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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Skyline Divide & Artist Point, 09/14/08-09/15/08

On this weekend, we decided to take it easy on ourselves–and I apologize if that attitude trespasses into the following trip report as well.  The plan was to head up to Mt. Baker on Sunday morning after listening to a bit of the Packers game, set up the tent somewhere, and then head out for an easy afternoon hike.  If we were feeling up to it, we’d do a little something on Monday morning, too.

We had a couple of bundles of firewood in the back of the Explorer and marshmallows and graham crackers in the cupboard.  We got ourselves some gasoline and two chocolate bars and headed north on I-5.  The only campground still open on SR-542 (Mt. Baker Highway) is Douglas Fir Campground, which is close to the trailhead we’d decided upon for our Sunday afternoon hike, Skyline Divide.

Mt. Baker from a knoll on the Skyline Divide trail.

Mt. Baker from a knoll on the Skyline Divide trail.

After checking in with the campground hosts (who said they’d had to turn away over 100 people on Saturday), setting up camp, and wasting a bit of time, we left for the trailhead.  I suppose I should say that–since I’d mentally deemed this hike too easy–I decided to complicate things by hitting the trail late in the afternoon so that we could catch the sunset, take some photographs, and then hike back down afterward, using our headlamps.  This would be our first time hiking in the dark.


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