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Published: October 21st 2020
In late September, Anne and I traveled to Washington state to do a bit of hiking in the North Cascades as well as the Mt Rainier NP areas. It had been over 9 months since out last trip so we were beginning to get a bit of cabin fever and were more than ready to travel. We had heard that airports were not crowded and that Delta was doing a superior job of managing the cleanliness of its flights as well as mandating mask wearing so we were pretty sure we could social distance as necessary and remain relatively safe from infection by the dreaded virus. And that is what we found pretty well over the entire trip. Everyone in the airports and on the airplanes was wearing masks and maintaining their distance with very few exceptions. Surprisingly, we found the mask wearing to be pretty universally adhered to almost everywhere we went, even and especially on the hiking trails we took. We stayed in three different lodging establishments and all seemed to have been very careful about sanitizing everything and avoiding unnecessary contact. We feel pretty sure that we were able to remain virus free for the whole trip.
The text describing what we did and where we went will all be on this one page and I’ll post all of the pictures from this trip on this page. While some will be shown interspersed with the text, others will probably be accessed at the bottom of the page. As usual, if you click on a picture you will be taken to a larger version of that picrure and then be able to scroll through all of the pictures in the larger version.
We arrived at the SeaTac airport on Saturday, Sept 26, around 2:00 PM, got our rental car, and drove to Marblemount, WA, and the Buffalo Run Inn. We had been contacted by phone earlier that day to inform us that the key for our room would be left under a mat and that when we checked out to just leave the key in the room. Did not see any of the inn’s staff except for one time when we needed help to get the TV in the room to work. Even then, everyone had a mask.
On Sunday we had planned to hike to Park Butte
Sauk Mt. Summit
The summit was socked in most of the time we were on it.
lookout that was a little over an hour away and would have been around 7.5 miles of hard hiking. So, after a long flight the day before we decided to look for another, shorter hike. Found the hike to Sauk Mountain which was only 4.5 miles, round trip and about 40 minutes away. While it was a good bit shorter, the climb was an elevation gain of around 1,300 feet along multiple switchbacks (26) with very few relatively flat spots where we could catch our breath. The rocky summit used to have a lookout on it, but it has been removed and only a few cables and re-bar rods were left. The weather was not perfect, but at least it did not rain on us. Lots of intermittent low cloud and misty fog hampered the distant views, but when the breeze cleared the fog a bit, the scenery was still pretty impressive. On the way down the mountain, we met two young ladies on their way up with their two cats. That was a first for us! Had never seen anyone with their cats on a trail before. Finished this hike around 1:45 PM and headed back to Marblemount, but
with so much daylight left we stopped at a nice little park in the village of Rockport at the confluence of the Skagit and Sauk rivers. Walked around there for another mile or two, then drove back to the Buffalo Run Inn. Had dinner at a surprisingly good Asian restaurant called Mondo across the road from our inn. I didn’t ask but wonder now how an Asian restaurant ended up in Marblemount at the edge of the Cascade Mountains.
On Monday, we had breakfast in our room and then headed out for our hike in North Cascades National Park. We had hiked in this area on two previous trips but were never certain that we had actually set foot in the park before. On this trip, we were able to make sure we hiked in the park by driving a little over an hour down the Cascade River road and into the western side of the park. Our hike was on the Cascade Pass trail, a 7.4 mile round trip hike with a gain of around 1,800 feet. The weather was much better for this hike, and the views along the trail were spectacular, particularly along the
last half of the trail which was much more open than the first half through the forest of huge douglas fir trees. We had to share the trail with quite a few other folks, but we were all pretty spread out so were able to maintain our distance with very little problem. We were impressed by the fact that just about everyone on the trails, as well as elsewhere on this trip, wore a mask. It took us a little over two hours to arrive at the pass so, given the elevation gain over the 3.7 one way miles and the frequent stops for picture taking, we made pretty good time. We found the pass to be a bit more crowded since quite a few folks were sitting around just enjoying the fantastic views from this elevated point. We managed to hike a little further on one of the trails that went beyond the pass where we found a couple of nice flat rocks away from others for our lunch spot. After lunch we availed ourselves of the au-natural toilet mounted on the mountainside above the pass. It actually was a toilet, but open on all sides, though screened pretty
Cats on the Sauk Mountain Trail
This was the first time in all our travels that we have ever seen anyone hiking with their cats. Though they were on leashes I think the ladies carried them most of the time.
well by the surrounding trees and other vegetation. Still, we felt better using it while the other one of us stood guard at the head of the trail leading to it. Refreshed, we headed back down the trail to our car. The hike back down to the parking area took right at two hours. We drove back to our inn where we cleaned up a bit, then went to the Asian restaurant for dinner again, then packed up for our drive to Ashford, WA, near Mt Rainier NP on Tuesday.
Tuesday was pretty much just a travel day, but we managed a few miles after we arrived in Ashford. We arrived at our lodge, the Nisqually Lodge, around 2:00 PM and asked if we could check in early. Room wasn’t ready so we drove on to the national park and parked at the Longmire area. The National Park Inn as well as a gift ship and visitor’s center are in Longmire and while the visitor’s center was closed, the rest were open. There are several trailheads in Longmire and we got a mile or so in on the Trail of the Shadows, a short little loop trail
that provided a look at some of the history of the area. In 1890 James Longmire discovered the area with its warm mineral springs, and he built a hotel and established the Longmire Medical Springs Resort. The trail circles the area where the old hotel was situated and passes by several of the mineral springs that were the attraction for the resort. Visitors paid eight dollars per week to stay at the resort and bathe in the springs.
After walking around this trail, we drove back down the road to another short trail called Twin Firs Loop Trail. This one was about another mile and passed through a forest of huge douglas firs, one of which had two trees growing from the same base, hence the name. Some of these trees reached 250 feet or more into the sky, seeming to rival the redwoods of California. Having ‘gotten our miles in,’ we drove back to the lodge where we were able to check in, freshen up, and go back out for dinner at the Copper Creek Inn and Restaurant. This historic restaurant first opened in 1946 and is the oldest continuously operating restaurant in Washington State. I
had a very good trout fillet, and Anne had a bruschetta mix with excellent focaccia bread which I had as leftovers for lunch on the trail the next day.
On Wednesday, we finally actually got to hike to a real fire lookout on top of High Rock Lookout Mountain. This trip was originally planned for early August as a trip to hike several lookouts in Washington state, but the virus caused us to cancel that one. On this revised trip, we visited fewer areas and were only able to get this one hike to a true lookout. A relatively short but steep hike of only about 1.6 miles one way with an elevation gain of around 1,400 feet, it was nevertheless a very scenic and rewarding hike. Passed one man hiking with his small bulldog with very short legs. He was walking very slowly in order for the dog to keep up. Later he climbed the steepest part of the hike to the summit and the lookout building with the dog in his backpack. Views from the summit were very nice but were hampered by hazy smoke that had blown in from the fires in California. Normal
views of Mt. Rainier and other more distant peaks were obscured by the low lying brown haze, but other mountains closer by were still quite impressive. It only took a little over an hour to summit this peak, so we had an early lunch at around 11:00 AM and then hiked back down, completing the hike by around 12:45 PM. With most of the afternoon left, we drove back to Longmire and hiked the Rampart Ridge Trail, a hike of a little over 5 miles with an elevation gain of just under 1,500 feet. Nice views of Mt. Rainier from several spots along the trail. So, all in all, the hikes on this day were probably the longest on this trip at around 9 miles total with a total elevation gain/loss of almost 3,000 feet.
Tired but happy, we returned to our lodge and cleaned up. Since it was getting late, and we were tired, we opted to eat at the restaurant next door to the lodge, the Paradise Bakery Cafe, even though it served no alcohol. This was a Ukrainian restaurant with a very interesting menu that had a mixture of international dishes from Poland, Australia,
Canada, Russia, and Ukraine in addition to a few regular local entrees. I had an excellent Ukrainian Galushki (Gnocchi) which consisted of potato and wheat flour dumplings, or gnocchi, with a garlic cream sauce over spinach, tomatoes, and mushrooms. Probably the tastiest meal I had on the whole trip. Anne had a salad which she shared with me. I went to bed very tired but well sated that evening.
On Thursday morning, we drove back into the park and beyond Longmire to the Paradise area and the Skyline Trail. Paradise was only about 30 miles from our lodge but most of it was through the park with a 35 mph speed limit, so it took almost an hour to get to the trailhead. This is a very popular trail of about 5.75 miles and an elevation gain of 1,700 feet. Lots of people on the initial part of the trail but thinned out a bit after we passed Glacier Vista, an overlook at around the one mile mark. This vista provided the first of many good opportunities for pictures of the 14,410 foot Mount Rainier, known as Tahoma (or Tacoma), “great white mountain” to native tribes. At
about the two mile mark, we reached Panorama Point. Just a shade under an elevation of 7,000 feet, Panorama Point normally provides stunning views of the Paradise Valley, Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, and even Mount Hood on a clear day. Unfortunately for us, smoke from the California fires had blown in and, though not as thick as the day before, the brown haze obscured distant views of those other major peaks. Panorama Point also has a fancier than usual pit toilet, this one totally enclosed, a hundred yards or so to the northwest of the point. The toilet here stands as the highest elevation facilities available to hikers in the park, except for one at Camp Muir, a base camp for those attempting to summit the mountain. The toilet was appreciated since the trail is mostly open with other hikers usually too close by to allow hiding behind a tree. From Panorama Point, we climbed again along the ‘high skyline trail,’ bypassing the ‘low’ trail which was closed due to snow and ice. We reached the high point on the trail at 7,100 feet along this section. From there it was mostly downhill but with continuous sightings of the
huge mountain all along the way. It was along this downhill section that we saw two mountain goats – from a distance. One was clearly visible relaxing near a snow field and chewing his cud perhaps 150 yards or so off the trail. (According to google, mountain goats do chew their cud.) The other was lying right next to the snow and sort of blended in with it, so he was harder to see. We did not see a lot of other wildlife along the trail, probably due to the number of people passing along the trails though we did see a few hoary marmots and a sooty grouse.
After completing the hike a little after 2:00 PM, we checked out the gift shop that was open in the visitor center. The rest of the visitor center was closed as was the Paradise Inn, the old historical hotel in Paradise.. The visitor center is named for Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson who served as a U.S. Representative (1941–1953) and U.S. Senator (1953–1983) from the state of Washington. His political beliefs were characterized by support of civil rights, human rights, and safeguarding the environment, but with an equally strong
commitment to oppose totalitarianism in general, and communism in particular. Wish we had a few like him today.
After finding nothing much that we wanted in the gift shop, we drove back to our lodge where we cleaned up and drove back up the road to the Wildberry Restaurant near the entrance to the park. This was a restaurant offering a “traditional American mountain menu along with our authentic Sherpa-Himalayan cuisine of Nepal.” The owner of the restaurant is an authentic Sherpa guide who holds the world speed record on Mount Everest, climbing from base camp to the summit in just 10 hours, 56 minutes, and 46 seconds, on May 26, 2003. He has reached the summit of Everest fifteen times. Authentic Sherpa-Himalayan cuisine of Nepal not withstanding, I had a grilled chicken sandwich, and Anne had a Greek salad, both very good. Anne thinks we ate at this place in 2006 when it was under different ownership. She remembers that it was Mother’s Day, and her meal was free. Funny what memories stick with a person!
Friday morning, we packed up and drove back to SeaTac. On the way, we went through the
This is the pass itself. Toilet is off the trail to the right up the hill.
small town of Eatonville where we stopped to check out a trail I had found on the google map. The Bud Blancher Trail is supposed to be a 4.5 mile trail to some waterfalls with a 500 foot elevation gain and if you go just to the falls that’s probably correct. We passed by the side trail to the waterfalls and hiked probably a mile or so beyond before turning around and taking the side trail. We made it to the first set of falls after a pretty uninteresting hike for about another mile and gaining maybe 250 feet before descending at least that much to the little river where the lower falls were. After climbing back up that 250 feet. we decided to forgo the upper falls and returned to our car after about a 3 hour hike that mainly just “got our miles in.”
Returning to SeaTac which really is a city built around the airport between Seattle and Tacoma, we were able to check into our motel a bit early and pack up everything for our return flight the next day. Refueled the car at a station next to a small San Salvadoran restaurant
Cascade Pass Toilet
Actually for solid waste only. Sign on the toilet said "Please Pee Elsewhere". Sign on the ground to the right of the toilet says "Please Pee Here".
where we had dinner.
On Saturday morning we got up at a realistic hour since our flight didn’t leave until 10:30 AM. Normally our return flights leave very early, like 5:30 or 6:00 AM, so we rarely are able to take advantage of any complementary breakfast the motel might offer. This time we could have except that, unfortunately, there was no breakfast due to the virus wars. Still, we had to return the car to the rental car facility that was some distance from the airport and check our bags and find our way to our gate in an airport we were not very familiar with. So we left the motel around 8:00 AM and were able to make it to the airport in plenty of time. Flew home on one of Delta’s nicest airplanes, an Airbus A350. With Delta trying to keep everyone safe, the plane was probably just over half full, so we were not close to anyone and were able to relax and enjoy the approximately 4 and a half hour flight to Atlanta. Made our connection to GSP arriving at about 9:00 PM, picked up our car, and drove home. Got home about
The pass, taken from the trail above the pass.
10:30, tired but happy to have finally been able to travel again.
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