The moment we entered this beautiful national park we knew we were in for a real treat. It has a feel about it. The architecture and infrastructure around the park feel old but well kept, like the well worn but still usable equipment of an avid hiker, and while you can get some terrific views of the mountains and meadows traveling by vehicle, you need to hike, sometimes a long way, to see the heart of the park.
Pinnacle Peak was 1,300 feet above us. We knew we could not reach the peak in the current conditions but it should still be a nice hike with great views of Mount Rainier. After about 15 feet of clear trail we hit snow… a little sooner than we expected but part of the fun of hiking new places is the feeling of adventure and discovery that comes with it.
Many mountain trails have switchbacks (hairpin turns) that help hikers navigate the steep slopes. When these switchbacks cross gullys or avalanche slides the snow can completely cover the trail with a steep blanket of snow. Here in July the snow is soft enough that you can kick steps in the snow to help cross them, however, one must always be aware of the danger of falling on one of these slopes and we stay off crossings that are so steep that we could slide uncontrollably if we fell. An ice ax is the tool needed to arrest yourself on steep snow or ice covered slopes and we don’t have them, so we’re careful as to which slopes we attempt.
This snow field is steeper than it looks, and is about the steepest we would attempt. You can see the snow covered trail re-entering the woods on the far side.
We finally got to a snowfield we could not cross (see arrow – above). If you look carefully (click to expand the picture) you can see the trail continuing on the other side of the snowfield before entering the big slide and still continuing higher up on the other side of the slide to reach the saddle between the peaks. Ah well! It was still a fun hike and discretion is the better part of valor.
Avalanche Lilies pop their heads up as soon as the snow leaves the high country and there are in abundance in July at Mount Rainier. They seem to be able to grow in the most inhospitable places.
On the way back to the campground after the hike we took a quick walk to see another wonderful waterfall.
Next we will head to Ohanapecosh in the southeast corner of the Park.