Thursday, August 9, 2012

Hiking Mount Rainier: Spray Park's Wildflower Palooza

While this was going to be a post about sea kayaking the Skagit River Delta (so much to get out and do here!), with my waterproof camera and photos gone overboard, I'll share with you about hiking to Spray Park on Mount Rainier instead. And with the alpine wildflowers coming to their peak in August, I can't think of many better destinations in the Pacific Northwest.

While Spray Park is a very popular hike within a few hours of Seattle, we manage to miss the crowds on a Saturday.  True, it started out as cloudy, cool morning, but the sun showed up to reveal Rainier in all its splendor.

After parking at Mowich Lake on the west side of Rainier, we hit the trail and meander a couple miles through forest. At the junction/spur to the Spray Falls viewpoint, we take the short detour for a look-see.

Spray Falls

And then scoot quickly up the steepish switchbacks for the next half mile because emerging into the alpine meadows is worth every drop of sweat. 

 My cousin and I go gaga taking pictures of the mountain, the meadows, and the wildflowers.  Because heavenly hardly describes how spectacular it is to walk amidst all this alpine glory.  

Avalanche lilies

With avalanche lilies crowding each other in their short, sweet burst of alpine summer, a breeze catching one catches them all.  As I stand in a riot of lilies that quiver en masse in the light wind, I sense their life force straining to capture every second. Maybe it's the altitude and I'm drunk with awe from the beautiful setting, but I swear they are alive, just like me.

Once we get up into the meadow area, we just can't stop going higher and higher, scrambling another mile or so up the trail and over patches of snow to get even closer to the mountain. Some clouds have rolled in again, but it's still marvelous up here. 

Looking down mountain

Hardier plants persist up here above timberline, but Indian paintbrush provide splashes of color in the more barren landscape.

Ultimately it's time to head down because we can't stay up here forever. Even though, at this moment,  I wish I could.

Have you been up to Spray Park recently? We'd love to hear about your trip there (or another favorite wildflower hike) in the comments below.

Happy Trails!

When You Go
The hike to Spray Park is about 6 miles roundtrip, with an elevation gain of 1,300 feet. However, I'm pretty sure we went another mile at least and another several hundred feet higher.  Take plenty of sunscreen and insect repellent; those pesky mosquitoes are also in a frenzy to soak up as much blood as possible in their short little life. The season is relatively short to hike up here, from mid-July into September and, possibly, October. Thanks to my cousin Andy for some of the shots in this post!


Barry said...

I've been to Paradise and Sunrise over the last 2 weeks, but not to Spray Park (I've never been there!). Perhaps it's not too late!

Ingunn said...

I went to Spray Park last year and it was so beautiful that I put on my geeky bug net and suffered through all the buzzing and bites on my non-covered body parts just to sit there quietly and take it all in. Magnificent!

jill said...

Barry, wow, no, not too late to head up to Spray Park with this late snow season. Go be awed!

Ingunn,yes, sitting quietly to take it all in is a perfect thing to do. So glad you are out there so avidly exploring our mountains and telling us about it with your beautiful blog!

Dave Wenning said...

Mowich Lake was where I walked headlong into a Cougar when I was about 11 years old. I remember a big rock fall down a hillside into the lake. A trail crossed through it. I hiked around a big rock and walked right into him sunning himself. We stared at each other for a moment, both a bit startled. Then he silently disappeared. I actually went looking for him (that's what 11-year-olds do), but never found him. It's probably my most memorable wildlife encounter. Your great post brought back a nice memory. Thanks.

Suezy Proctor said...

Jill...thanks for the preview. Dan and I are hiking on the MT Aug 31 with some friends...CANNOT WAIT.

Question - I see you using walking sticks in a lot of pictures. I have some - do you think I should take them with me?

So sorry to read that your waterproof camera and photos
went overboard - how sad is that!

Suezy Proctor said...

Jill...Dan and I will be hiking on the MT on Aug 31 with friends. Thanks for the preview!

Question - I see you hiking with walking sticks in many photos - do you think I should take mine along?

I'm so sorry your waterproof camera and photos went overboard. How sad!