Alpine Hiking at Paradise

Monday, July 23, 2007: Once again, I headed into the park. This time I stopped at the Kautz Creek trailhead. Kautz Creek was one of the areas most affected by the November 2006 storm, with the creek even changing course. All of the major streams in this area have a similar look. They seem almost like rivers of rocks, with a creek flowing though. All contain recently downed trees, and trees still standing in the river of rocks.

I walked out about 3/4 mile on the trail. I thought this might be promising for Red-breasted Sapsucker, but had no luck with it. Chestnut-backed Chickadees were plentiful. In any event, it was a good warm-up walk for today's main event.

Since it was still overcast, I took the opportunity to photograph Christine Falls. I thought about taking the trail to Comet Falls, but decided to do some alpine hiking at Paradise instead.

The sky seemed to be clearing a bit as I returned to Paradise for the last time on this trip. The plan today was to go to Pebble Creek, which is about 1900' above the parking lot. It's also the beginning of the climber's trail to the summit of Mt. Rainier.

After yesterday's hiking in the area, I decided that it would be best to wear boots and take poles, which I did. I made steady progress up the Skyline trail. I'm not sure if I was just going a bit more slowly, or if I'm stronger today, but it seemed like an easy climb. An attempt to take the Glacier Vista loop was aborted after I found that too much of it was covered by snow and that they had not put poles up to mark the trail. At the Panorama Point junction, I headed straight on to Pebble Creek.

Since arriving at Paradise, parts of Rainier had been peeking through the clouds. As I neared Pebble Creek there was an incredible view down the Nisqually Glacier and River (filled with rocks) to and beyond the Nisqually bridge.

I was feeling really strong when I got to Pebble Creek, almost strong enough to climb up to Camp Muir, the base camp for summit attempts. I really felt like a mountain climber (not just a hiker) at this point. I think it was a combination of crossing snowfields and looking down on glaciers that caused this. Also, I was keeping up with the climbers on the way up. Everyone else I saw at Pebble Creek was headed upward. I was the only one turning around there, although I'm sure other people did later in the day.

As I left Pebble Creek, the clouds were starting to drop. I had bypassed Panorama Point, so I made the trip down there (adding about .6 mi and 300' to my hike). I needn't have bothered. The clouds had closed in and there was no view. I then returned to the High Skyline Trail (which had fog streaming across it) and headed back to Paradise the long way.

When I got to the Golden Gate Trail, I stayed on the Skyline Trail. The Golden Gate is a shorter return, but I'd done that the day before. It turns out the Skyline Trail is a lot prettier, so it was a good move, even if it did add almost a mile to the journey.

On the way down, there were several more snowfields to cross and one unbridged stream. The trail also descends about 150' below the lower junction with the Golden Gate Trail at Myrtle Falls. Of course, this has to be made back up. I took a couple of photos of Myrtle Falls, then walked the remaining mile back to the parking lot. When all was said and done, my Paradise hike covered about 7.5 miles and gained (and lost) about 2350'.

Jasmer's Rainier Cabins, Ashford, WA