Adventure Log: Eagle Peak Saddle

August 14, 2020

Gradual but relentless, relentless but gradual; choose your perspective. WTA said 2900 feet elevation gain, my phone app said less than 1800 when I got to the top. Regardless, it was a lot of upshit and I am unaccustomedly sore this morning after.

I had planned to return to Spray Park this week, but after reading trip reports of hoards of people at the Mowich Lake Mt. Rainier NP entrance, I wasn’t feeling it. That, my friends, is the side of the mountain farthest from home where I always make wrong turns enroute, and I wasn’t feeling that drive either; nor the long washboard road to the lake. Three strikes, you’re out. I started casting around for a new hike at the Paradise entrance and found this one that trip reporters raved about. I chose to overlook the elevation gain; reporters insisted it was gradual switchbacks and not steep until the end and well worth it. And besides, there was the lure of a salmon burger and beer at BaseCamp Grill in Ashford afterward.

I arrived at 7am to the rising sun glow on Herself above the suspension bridge at the trailhead at Longmire—about halfway to Paradise—and no cars in the lot.

Reporters were right, the climb was gradual, thanks to switchbacks. I counted them on the way back down to entertain myself, about 30.

The first three miles were uninteresting, Only one stream crossing (at two miles in), no vistas to break the monotony, woodland flowers only at the stream. The flowers in the steep meadows (after mile 3) were lovely, though beginning to fade. This has been a stunning mountain wildflower year, but I guess all things must end. In a few weeks there will be an abundance of huckleberries on this trail. I will leave them to the bears and others. The up never quit, but for one time for a few feet at the stream crossing. Not one other step in 3.6 miles to the saddle.

First meadow. Steep! And a rocky talus slope to climb through.

From the top of the second meadow, Mt. Adams stood glorious, Mt. Hood in the distance and unusually clear, and I looked directly into the crater of Mt. St. Helens. But no sign of Rainier.

Second meadow.

The switchbacks, long at first, were closer together and steeper near the top, then they quit and the trail just went straight up in steps that were knee or thigh high. Like, I used my hands on the boulders a few times straight up. Maybe my phone app didn’t calculate that, it was just one step for several feet of vertical distance after all.

Finally, I was just below the crest. If not for the trip reports, I would have given up at the bottom of the meadow, but I forged ahead—ur, up—the last bit. Holy goddess!

There she was. Right. In. My. Face.

(And that is Eagle Peak on the left. There is no maintained trail. I did not go there.)
Paradise in circle.
Pinnacle Saddle, where I have been.
Pinnacle Saddle

And the return. Fortunately no one was coming up, since I was very slow and there was little room to pass. In fact, except for the young guy who hoofed it past me coming up, and whom I didn’t see again (I suspect he went up Eagle Peak), I saw no one until I was halfway down. I met three parties of two, all about my age or so: two men (one in a kilt), two women, two more women (with whom I enjoyed a conversation and who probably had to sit down to descend from the top as I did); and a young woman. All but the two men put on masks. Hiking in a pandemic, so weird.

And there was a plethora of hearts. I love my mountains! And it loves me back. (But maybe not this trail so much.)

And then!

That is all.

12 thoughts on “Adventure Log: Eagle Peak Saddle

  1. Hi Gretchen…

    In your blog I noted the mention of a kilted hiker. I have crossed paths several Sunday afternoons in the Natural Area with a small group, one of whom wears a semi-military looking kilt. There are two women, possibly mother and daughter, the younger having some rather garish upper-arm tattoos. When I’ve seen them there has been a small, just-walking toddler. There also have been one or two additional young men. Early on, I noticed the kilted one was carrying a pack marked with a recognizable neo-nazi symbol. At the moment, there is a swastika scratched into the earth in front of one of the benches. Beyond the air of oddness, there certainly hasn’t been any feeling of confrontation. Does any of this sound familiar? (Audrey L. has noted the some group and reacted much as I have.)

    Your photos were, as usual, spectacular…



    1. Good grief! No, I rarely see anyone in there except David. Lucky timing, I guess. Just this evening I noticed something scratched in the dirt in front of the Staebler Point bench. Looked like a four-square grid, but now I wonder. Is that where you saw it?

      Thank you!


  2. Gretchen, I haven’t tuned in for quite sometime, but always when I do I often get a glimpse into your wonderful interactions with nature. This blog was so fun to read and I loved seeing the images along your way. Sending love, Grace

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It does have that Pinnacle Saddle vibe, but when I hear “relentless”  I know exactly what that means. I’m exhausted just hearing about 2900 feet ! I appreciate the great trip report and how you’ve shown the quite impressive parts of the hike in your signature style. There is almost always something to love on the “road less traveled”. How was Basecamp Grill and that salmon burger ?


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yum. But not as good as the beer. Not as good a Pinnacle Saddle, which you can go over and down into the meadow with a babbling brook. However, the trail was not sun exposed like that one; and way fewer people.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s