Since the National Park was closed (I am far behind my posting!), I had to find a way to see Mt Rainier from outside of the park. A lade working at Ashford Visitor Center recommended a couple of hikes for me. When I asked whether I will be able to see Mt Rainier from there, “you will get an excellent view from the hikes” she replied.
Oh Boy, how right she was! Both trails were great. But one of the hikes (High Rock Lookout) turned out to one of the most scenic hikes I have even done.
Let’s go back to the morning. I started my day by hiking “Cora Lake” trail. Although the trail head is only a couple dozen miles away from Ashford, driving on windy, unpaved gravel road was a little scary to me. Even though I was told it was okay for passenger cars, there were lots of potholes, some of them are rather large, on the road. My speed was around 10 mph (less when I came down in the evening). When I finally reached the trailhead, there was no car in the area. Having driven that far (not in distance, but rather in my mind), I had to hike, with or without anyone in the area.
At least the trail isn’t too long. It is only 1.4 mile, round trip. So it is a piece of cake to me. Well, half way through the lush green foliage, I realized that I had to cross a creek, a couple of times. Although it wasn’t doable, with rocks and tree trunks in the creek, it was still a little uncomfortable when I was the only one on the trail. I know, by experience, how slippery it can be when the rocks or trunks are wet. Indeed I slipped a couple of times, luckily without much trouble. I was hoping that I didn’t have to come back the same way so I didn’t have to cross the creeks again. Unfortunately, even though I tried, even went out a different trail for a number of miles, I couldn’t find a way around it. I just had to come back the same way. It was actually much easier on my way back. I guess the “unknown” made it more difficult.
Although the creek crossing was a little scary, the trail, especially near the creek crossings, is beautiful. Waterfalls are running along the creek; and there are several of them just up or down stream of the crossings! Cora Lake is small, but the view of High Rock is great. I just hoped that I could see Mt Rainier from the lake. Even though I had seen a glimpse of the mountain through the trees, I couldn’t get any good pictures without seeing the whole mountain top. This is another reason I went on another trail, trying to walk to the other side of the lake. At least as far as I tried, I couldn’t hike to the other side of the lake.
Even though I loved the hike, I was anxious to find a way to see the mountain. It is so close to me! I just need to find a way to see it clearly, not just through the trees!
So, I went on to the second hike she recommended. High Rock Lookout isn’t a long hike either. The trail is 1.6 miles (one way), with 1400 foot elevation gain, to an old fire lookout. Oh my God! The scenery from the lookout is breathtaking. From there, 360 degree around me, endless mountain rangers surrounded me! Not only I could see Mt Rainier so close and clearly, I could also see Mt Adam, Mt St Helen, and Olympic Rangers in the distance! Nothing man-made except the little lookout house was in sight! I was completely immersed in great nature.
After seeing so many mountains in this half a year, I actually worried that I wouldn’t be touched by beautiful scenery any more. Well, I don’t have to worry about it any longer. When I saw a scene like that, I was moved immediately. My heart sang, silently, yet loudly. I was like a little girl lost in a candy store again! How I loved such feeling! The total thrill and joy!
Even though I got there around mid afternoon, I just didn’t want to leave the area. I stayed hoping to catch the sunset. For a while, I shared the view with a young couple. Seemingly they had trouble leaving such beauty behind.
Eventually, I was the only one there waiting for the sunset. I kept on checking the sun. I wanted to say as long as I could, yet I didn’t want to wait until the sun was completely gone. I know how quickly and how dark the forest can turn once the sun goes down. A little after 6pm, after taking the last few pictures, I ran down the mountain. For a little while, through the trees, the sun light was glowing! It was so bright red, almost like blood. I wish I could wait on top of the lookout for such lighting, but I knew I would get myself in trouble if I did. The 1.6 mile seemed so long when you in a hurry. After I finally ran down the mountain, it was almost completely dark!
What a marvelous and exiting day I had! Thanks for the closing of the National Park – otherwise I wouldn’t take this hike outside the park. 🙂
PS. my photo website: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/qing-yang.html