Monday, July 20, 2009

Grand Park via Sunrise (Mount Rainier) July 18, 2009

Grand Park from Sunrise (Mount Rainier National Park)

A few days ago we hiked to Berkeley Park but didn’t have enough time to continue to Grand Park. Plus, there were still significant snow patches across the trail past Berkeley Camp. The hike to Berkeley Park has recently described in this blog so there isn’t much more to say about it other than that more flowers have popped up in the last few days. Last weeks flower show was incredible and it’s hard to imagine the wildflower displays could be better – but they were. There are flowers from the trailhead all the way into Grand Park.

The hike starts out on the Sourdough Ridge trail from the Sunrise Parking lot. We followed the trail to a 5-way junction just past Frozen Lake, following signs for Berkeley/Grand Park.

The watermelon-colored snow we saw last week has mostly gone – the few patches of snow that remain on the trail between Berkeley Park and Frozen Lake will likely be gone by the time I finish this write-up.

This was a Mountaineer hike (Seattle branch) and it was co-led by my friend, Caroline. Another friend of ours, Jan, also signed up for the hike and we carpooled together. There were the usual last-minute cell phone calls from Mountaineer members regarding carpool questions/concerns but it all worked. One of our hikers called to say she had a flat tire and suggested we hike without her, she didn’t think she could catch up. I asked her what she was wearing. “A green shirt” she said so I kept a mental note of that, not expecting to see her. About a mile into the hike we took a break; as I looked back I saw a solo gal in a green shirt. Lo and behold, it was our hiker who managed to catch up to us; a happy ending to a bad morning for her.

As we descended into Berkeley Park there were fewer hikers on the trail but more flowers with every step we took. The Western pasqueflowers were starting to look a little geriatric, as were glacier lilies; avalanche lilies were still in bloom at lower elevations.

After taking a short break at Berkeley Camp we continued on our next stretch, an “up” into Grand Park. The last stretch started out steep but the grade lessened – finally, we were in Grand Park with a picture postcard view of Mount Rainier. The bugs were pretty bad though and the flowers had not yet reached their peak. The meadows were still a fresh, new shade of green. Our hoped-for lazy lunch was cut short due to the bugs; we think they had recently hatched as they were voracious.

After our brief visit at Grand Park we retraced our route back to Berkeley Camp. None of us looked forward to the climb out of Berkeley Park back to Sunrise in the harsh sunlight but there was no choice. We took our time, stopping to drink liquids and rest as needed. Myself, and a couple other hikers with cameras, also stopped for photos along the way.
We began to encounter the crowds as we approached Frozen Lake but this is to be expected on a nice day, especially when entrance into the national parks is free.

I can’t speak for anyone else but on the last stretch (Frozen Lake junction to Sunrise) I enjoyed the “people watching”. There were families on the trail of just about every nationality you can think of; I was happy to see them. The trails close to Sunrise are for everyone; not just hikers setting out to reach a destination.

We stopped at Wapiti Woolies on the way home for a cold treat; I recommend the huckleberry ice cream. The traffic from the King County Fair never turned out to be a problem, much to our relief.

Stats: 7 hours round trip (including lunch), about 2,000 feet gain with the ups/downs.

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