. Ten days before SOBAD we hiked 12 miles on Mount St. Helens, our planned backpack destination, to scout out the trail, check for water availability, assess the campsites. 36 hours later ML was in the ER for a ruptured disc, in the hospital for a nearly a week, then had surgery followed by in-hospital recovery time. We were sad. The other three of us amended our plans. We'll save St. Helens for next year, and 2017 became a pack trip on Mt. Rainier instead.

On top of that, the day before we left for Rainier, we discovered that the area of our planned trip in the National Park was closed due to forest fires. Those dang-blasted forest fires were burning everywhere this summer. We rearranged to hike on the south side of Rainier.

Day One: We day-hiked up a trail in the Paradise Park area. With little forest to hide the view, the mountain looms huge and magnificent here. Bounteous evidence of former glacial presence could be seen in the plethora of boulders and rocks scattered on slopes all around (got rocks?). Melt-water flowed in tumbling, cascading streams down steep mountain inclines.

 so huge!
 wildflowers and snowfield

Day Two and Three: From Longmire, we forged up forested trails, up, up and more up (just an aside: along this trail we met a Mr. Large from Large PA, who had actually been to my Dad's tiny hometown of Perryopolis). Our camp was at Devil's Dream. No fires allowed in the park but we had a mighty good meal cooked on a rocket stove. Through-hikers** were also camping at Devils Dream that night and one after the other they came pumping up the mountain at a pace that would have killed me, even if I had been their age. This area of Rainier is not on the PCT, but those nasty forest fires caused major trail detours in Oregon and Washington both.
[**Pacific Crest Trail hikers who do the whole thing, Canada to Mexico]

A highlight of the third day was visiting the ranger cabin:

Our sleeping bags and tents were wet from an overnight drizzle. We packed up camp, hiked to the ranger's cabin, and hung out our things to dry in the breeze. While they dried we hiked down to a nearby lake. On our return the gear was dry, and bonus, the ranger was there and gave us a "tour" of his one-room cabin.

We headed down the mountain through a canyon teeming with evidence of a violent upheaval. Enormous trees were uprooted and strewn at crazy angles, colossal boulders had smashed other trees to bits. Over 60 years ago Mt. Rainier experienced a glacial flood outburst that must have been a sight to see, although you'd be dead if you had been close enough to watch it.

We knew that miles below at the bottom of the trail, that we would have to hitch a ride to our car, or walk three or four miles on pavement. Our valiant Chris went on ahead with another group to get a ride back to our car so she could return to pick us up.

Day Four: We took a day hike along a river whose name slips my mind right now--Nisqually, I think--up to a waterfall area.  I loved this year's backpack trip through varied landscape and natural features. Few places have the grandeur of Mt. Rainier.

are we really gonna cross that stick that subs for a bridge?

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