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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Carbon River Road and Glacier, 06/12/10-06/13/10

After spending Friday evening celebrating an improbable new job for me, we woke up Saturday morning eager to take advantage of beautiful weather but somewhat unprepared to do so. I’d been thinking about heading to the Carbon River entrance of Mount Rainier National Park, and its nearby location and easy walking made it seem like a good candidate for our first backpack of the year.

The Carbon River washed out the road of the same name some years back, and it stranded what used to be a drive-in campground some five miles down a now-but-perhaps-only-temporarily-decommissioned road. I thought we’d walk the five miles to the campground, set up our tents, and head off and explore the area, perhaps continuing on to Carbon Glacier, the lowest-elevation glacier in the Lower 48.

Nicole on the Carbon River Road.

Even though we didn’t get a super early start, the northwest corner of Mount Rainier National Park is such a quick drive that we’d gotten to the park, stopped in at the ranger station for our permit, and started off down the road by 11:15.

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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.


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