A Sucker for Waterfalls

It was kind of a spur of the moment adventure. I had to take Elliot back to Seattle. Rebecca had just told me about a northern access to Mt. Rainier National Park she had  been to years ago. I had been doing double caregiving duty for three days: the very old and the very young. I deserved a break, right? Well, one doesn’t have to deserve a trip to the mountains, one just needs to go when they call.

Mowich Lake is accessed from the north; and just two hours from the city, it is a popular destination for Seattlites. But I was coming from NW Seattle, so I had to leave either at 6am or wait until 9. Not that traffic is hugely better at 9 than at 7 or 8, but I waited. Clearly the optimistic two hours was from the south end.

After the 20 miles on a washboard, pot-holed Forest Service gravel road—that I had to return over—I didn’t figure there would be time to hike. I had promised Rebecca I would be home to cook dinner for Mama, and it was a three-hour drive.

DSCN3648DSCN3645DSCN3651I planned to just sit by the lake and take it in, like I’ve done at Mt. Adams’s Takhlakh Lake. But, well…there was this trail to a place called Spray Park. Sounded like a waterfall to me.


Because I wasn’t going to hike, I had looked only at the directions to the lake on the Washington Trails Association website. And I hadn’t packed my trekking poles. (They are going to live in the car from now on.) So I started down the trail with no idea of the destination, without having seen photos or read trip reports. I set the timer on my phone for when I thought I needed to turn around in order to be home by 6:00.

I was disappointed that the mountain is not really visible from the lake, though there were beautiful views from road. So I was thrilled to come to a sign pointing the way to Eagle Cliff Viewpoint—surely a mountain view. And there she was. I could turn around and return happy. The little platform was populated by lunchers, though, and I wasn’t inclined to stay. I checked the timer. I still had 15 minutes.

DSCN3695I walked a little ways, and heard water. I checked my clock. Still seven minutes. It wasn’t so much a waterfall, as a tumbling stream with a little foot bridge over it. Lovely. I still had three minutes and I still heard water in the distance.

DSCN3751I arrived at the next faster running stream, still not really a waterfall, just as the timer went off. Two women who must have been 80 were just leaving. God, I hope I’m still doing this when I’m 80. The “falls” were beautiful, though not spectacular, but I wondered what was around the next curve. I wasn’t sure if this was “the waterfall”; the sign a tenth of a mile back just said “water.” A few more minutes wouldn’t hurt. I could haul ass when I got to paved road. And no more stopping to take pictures of bugs.


DSCN3683DSCN3692I’ll just go across that talus field, I told myself; maybe there was another view of the falls. There wasn’t, but I heard water again. I’ll just go to the top of that hill. Okay, one more curve. If I find this water, I won’t have to come back here to see it. There are so many places to go in this state, it’s hard to justify returning because I didn’t see it all the first time.

DSCN3690I was nine minutes past my drop-dead-must-turn-around deadline when the trail split: Spray Falls to the right, Spray Park to the left. I was pretty sure the trail to the left was serious upshit, and I didn’t have my poles—or any more time. 100 feet to the Falls. The sound was thunderous, but I had no idea what I would find. I hadn’t seen any photos.

I had no idea, no idea. I came to the end of trail and looked left. Looked up. Looked way, way up. Thunderstruck. Speechless. Blown away. This World, this Creation, is a flat-out wonder.

DSCN3723DSCN3732DSCN3727DSCN3726DSCN3722I was  going to be so late getting home. But my feet were hot and dirty.

DSCN3762I kind of got lost going home, road signs were not clear and Siri was out of commission. I was an hour late. After dinner—which, in a misunderstanding, Rebecca had thought she was responsible for, so I didn’t even have to rush—I looked at the WTA description of the destination .8 of a mile (up) beyond the Falls. I have to go back.


19 thoughts on “A Sucker for Waterfalls

  1. Did you ever make it back ? To Spray Park ? It’s one of my favorite hikes at Mt Rainier ( or anywhere ) Lunch at Seattle Park is not to be missed in this lifetime. Just sayin’ …


    1. Thank you, Ann. The photos didn’t do it justice, but then why should they. I’m glad I need to go back.

      I thought I was following your blog and just discovered I wasn’t. Remedied.


  2. Wonderful, exciting adventure with wonderful, exciting pictures! I am thrilled to embark on my PNW adventure once again!


  3. Sounds like they’ve not improved that bone-jarring road…we hold out hope every year, only to be disappointed. But, we return because the wildflowers in Spray Park are truly stunning–you need (not should…need) to plan to do the entire hike sometime…it’s a fantastic one with beautiful mountain views once you get up in the “Park”. The trail at the other end of the parking lot goes to Tolmie Peak Lookout, an old fire tower. It’s a beautiful hike, too.


    1. I will definitely go back! What time of year do you go? The flowers were past prime, but that was probably because of low snowfall.

      Actually, the road wasn’t that bad, compared to some I’ve been on at least. Much better than the Takhlakh Lake road was two years ago.


      1. We usually go late July, early August…but then there’s this year…. There are probably still prime flowers in the Park itself if you go now…but I suspect our season is short due to this heat. 😦


    1. Have you been there, Todd? The park, of course, is at the top of the falls (switchbacks): alpine meadows and mountain views. I’m bummed I didn’t get there. But I guess it’s not going anywhere. Barring an eruption, of course.


      1. No I haven’t been there. The west side of Mount Rainier Park, except for around Longmire, is undiscovered territory for me. I hope to visit lots of places like that when I come out in 2017 (65th birthday present to myself).


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