A Day at Rainier

Trip Start Aug 04, 2012
1
4
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Trip End Mar 06, 2013


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What I did
Emmons Glacier

Flag of United States  , Washington
Saturday, August 18, 2012

My family heard about a fabulous sounding hike in the newspaper last week as we drove to the Grand Valley hike over in the Olympic Mountains, and today we decided to give it a go! It is the glacier basin trail along the eastern (or dry) side of Mt. Rainier, Washington States highest peak! The tip top of the mountain rises up to over 14,400 feet above sea leave, which is about twice the height of the tallest peak in the Olympic Mountains. 

We set off around 6:30am and arrived at the trailhead a little before 9. We were very happy that we got there as early as we did, due to the fact that parking was already at a minimum. The trailhead starts at the White River campground and gradually ascends up towards the glacier basin. Mt. Rainier is home to 26 glaciers and we had phenomenal views of the Emmons glacier, which, according to the newspaper article, is the largest glacier in the lower 48! The hike started through an area of forest but had many areas where you could view the glacier and mountain without obstruction. The entire trail seemed to be parallel to the White River, which is a roaring waterway that develops high up the mountain side from glacial melt water. And when I say the river is "roaring", I am not joking! The water was moving at an incredible rapid pace and seemed to be an untamable force of nature. I say this in part because the trail we were hiking on had been destroyed by the river itself back in 2006 when major flooding occurred. 

As we continued are steady climb upwards we began to move into a region of forest that was speckled with beautiful meadows. Many of the meadows had the same species of wildflowers that we saw at Grand Valley, however, some were completely new to me. The views in this stretch of trail were not nearly as inspiring, but we occasionally spotted a playful chipmunk, or a botanical marvel that kept me content. 

After only an hour and a half hiking, we arrived at the glacier basin campground, where we stopped for a little snack break. Although it would have been a lovely lunch destination, it was only 10:30! And once we tanked up on some munchies, we continued on a different trail that lead us out of the campground, and closer to the river and glaciers. Only about 10 minutes in though we realized that this was a bit of a primitive trail, and we decided to just take a quick break and gawk at the scenery! This location had the best views! There were several beautiful, and geologically intriguing rock formations all over the area. My favorite was an almost wave like pattern in the exposed rock on the hill facing away from the mountain. I recollect learning about something like this in either my geography or geology class at the community college, but unfortunately I could not remember why or how it came to be that way. There were also many caves, and plenty of good views of the Emmons glacier, that we made even better with some assistance from my binoculars that my loving sister gave me for my birthday! At this little rest stop we also saw a yellow and brown spotted frog in one of the puddles near by. It was very neat to see such a ornate amphibian! Once we came to the decision to turn around from here we had a few other wildlife sightings, primarily birds, but nothing major. 

The most prevalent thing we saw on the trail hiking back was people! It seemed that lots of tourists, whether camping or day tripping, had the same idea as us. There was a steady flow of traffic as we descended back down to the trailhead. As we hiked back we once again had beautiful views of Mt. Tahoma, the Emmons glacier, the White River, and of course "the big guy" as my mom calls it, Mt. Rainier. 

Once we returned to the parking lot we were reminded that getting to our hikes early is essential, as there were no parking spots available. We then had lunch by the river and the drove up to Sunrise, where there were multiple jaw-dropping views of Mt. Rainier! Once again we had to pull out the binoculars and were speechless toward the majesty of the ice ridden mountain. After we had our fill of beautiful views, we headed out of the park and made a quick trip home, only stopping for Starbucks and Dairy Queen. We all agreed that it was a great day, spent in a wonderful place!
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