We set off early today. We had a long drive and had planned to stay overnight so we packed a bag and a picnic lunch and headed off towards the Mountain that had brought us here. As we drove I looked at my phone for information on Rainier’s hikes and as I turned it on news flashed across my screen. Her Majesty the Queen had died. I don’t consider myself a royalist and yet as I read the news to Gerry I must confess a tear rolled down my cheek. An historic day. The world had changed today.
Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary) was born on 21 April 1926 and was Queen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth from 6 February 1952 until her death. Her reign of 70 years and 214 days was the longest of any British monarch and the longest reign of any female monarch in history.
Mount Rainier National Park
I read a blog, or more accurately, I’d seen a photo in a hiking blog. I was sold. Where was that mountain? I had to learn about it. I had to go walk it. And so we ended up in Washington State and today we finally visited the mountain. Ascending to 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier stands as an icon in the Washington landscape. An active volcano, Mount Rainier is the most glaciated peak in the U.S.A., spawning five major rivers. Subalpine wildflower meadows ring the quiet volcano while ancient forest cloaks Rainier’s lower slopes. Wildlife abounds in the park’s ecosystems but behind this beauty lies a sleeping giant. Due to its high probability of eruption in the near future, Mount Rainier is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world. It is thought that its eruption will dwarf the devastation wreaked by Mount St Helens.
Regardless of any dangers, we didn’t feel too concerned with any imminent eruption, we were here to hike. We entered Rainier National Park, handing over the pass that we bought at Lake Crescent; what great value this pass has given us! We drove to Paradise Visitors Centre and found a parking spot just beyond the main parking area and ate our picnic.
Hiking the Snow Lake
We knew today we would arrive too lake to hike Rainier’s trail so instead we stopped at the Paradise Visitor Centre and collected a map of other shorter hikes in the area. We also visited the restrooms and refilled our water bottles. There’s a hotel here but if you want to stay you need to book early! I wish we had!
We decided to walk the Snow Lake trail and after walk the path around Reflection Lake. The Snow Lake trail begins at a little parking bay. We parked and set off. It was hot again today, so we made sure we had our hats and plenty of water and sunscreen. The trail rises through a shaded but dusty path that deserves attention as it’s littered with rocks and tree roots. We read that blueberries and huckleberries could be found all along this trail but we never spotted any; maybe the bears had found them before us! Snow Lake is only about 100m higher than the parking area but between those two points the path meanders up and down a great deal which meant almost 400m elevation gain in each direction.
This isn’t a loop so we tried to avoid looking behind us; saving that treat for the return journey. Instead we watched our feet and the views ahead of us. After a kilometre there is a chance to divert off the path to go visit Bench Lake. A smaller lake nestled under the Sawtooth Mountains. The spur is short but it is badly eroded so you’ll need to pay attention. Back on the main trail, we continued on to Snow Lake.
There’s a camp here but we walked first across to the opposite side of the lake to pause, drink our water and soak up the amazing views of the crystal clear water. After our break we continued on along the trail to the camping area, crossing the inlet, swamped but giant fallen trees. Walking across we caught views of the lake and the mountains behind and it was simply magnificent.
And once we’d explored the lake enough we turned back to the path for our return to the parking area, and the entire journey in the shadow or Rainier.
Back at the carpark we drove towards Reflection Lake. We didn’t have time to walk the entire lake trail but we set off to walk as much as we could in the time we had. We passed a bride and her new husband as we walked, and we also passed a group of hikers, spending 8 days hiking around the entire base of the mountain. I thought back to the Spanish trails along the Camino de Santiago and a part of me longed to be with them.
As we walked my phone pinged and pinged; we must have walked back to ‘life’ and I picked up a phone signal. I pulled my phone from my bag. I had so many messages from friends and family telling my the Queen had died. I took a photo of the mountain reflected in the lake and we continued on the path. Today was glorious. I do so love walking in Mountains. The views from Snow Lake were nothing short of majestic, which perhaps was rather appropriate on a day that will surely change the world.