SkippyJon Jones and Captain Ginormous Underpants stuff their faces with Twinkies at Sheep and Crystal Lakes where marmots cry in protest as all the dishmop goes to seed signaling the coming of a new season

Early last week I referred to dishmop (western anemone) as old man’s beard. No, no, no, NO! I know what dishmop is!  Yesterday as Adam and I descended into the upper Crystal Lake basin, it occurred to me I’d been using the wrong name. That’s very frustrating….. because our last couple hikes Adam has been simply amazed by all the dishmop (Adam now prefers mouse-on-a-stick), which really is sort of a late season spectacle in the alpine. There was a lot of dishmop going to seed above the lakes. They were like floating dandelion seeds when our walking sticks would brush against the puffy little heads.

I had the option of hiking by myself on Saturday but I’ve been struggling with a cough and my strength was too sapped for anything very adventurous (to the extent I do anything that can be considered adventurous) so I decided an easygoing frontcountry tour with Adam was in order. Grandma dropped he and I off at bustling Chinook Pass just outside the Mount Rainier National Park border and we made our way north on the Pacific Crest Trail toward Sheep Lake. Autumn is coming- spots of huckleberries and mountain ash are going bronze and orange. The trail was extraordinarily fragrant in the sunshine. The views southeast to American Ridge were stunningly crystal clear after the rain last week, and the Rainier fork of the American River far, far below looked like valley paradise. After lunch at pleasant Sheep Lake, much smaller than I was expecting (the lake- not our lunch), we continued upward to Sourdough Gap.  We heard what sounded like an entire village of marmots but didn’t see any, which was a mild disappointment for Adam. At Sourdough Gap, we bid adieu to Sheep Lake sparkling far below and dropped down off the other side of the gap for a short hiking traverse to the next obvious gap, which would take us down into the Crystal Lakes basin. Ever since I looked down at Crystal Lakes from Crystal Peak, I wanted to visit the lakes awfully bad but I was a little put-off by the idea of the very steep and dusty 3 mile forest hike that’s involved. Two years ago I got a load of the dust on the way to Crystal Peak, which shares part of the trail to the lakes. I just didn’t think I could take the dustiness again until I felt a particularly special calling to see the lakes (maybe a cold autumn weekend). And now I’m here to tell you after yesterday: Skip going the regular way! Go one-way the Sourdough Gap way! It’s a pleasant little jaunt in the neighborhood of 7.5 miles. The 2,000 feet down from the lakes are a little jarring ……but I thought it was more than worth it. The one way trip from Sheep Lake is far more scenic than the out-and-back hike from the trailhead on Highway 410.

Adam and I have gotten into the habit of picking trail names for each other on our hikes. Yesterday he was SkippyJon Jones and Adam decided I was Captain Ginormous Underpants. I do have big underwear, so the name fit. Hopefully I’ll remember to share more about this walk later, it was a very nice day that really fit the bill. I came home with some memorable pictures. Adam and I swam in our underwear (me in my ginormous underpants) at the upper Crystal Lake, we saw lots of newts in the water. I think they are newts. Or salamanders? Or baby dinosaurs. I will find out. We also ate lots of Twinkies, which I recently rediscovered. I’ve introduced the joy of the Twinkie to Adam. We should have used a Twinkie to lure a marmot out into the open……

We capped the weekend off with a family swim tonight at Colman Pool in Lincoln Park, even Grandma got in. I swam a lot in the deep end. I’ve been pondering taking swimming lessons along with Adam, I’ve been wanting to test myself diving in deep water (I didn’t swim to the bottom of the pool tonight because I didn’t have any goggles). I can keep myself afloat, but I’m generally very timid about deep water (deep is anything over my head). I want to be more confident for when we’re on Kauai in a few months, I’d like to snorkel more than usual. Summer isn’t really over but I can’t stop thinking about Hawaii for some reason. And I’ve been thinking about Kahili Mountain Ridge, again. I’ve decided to attempt it yet again. I’m a glutton for punishment.

One thought on “SkippyJon Jones and Captain Ginormous Underpants stuff their faces with Twinkies at Sheep and Crystal Lakes where marmots cry in protest as all the dishmop goes to seed signaling the coming of a new season

  1. I’m learning something most every time I read your blog – didn’t know they were called dishmops, but I can see that, and mouse on a stick. When we visited out here on vacation before moving, I noticed them on Rainier and I loved them (it was Oct). They are so photogenic – the photo of Adam with his hand cupped around one is perfect (to use a Seattle word that one doesn’t hear so much in NY!). Yes, do take swimming lessons – with your son, how great that would be.

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