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A Month in Washington (mid Sept - mid Oct 2015)

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A Month in Washington (mid Sept - mid Oct 2015)

Postby rams » Sun Nov 01, 2015 9:43 am

Less than 2 weeks after returning from our honeymoon in Alaska, we had to leave Utah again for my wife to do a rotation at the University of Washington. Given that I can work remotely, I joined in after driving 12 hours to Seattle. I arrived a couple of days before she flew in, so I took advantage of the good weather and headed to Mt. Rainier National Park to check one more thing off my bucket list. On the drive from Seattle, it was cloudy all the way into the park entrance and I was cursing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for steering me wrong with their forecasts (again). However, just as I was approaching the Sunrise Visitor Center, the low-lying clouds relented and I broke out into sunshine, with the gigantic Rainier presenting itself.

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After lifting my jaw that dropped when I first saw the massif, I headed for the Burroughs hike so I could get up close to the beast and bag 3 peaks, though "peaks" is a generous term. With crazy winds, I ticked each Burrough off the list one by one, with Third Burrough all to myself for a short time. Mt. Rainier was pretty much in my face at that point, with the Winthrop Glacier creeping down its slopes and giving me Alaska flashbacks with the amount of ice on this mountain.

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I knew I had limited time though and made this a trip of maximizing what I saw instead of taking it all in. Thus, it was time to rush back to Sunrise and drive to the Paradise side of the park to see the beast from the other side. When I got there, the fall colors were gorgeous and full of reds that I'm not used to seeing in California. The crowds were also reminiscent of Yosemite Valley, though I can understand why given the trivial effort required for such views. I knew I had to come back here with my wife once she arrived, despite the teeming masses.

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A week later I did just that, and took her on a very similar itinerary, though we stopped at either First or Second Burrough before rushing back. It was no less awesome seeing Rainier towering over the stark Burrough landscape the second time around. All the while, we were treated to a sea of clouds pouring in and out of the neighboring peaks.

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We spent a bit of time roaming the walkways at Paradise, but Rainier was no longer visible so we just had great fall colors and not-so-great crowds. We bolted away from the madness and spent the rest of the day checking out some of the park's waterfalls, some of which are roadside and take zero effort to reach. Thus, we got to see a lot in a short time, including Narada Falls, Christine Falls, and Carter Falls. My favorite was probably Christine Falls, despite the fact that it passed under a road.

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My wife loves the beach almost as much as the mountains, so the next weekend would be dedicated to Olympic National Park, where we could see everything from glaciers and mountains to beautiful seashores, not to mention rainforests. Since this is a mountain forum, I'll just bother with the mountain part. Like Mt. Rainier, trivial hikes could get you expansive views from Hurricane Ridge, looking out towards the Olympic Mountains and the distant Blue Glacier. Alas, getting into those mountains instead of viewing them is a much more dedicated endeavor that we didn't have time for, so off we went to the beaches and rainforests for the rest of the weekend.

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The following weekend, we crossed off two more mountain-related items from the checklist: North Cascades National Park and larch trees turning color. Perhaps the most emblematic peak for North Cascades National Park is Mt. Shuksan, kind of like what Half Dome is to Yosemite. We knew we'd want to see the over-photographed Picture Lake at some point just to say we did it, but first wanted to get up close to Shuksan. The trail to Lake Ann provided just the ticket, starting through forest before opening up with views of Mt. Baker, then eventually Mt. Shuksan up close. And just to be official, we hiked to the park boundary, as the roads in the area (as well as Lake Ann) are technically outside of the park.

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We started back to the trailhead in hopes of getting to Picture Lake in time, which we did. The crowds of people were annoying to say the least, though the view was justifiably popular. I felt kind of sorry for the hordes of pro (or wannabe pro) photographers hanging out there who seemed to really think it wasn't a beautiful place just because there weren't any clouds in the sky to help them get the perfect shot. It wasn't just that they couldn't get a good shot with no clouds, it was that this place wasn't beautiful if you couldn't get a perfect shot. To each their own I guess.

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And for the last mountain mission of our time in Washington, we headed to the Blue Lake trail the next day to see larch trees. Ever since I first saw a picture of them, I wanted to see a deciduous conifer just for the novelty (novel for me at least). It was rather strange in a good way seeing yellow needles that are supposed to fall off for the winter before growing back green in the spring. Mission accomplished.

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Before we knew it, my wife's rotation at University of Washington was done and it was time to head back to Salt Lake City. The mountains in Washington (as well the rainforests and beaches not posted here) were spectacular and I'd love to go back some day to explore areas deeper into the mountains away from roads. That being said, I still think the Sierra rules. Sorry Washington.
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Re: A Month in Washington (mid Sept - mid Oct 2015)

Postby maverick » Sun Nov 01, 2015 11:37 am

Thank you Rams for sharing your trip with us, you were very lucky to see Rainer. Photo's are very pretty, really like the waterfall, Mt Baker, and Picture Lake shots, even with the annoying crowds. ;)


Since this is a mountain forum, I'll just bother with the mountain part


Oh, and please do include all your photo's of Olympic NP. :nod:
I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: A Month in Washington (mid Sept - mid Oct 2015)

Postby Eiprahs » Sun Nov 01, 2015 9:54 pm

Very nice.

If you can, visit the Enchantments.

Thanks for sharing!
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Re: A Month in Washington (mid Sept - mid Oct 2015)

Postby rams » Tue Nov 03, 2015 10:05 am

Oh, and please do include all your photo's of Olympic NP. :nod:


The photos below were some of my favorite spots in Olympic NP outside of the mountain areas. It's amazing that such varied landscapes (mountains and glaciers giving way to rainforests giving way to the ocean) exist so close to each other.

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Re: A Month in Washington (mid Sept - mid Oct 2015)

Postby maverick » Tue Nov 03, 2015 11:52 am

Oh yeah, those are marvelous, thanks for including them Rams. :)
I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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