July 21, 2020
Grand Park in Mt. Rainier National Park is the eighth natural wonder of the world. Or should be. My absolute favorite trail. Each year I go a little earlier, watching WTA trip reports for snow melt and wildflowers, and of course the weather forecast. Yesterday I struck pure gold.
I overslept! I didn’t wake up until almost the outside time I wanted leave. Peanut butter toast in the car for breakfast again. I was out the door in ten minutes and picking up my latte at 5:15. The “via Lake Eleanor” is the back door entrance to Grand Park and is a three hour drive from home, including the ten miles of potholed forest road and this: it’s the back roads route I have not once, in the several hikes I do from the Seattle side of the mountain, managed to navigate with no wrong turns. Sigh. I really thought I was going to finally nail it, but I missed one turn.
I’m on the trail just before 8:30, already eight cars at the trailhead, hopefully backpackers. By the end of the day, I have not seen an abundance of people, and nearly all are pandemic respectful, putting on a mask or pulling up a buff, except for the park ranger who passes me on way out. Humpty Trumpty says masks are the best way to stop the spread; his best idea yet. (Eye roll)
This trail meets nine of my ten criteria for favorite hikes. (It’s not a ridge.)
1. Not peopley (#2, 3, and 4 all but assure this)
2. Far from the highway (#3 assures this)
3. Lengthy forest road access
4. Long but not too long, with elevation gain between 800 and 1900 feet
5. Forested access to “destination”
7. Vista (preferably snowcapped mountains)
8. Meadow/wildflower potential
9. Water (lake/creek/river/waterfall)
10. Alpine fir
Enough words. Walk with me.
There are multiple meadows, but Grand Park is a mile and a half long! I walked the entire length and into the woods on the far end, hoping to find the beargrass extravaganza I saw two years ago. (See that log here.) There’s a little, but it’s probably too early. Mostly last year’s munched off stalks. (See that log here.)
I almost never find avalanche lilies at peak (and perhaps they peaked a couple days ago), but there are lots! They follow snow melt and I don’t think they last long. There are none in the meadow. The snow probably melts there before it leaves the trail through the forest.
And more flowers! I know most of them, though I might have gotten some wrong. I don’t know some, and neither did Plant Snap. Help is welcome!
The false hellebore is about to bloom too.
Oh, and lupine of course!
I headed through another forest and another small meadow to the vista I skipped last summer. Herself in your face and the White River. If my breathe hadn’t already been taken in the meadow, this would do it.
Someday I will get to Fremont Lookout. I’ve been most everywhere else at Sunrise.
Back through the meadow, past the lake with shadows now instead of reflections, and down the road.
AmaZing day. My heart is full.