Friday, July 12, 2013

Campin' Mt. Rainier Style

Per the usual style around here, I'll give a disjointed narrative of my camping trip in Mt. Rainier National Park June 28th - 30th with the commentary sprinkled between the pictures.  And as per the usual, the words may, or may not, match up with the pictures.  Deal with it.

On Friday June 28th I arrived home from work, changed clothes, tossed the pre-packed gear, etc., in the truck and headed for Mt. Rainier National Park.  I departed at 6 PM and had the tent set up by 8:30 PM.

Cougar Rock Campground had opened the day before.  I set my sights there.  I pulled in to a very full campsite.  I felt fortunate to find a site.

What I've noticed some interesting (to me) things about camping in this National Park.  The campsites, at least the driving portion of them, are a bit small.  But, there is nice distance between sites.  This pretty much keeps the RV's as big as Greyhound buses and the monster long fifth-wheel campers out.  I did see a few shorter, pull behind campers there.  However, tents out numbered the campers by about five to one.  I attribute this to the shorter driving areas at each site, no electrical outlets to plug into, and no showers in the park.  This keeps the riff-raff at bay and sort of encourages the rest of us.  I very much like this.  In addition, because there's no electrical hook ups, people go to bed when it's dark.  The park gets quite quiet when the sun's down and people, like me, want to get some sleep.

Saturday I drove to the Longmire area, parked the car, and charged up the Rampart Ridge Trail.  I must say, this is a steep trail until you top out just past the viewing area.

My intention was to go up the Rampart Ridge Trail, intersect the Wonderland Trail, and bring that down and back to Longmire.  As you probably already know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  This was no exception.  The trail - nice, great shape, scenic.  But, I was thwarted.  In fact, I was nearly eaten.  Bear?  Nope.  Mosquitoes.  The snow melting out leaves puddles and the mosquitoes are vicious.  The Ranger at Longmire told me bug spray has no effect on them.  Apparently, wilderness mosquitoes are more bad-ass than their urban counterparts.

I ended up doing an out-n-back on the Rampart Ridge Trail.  That was OK.  It was hot and the mosquitoes sucked literally and figuratively.

Sunday was hot as well.  My game plan was to get on the Wonderland Trail at Cougar Rock Campground and take it east for a bit.

The trail sort of runs along the Paradise river.  It was scenic as I hiked.  I passed two sets of waterfalls that not only provided nice views, but an air conditioning cold air blast to cool off as well.

I happened by exactly what I'd hoped - a Wilderness Campsite.  Complete with bear pole!

And, and Wilderness toilet!

With a bear-proof container for.....

.....ass wipe and rubber gloves (?)!!!

I almost wished I had to go.

When I made it to Narada Falls, I had a choice to make.  I was either going to exit the Wonderland trail and take the trail up to Paradise or stay on the Wonderland Trail to Reflection Lakes.

It was hot, I wanted a beer, so in the direction of Paradise I went.  I'd gone maybe 100 yards up only to find the trail was completely obscured by snow.  I could not make out where the trail went.

I back-tracked, picked up the Wonderland Trail, and off toward Reflection Lakes I went.  I did have to cross some snow, but, I was able to determine where the trail ran.  I popped out of the woods at the lake.

Since this was my turn-around point I lingered to take pictures and eat lunch.  I was sort of disappointed to find the highway right there.

I retraced my path back toward Cougar Rock Campground and the truck.  The trail had many people on it.  I chatted with a few including a dude that was quizzing me about Narada Falls, Reflection Lakes, and how far, etc.  He had a heavy eastern European accent.  I wasn't sure where he was from, exactly.  My hope is he was Hungarian.  I'm going with Hungarian.  Later I was hiking with three dudes coming back from an over-night camping trip.  We met a rather large Asian dude hiking the other way with more on his back than I've ever seen.  It had to have been at least 70 pounds and maybe more.  He had a very large backpack jammed full and with other stuff attached to the outside including another day-hike sized backpack.  He said he had enough food for nine days and several books.  I guessing an entire library.

The entire set of pictures for this trip can be seen HERE.  I recommend clicking on the "slideshow" option in the upper right-hand corner thereabouts.  Though I had a great time, I was not pleased at the number of people and how full the campgrounds were.  I'll probably not be back to Mt. Rainier National Park until after Labor Day when the crowds have thinned and I know all the snow (well, most of the snow) is gone.  I've a four-day weekend over Labor Day and am thinking backpack trip for part of the Wonderland Trail.  We'll see. Labor Day is a long way off.

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