Last weekend during a lazy sunday drive I spent time at Sunrise Visitor Center at Mt. Rainer. As I always do, I scanned for trails around the road. I saw quite a few so I asked Panda to take a trip out there with me and, never one to turn down an adventure, he obliged. This time bringing two in tow. I was nervous about the company as I haven't hiked with anyone before and we can be pretty hardcore when out on the trail. It turns out that I had nothing to worry about. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The hike begins in an old growth forest, with the sound of the nearby Fryingpan Creek following you along the way. The path teases you with glimpses of the creek at times, but to actually see it's beauty you must work for it. Panda spied a butte and decided to head up over it to see if his instincts were correct and indeed they were, a beautiful waterfall greeted our arrival.
Letting Panda have the moment our companions, who traversed through the brush with us to my delight, waited patiently while pictures were taken of Tamanos Mountain. A 6790 foot mountain that upon looking at the crooked ridgeline Panda uttered "we could totally climb that".
The trail continued and Panda bolted off to our left through the brush yet again, this time I did not follow. However, after a few moments I decided that perhaps small talk wasn't my thing and I went off to find my hiking buddy. I came upon him once again taking pictures of the mountain, but he had spied a lovely waterfall for me to shoot, so I took full advantage. Climbing out on to a ledge over a large ravine, I shot the heck of out it. It was the first of many attempts on this hike to shoot something beautiful, but the end result was never what I saw in my mind. Luckily I get to keep that memory forever in my head, and I'll have some pretty mediocre pictures to remind me when I forget.
One thing I am very grateful for is that the ice blue of the water came out in my shots. The rocks teal, purple, blue, magenta; the water almost a periwinkle, but literally the definition of ice blue. It was perfect. I put a nice puncture in my hand on the way down to this waterfall and every time I'm on my yoga mat and the pressure of a downward dog makes me gasp a little in pain, I smile immediately after; grateful for the reminder of the beauty I saw.
We broke through the forest and played a game of peek-a-boo with the giant mountain that had towered over my home town growing up. When I was young I spent a great deal of time here, playing in the snow, taking the drive up to Paradise, spending hours on my back porch gazing up at the mountains beauty. When I moved to LA it was the only thing I missed about home. I would dream about it, and for a time I had a reoccurring dreaming that I had traveled up to Seattle but the mountain was always obscured. I could never see it and I woke up so sad, wishing my eyes could gaze upon it just one more time.
We came to a log bridge about a mile from the end of the trail and bid our companions farewell, sushi awaited them in the city far away. Panda and I were not so lucky, the hardest part of the trail awaited us. We switched back around the mountain, passing quite a few people on the way down. There were an abundance of people on the trail, to my dismay. I tired of smiling and the awkward hello to every member of the family, every trail companion, every tour group member.
Every fake smile was worth the view at the end of the trail. Sweeping meadows, the mountain so tall it dwarfed the sun in the sky, details in Mt. Tahoma that you can never make out from the city. Sitting to enjoy lunch and the lavishness of an actual outhouse, I took it all in. After the meal, we walked a little way but was detoured by a massive mountain goat who had staked his claim in the land run for the meadow and was hunkered down in the shadows. Panda decided to test his animal prowess against the mighty goat, and I spent my time in the dirt taking pictures of bear grass. Growing only at elevations above 5000, I had only seen pictures of it. My highest elevation hiking at that point had been Mt. Si, a 4167 foot behemoth that had been conquered for the second time only a few short days before.
I met two nice gentlemen hikers who upon my telling of the goat in the field the shared with me the presence of marmots just up the way. Bounding up the trail, I heard the whistles of the little buggers but the other people on the trail had scared the rodents off into the brush. I decided to drink of the stream flowing down either side of the trail and await their return. I looked behind me, up the small hill I had just come down, to see the bear grass basking in the sun. I was extremely happy that I could capture what I saw.
I met up with Panda after a loss of communication, which seemed to be a strange re-occurrence for him this trip, and we attempted to head towards the panhandle gap. We were stopped in our tracks by a talus field and two large waterfalls cascading down to an unbelievably huge canyon before heading out of sight to yet another fall our eyes could not see.
We picked our separate ways; he down to capture the canyon, me up to capture the falls in all their glory. Alas it was not my day for taking in the falls via my camera so I called down to Panda for the ok to shoot the entire view and I concentrated on meditation, the sound of the water falling over the boulders and took the occasional picture of a flower or two.
I noticed the long shadows of the trees along the rocks and thought to myself that it looked like sunset, but figured that was absurd; the sun still had not been high enough over my head to constitute the notion of it actually going down! As I mentioned earlier, a 14,411 foot mountain will dwarf the sun and it obscured my view of the natural light of the day. It was indeed setting.
I believe it was 6:00 as we decided to make our descent, assuring a headlamp lit trail off the mountain. My feet were hurting on this one, although the rest of my body was pleasantly sore. A trip to the store for a new pair of hiking boots is surely on the agenda before the next hike. As we made our way down the trail, I spotted a deer on the trail, grazing in the grass. I pointed it out to Panda and he slowly made his way over to the gorgeous animal, smooth and easy. At one point she came as close as 20 feet from him, if that. It was such an amazing moment to see him there in the midst of the forest with a wild animal that sensed the good in him and came close enough to be touched.
With the full moon high in the sky and a lotus calling our names, we drove off the mountain and into the night. Another hike down, another beautiful sight seen, another adventure that makes me say thank you...thank you...thank you. Marinate on dat doh.