Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Seattle's Best (Mountain)

This weekend Lina returned from Sweden. Of course I was pretty excited about that...

On Friday night I drove down to Seattle, via the usual border faff, to SeaTac airport. Like all internal flights in the US, Lina's flight was late. Luckily I was kept entertained by a little girl called Nevaeh, her mum, and a friend who were waiting for dad to arrive on the same flight as Lina. Kids always have great toys. We got all Lina's gear back (in one piece!) and spent the night in Seattle ready to head out for Mt Rainier Park the next day.

Mt Rainier is really big. Big enough that it looks really close when you're miles away from it. We managed to turn up on the first weekend that the north-west entrance to the park had opened this year and didn't have to pay park fees! We should have got a camping permit however... but more on that later. There was still plenty of snow about and people in the parking lot loading skis onto their packs to get a bit of spring skiing in. We intended to do a loop, heading east on the Spray Meadows trail and then back on a section of the Wonderland trail to Mowich Lake. We carried our camping gear to spread it out over 2 days. The hike up was a little busy, but beautiful as we came out into the meadows with big patches of snow still remaining. At this point we ran into a park ranger who explained that to camp (for free) you were supposed to drive miles up a road in the wrong direction, fill out a piece of paper, then drive all the way back. Obviously we hadn't done that. The ranger seemed happy enough for us to do our own thing as long as we made it back to Mowich lake (where alternative pieces of paper are available) for the night.

It was about 5pm, and we were maybe 1/3 of the way around the circuit. We'd been taking our time. As we hiked on the trail was empty and we really wanted to complete the loop... so Lina had an idea. Anyone who knows Lina will probably know what this was. We would just carry on and finish the loop. As long as we didn't sleep, we weren't camping. Right? I'm not sure the logic (whilst fully logical) would have worked on the ranger, but it sounded like fun and we had headlamps, so off we went. It looked like a really long way on the map, and a diversion around a washed out trail onto a very bouncy suspension bridge wasn't making things any faster, but we were getting there. Our first guesses were that we'd make it mack to Mowich Lake around 1am. But we wouldn't be camping without a permit of course... so it would all be ok. We managed to pick up the pace a bit and things went really well, we were storming along... over creeks and log bridges, and a bit of rock-hopping.

As dusk started to fall, the end was in sight (on the map at least). We just had the haul up Iput Pass to do. Hmm. What a monster. Long, long, switchbacks and a steep gradient just kept coming as night fell... but we made it to the top for a glimpse of the red sky fading in the distance. With headlamps on we followed the easy trail back to the lake and had the tent up and stove on by 10pm. Perfect for a romantic meal of curry-in-a-bag by headlamp. Well, I thought it was romantic. I did bring wine (which Lina unknowingly carried all day).

We ran into the ranger in the morning who seemed slightly surprised we had actually listened to him and come back to the Mowich campground, and more surprised that we hiked around the whole circuit. We could have just broken the rules and camped along the route, or turned back... but, well... we did it a different way.

We took our time heading back to Canada on Sunday, stopping in Bellingham at the fantastic Boundary Bay Pub for lunch. YUM. Back in Vancouver, back at work, and back to planning the next adventure.

More photos here.