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.
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.
I 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.
I 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.
I’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.
I 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.
I 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.