adam by the Nisqually River on saturday night
I was conflicted about sharing this picture because I dislike how squinting changes the way Adam looks. He has big, beaming blue eyes. But in every other way I love this portrait, it sums up our weekend. Rushing mountain rivers, big trees, snowy mountainscapes, loose-fitting tie-dyed clothing, frustrated four year olds who just want to slide down rocks or stuff pine cones in their pockets……
We spent the better part of Saturday and Sunday at Cougar Rock Campground in Mt. Rainier National Park with friends. I didn’t want to go at first, car camping doesn’t really appeal to me a lot. Adam’s mom loves it, though, and pleaded with me to come. It’s so hot here right now, I decided I might actually get a better night sleep in a tent outside than in our stuffy old house.
It was Adam’s birthday on Friday! He turned four years old. Here’s the squirrely birthday boy sitting on a huge boulder next to the Nisqually River. When we arrived at the campground on Saturday afternoon, our group of friends (Roxanne and Dougan and Sofia, Alice and Han, Carolyn and Sailor and Arlo) were hiking at Paradise (they came up to the mountain the day before us). The trail-head for Carter Falls is basically across the road from Cougar Rock Campground, so Adam, his mom and I decided we would sneak in the 2.2 mile walk on this tiny portion of the Wonderland Trail to the waterfall, before everyone got back to camp. In fact, the campground is basically in the trees in the background of this picture. At the beginning of the trail, there’s a neat crossing of the churning chocolatey milky Nisqually River on a huge log bridge with a railing on just one side. There was more dusty uphill to Carter Falls than I anticipated, so I carried Adam for most of the way to preserve his energy in the nearly 90 degree heat.
Carter Falls is a neat waterfall, but you can’t get very close to it. That was disappointing, considering the heat. I begged Diana to let us continue to Madcap Falls (a hiker couple coming down told me it was just ten minutes further and it was “better” than Carter Falls) but she was in charge of dinner for everyone back at Cougar Rock and it was going to be a really bad idea if we were late.
It was nice to see everyone and dinner was very, very good. Diana made tinfoil dinners that were the best I’ve ever had, with Italian sausage, basil, green beans and red peppers and potatoes. I tried to drink just enough wine so I could sleep heavy, but it still turned out to be a fitful Thermarest-night, even after the boom-boxes in the campsite across the road finally went quiet. Adam was a terrible bed hog in our too-small three person tent. He got up at 3 AM to go potty. It was so fun (literally, he had a smile on his face when he got back) a half hour later he insisted upon going again. It was a comfortable (insomuch as I could fall asleep for the classic 20 minute increment) night for sleeping, but it never cooled like I thought it would. It was very clear and still and we left the rain fly off for a 3-d view through the angular boughs of firs, all the way to the hazy starry sky. All night long, the moon seemed to beam directly on my face. I felt like Al Bundy on Married with Children. If it wasn’t the moon, it was the fragrant-but-at-times-suffocating smoke from a nearby campfire. But is there a better smell when you sit around roasting marshmallows? When you’re at home and you toss all your clothes in the hamper?
Adam woke up early this morning so he and his mom ferried me down the mountainside to Longmire Visitor Center, where I hiked the extremely steep Eagle Peak Saddle trail (7.2 miles, 3,000 feet elevation gain) to a spectacular view of Mt. Rainier and some of the other Tatoosh. The hike to Eagle Peak’s saddle is mostly in the forest, so when you finally arrive at the view climax…….holy chicken coop detritus! I was barely tempted to scramble the short section to the top of Eagle Peak, but my immediate second thought was I found it ridiculous my hiking guidebook author found it necessary to warn me of the danger of such an endeavor.
We’d arranged for me to wait on Longmire Inn’s porch for a pick-up after my hike was over. All the other people on the porch (presumably guests of the Inn) sat there reading novels and contemplatively gazing at Mt. Rainier, but the throng of cars driving by on their way to Paradise drove me apeshit. I’ve never see it so busy in MRNP. After being all by myself up on Eagle Peak for the morning, it was jarring (though in a somewhat entertaining way). I tried to pretend what MRNP would be like if three sides of the Park were entirely roadless.
We capped off the day with our friends at Reflection Lake, where we ate snacks on a gravelly beach with a hazy view of the mountain. Thankfully, it was relatively peaceful at Reflection Lake except for the humongous tour bus that was having trouble turning around in the road right in front of the lake.