Saturday, June 27, 2009

Rainier Trip - June 12, 2009

We are a little behind in getting this article to press.  Another week has already past, and we have already made another two trips.

Our trip was to Rainier was interesting.  One thing we noted was how few campgrounds there were in the park itself.  And the few campgrounds that we did see outside of the park were still closed.  Their closure did not appear to be because of snow.

In the state of Washington, it appears that there is a focus on providing recreation for hikers.  Trailheads abound.  There is usually plenty of off-road parking provided at the numerous trailheads.  We were surprised that there wasn't more  emphasis on campers. Many of the campgrounds we have seen have not been very well maintained.  We found the same thing on our North Cascades trip last week.

We saw lots of beautiful country.  Having recently arrived in Washington from Arizona, we are constantly amazed by the vast resources of Washington.  There are so many trees and so much water here, both of which are in such short supply in Arizona.

On most of our trips we have been amazed at how little wildlife we see.  However, on  this trip we saw a herd of elk just outside of the park.  Because of distance and dense brush, we were only able to take pictures of a few of the cows that had strayed from the herd.

Because we didn’t get to check out any campgrounds, because they were all closed. Our turn around point was Yakima.   The most memorable part of the trip was the last part.  Perhaps that is because I am trying to write this article two weeks after the fact.  And it is also very possible that the last part of the trip was so emotionally charged that it just overshadows the rest of the trip.

On our way home, we were going west on Highway 90.  We took a small side trip to have a look at Kachess Lake.  It was gorgeous, and we took some beautiful pictures.  Then we got back on the freeway.  Something you should know about us (Michael) is that whenever we can, we prefer to get off of the freeway and take side roads.  So when we saw what looked like a side road that would take us around the backside of Keechelus Lake, we took it.  It looked like we could go over Stampede Pass and come out on the west side of the lake.  One problem, when we got there the pass was closed with mounds of snow.

We backtracked and thought we saw another road that would get us around the lake.  We found NFD 5480 on the map.  It looked like it went right by the shore of the lake.  Mike was hesitant to take it, which was unusual, because this is the man who in the past would take our Cadillac four-wheeling.  I (Pam) love the water, and so I encouraged him to take this route, which again was unusual, because I usually want to take the shortest route and get back home.  This was probably only one of a few times in Mike’s life that he has ever listened to me, and it wasn’t too long before I wished he hadn’t.

While the road must have been fairly close to the water at times, we never saw the lake.  The road turned into a Jeep trail.  That shouldn’t have been a problem, after all, we were in a Jeep.  But the road just kept getting worse and it was getting late.  There was one place where we came to the top of a hill with huge power line towers and were able to walk up to a point where we could see the lake.  The view was beautiful.  We could see the whole lake and all of the traffic over on Hwy 90 (the well-traveled route that we had been trying to avoid).  We took lots of pictures.  And then we resumed our trip on 5480, and the road continued to get worse.  By now it was too late to turn back.

We came to a creek that ran across the road.  It was pretty deep and was running very fast.  We usually like to take a picture of the Jeep in the middle of creeks that we are fording.  Not this time!  There was no stopping in the middle of this stream.  We hit bottom, but we made it to the other side.  We have been on lots of rough roads, but it sure was a relief when we found a well-maintained gravel road that led us back into civilization.  After the white knuckle experience we had just been through, the "nice and easy" gravel road seemed somewhat boring.

The next week when we went through our pictures, we were somewhat disappointed.  The views we had seen from the high point at the back of the lake just didn’t seem to reflect the breathtaking grandeur we had experienced when we took the pictures. Perhaps our fear of not being able to get out of there increased our appreciation at the time.  Needless to say, we would not recommend this route to others, stick with Hwy 90 on this one.  While the view was tremendous, you get to see more of the lake from the highway and it is much less traumatic for the wife.

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