Klapatche Park, 07/24/10-07/25/10

When I first flipped through my copy of 50 Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park and saw Ira Spring’s photograph of Klapatche Park, the destination shot to the top of my to-hike list. And like most locations on my to-hike list, it just stayed there. I was reminded of it again last year, while watching The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, which briefly flashed another Ira Spring photograph of the same location, this one from many years earlier.

The problem is, Klapatche Park isn’t all that easy to get to. In the not-too-distant past, one could park their car within three miles of it, but the road washed out twenty-one years ago and left the western side of The Mountain more isolated than most of the rest.

After walking the more recently decommissioned Carbon River Road earlier this year, I decided that it was time to walk the Westside Road and visit the fabled Klapatche. The weekend’s weather would be perfect, and from what I’d read on the Mt. Rainier National Park website, snow levels seemed pretty favorable, too.

This trip would be solo.

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Railroad Grade via Park Butte Trail, 07/10/10

I threw everything in the back of the Forester Friday morning before work, planning to pick Nicole up after work and head to the mountains. Earlier in the week, we’d decided to camp Friday night and hike on Saturday morning. It’d been a while since we’d been up near Mt. Baker, and I figured we’d be able to camp last-minute along Baker Lake somewhere, so I started looking into options. The Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest website promisingly categorized the Park Butte Trail as “partially” open, going on to state that meadows were clear, snow was in the trees, and snowshoes were not necessary. Furthermore, I learned that there were hiker-only campsites at the trailhead. Sold.

Bird in flight, Mt. Baker beyond, from Railroad Grade.

We made good time to the trailhead (I-5 -> WA-20 -> Baker Lake Highway -> FSR-13) and its large parking area. We set up our tent in one of the few single-night-only campsites set aside for hikers and drifted off to sleep early.

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Short Trips in Sisters, Oregon, 07/03/10-07/04/10

Some good friends invited us to spend the extended Fourth of July weekend with them and friends of theirs at a ranch in Sisters, Oregon. We enthusiastically agreed, and had a great time. The area is beautiful—the closest we’d ever been is the also-beautiful Breitenbush Hot Springs, but the environment is a little different on the east side of the mountains.

Three Sisters from The Ranch.

There were wonderful views of a lot of volcanoes and near-perfect weather…

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Blanca Lake, 07/26/09

We hadn’t yet combined car camping and day hiking this summer, and Cousin Bobby’s number of free weekends before his internship ends can be counted on one finger, so it was decided that we’d head out and camp somewhere Saturday and then hike on Sunday. Blanca Lake has been high on my to-do list for several years—basically since I picked up my first 100 Hikes… book. While researching the hike, I found out that the shorter approach to the trailhead via FS63 (Index-Galena Rd) was inaccessible due to a road closure, but the trailhead was still reachable via FS65 (AKA Beckler River Rd). I thought this might deter some people and keep the trail slightly less busy. So it was decided that we’d head up FS65 seeking a suitable and free camping site and hike up to Blanca Lake the next day.

North Fork Skykomish River near our campsite.

North Fork Skykomish River near our campsite.

Roommate David loaded up the cooler, the back of the Forester was full, and we stopped off in Mill Creek to pick up Cousin Bobby around 09:45 on Saturday morning. After an easy cruise on US-2 through Skykomish, we turned left on Beckler River Rd, which is also a pretty smooth ride, until it first turned to gravel and then intersected with FS63. Along the way there were several choice campsites along the water, but all were taken. Once we turned up FS63, the road became smaller and we were slightly worried we wouldn’t find a nice place to camp. We passed by the trailhead to Blanca lake and came a little closer to the North Fork Skykomish River, eventually finding a decent little grassy campsite with a fire pit and easy access to the water. By noon we were setting up our tents and settling in.

hikers_50

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The Burroughs, 07/19/09

After “losing” the first weekend in July to my grandmother’s 80th birthday party and the second to a Saturday spent soaking at Breitenbush Hot Springs, we were well overdue for a hike. Sunday was the only day available to us, so we settled on a dayhike at Mt. Rainier National Park.  I’d seen some stunning photographs taken from the Burroughs trail near Sunrise, and yearned for some in-your-face views of The Mountain—on prior trips to Mt. Rainier National Park (Spray Park, Summerland) the eponymous mountain remained frustratingly hidden in cloudcover.  If the weather forecast was to be believed, this day would be different.  It was.

Mt. Rainier and wildflowers from just above Sunrise.

Mt. Rainier and wildflowers from just above Sunrise.

On top of our hike starting at the always-busy Sunrise Visitor Center, we learned during the week that it was Get Into Your National Park Free Day, or some such thing.  So I set my alarm early, had no trouble getting Nicole out of bed, and we were on the road at 04:40.  I love early starts, but even as we cruised through Enumclaw and the tip of The Mountain lit up, I wished we’d started even earlier.  At 06:40, just two hours later, we pulled into Sunrise with our pick of the parking lot.  Ten minutes later, we were on wide empty trails through lupine with outstanding views of Mt. Rainier.  Of course, the views of Mt. Rainier are outstanding from the parking lot.

hikers_50

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