Adventure Log: Pinnacle Saddle and Reflection Lake

September 4, 2020

I wasn’t planning on a hike this week. I feel the season winding down, plus I have lots to do in preparation for my next big adventure (Kickass Grandparenting). Then I realized yesterday was my last opportunity for a non-weekend hike (see Kickass Grandparenting); and it was another beautiful day.

I picked a short one, an easy one with a big pay-off one, a not-too-far-away one. I left home at 4am, leaving my departing Airbnb guests—my last for now (see Kickass Grandparenting)—sleeping. For the second week in a row, I skipped my adventure latte in order to catch the sunrise at Reflection Lake. (That is not anything I want to make a habit of. I thought I would get it in Morton, but the only kiosk there didn’t open until 6, and I was there at 5.)

Unlike last week, I made no miscalculations and got behind no slow vehicles. I was at the lake at 6 to wait for the 6:25 rising, wandering the path along the shore, dodging tripods.

Sunrise was lovely, if not spectacular. I live with frequent spectacular sunrises out my window, I have high standards. Plus it was peopley. Still…

As the sun approached the horizon, I finished playing with camera settings, and left the lake under the lopsided moon, crossing the road and up the trail to Pinnacle Saddle, hoping to get above the trees while the mountain and the ridges still glowed.

My favorite hikes are those that pop over a ridge to a spectacular vista—think the opening scene of the Sound of Music—and this little hike is one of the best. The trail winds up the open face of the Tatoosh range, Mt. Rainier at your back, headed for the saddle between Pinnacle and Plummer Peaks. Then, at the “end of maintained trail” sign, it pops over the top through a keyhole opening to the Cascade range, Mt. Adams on the horizon, and a wildflower meadow laid out at your feet. Makes you want to burst into song.

Ahead
Behind

I had thought I might hike up the ridge to Plummer Peak this time, but halfway up the trail to the saddle, I discovered my water bladder had leaked and drained nearly all the water. I lost the mouthpiece two hikes back (discovered on the trail), which causes leakage if I’m not careful; but I think the tube was loose too. I filled it the night before, it was probably empty from the get go. No additional elevation climbing in the heat this day.

Plummer Peak
Pinnacle Peak and the Castle

Instead I wandered down into the meadow and sat and watched the marmots scrambling about, eating, sleeping on the sunny rocks. Mt. Adams and the Goat Rocks were bathed in smoke and I could smell the Evans Canyon fire in eastern Washington.

Lacey leaves of the dying false hellebore.

Leaving the marmots to their solitude, soaking up sun and nourishment before they go underground for the long winter, I headed to the saddle for the descent.

Back to the car (and water) too early for Ashford and the Base Camp Grill for lunch, I drove up to Paradise to use the bathroom and see if the flowers, faded at the saddle (with some notable exceptions on the trail), were still as spectacular as they were last week in the fog. No. We were so lucky!

The saddle from Paradise.

One more hike on the agenda: my annual autumn trek over High Skyline at Paradise. The reds and golds are already beginning. It will have to be a (peopley) weekend, but I will arrive with the sun, if there is any before the snows come, when the colors peak, and when I can go. I am not in charge.

5 thoughts on “Adventure Log: Pinnacle Saddle and Reflection Lake

    1. And that would be why I can’t stay away, even when I’m tired of the effort it takes. As soon as my foot hits the trail, everything is better. Thank you for stopping by here, Beth. (I’m still sad I missed you when you came through Centralia.)

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  1. Those photos are great ! I especially like the lake and marmots, but that pasque flower seed head belongs in a frame ! (I knew you were capturing some great ones at sunrise). I love that hike, too and equally happy that it doesn’t get the swarm of people that the Paradise trails do. The views from Plummer are pretty stunning but it’s no cake walk getting there. Good call on taking a pass without enough water. It will be waiting for you next year !

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    1. It’s a good one! There were some loud people on Pinnacle Peak when I got to the saddle, voices carrying across the meadow. But they soon left and it was just me and two other solo women, who didn’t come down the slope. Perfect. I didn’t even meet many people heading down.

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