But.....the final item on this weekend's agenda was a sunset visit to Tipsoo Lake.
I'd seen fabulous photos of this pristine mountain lake taken during peak wildflower bloom. Mt. Rainier rose above, casting perfect reflections on it's calm waters, while a riot of colorful flowers lined the shore.
|Backlit Mt. Rainier
Tired or not, I couldn't pass up a chance to capture sunset at this special place. So after refueling with a quick dinner, I packed up my camera gear and drove the short distance to Chinook Pass.
|Blue water near sunset
Having never visited Tipsoo Lake, I had no idea of light conditions at sunset. Turns out it was highly disappointing. Mt Rainier, due west of the lake, was horribly backlit, providing no chance of a decent capture.
But I was here, so despite my weary legs and sore feet, I hiked the additional mile around the entire lake. The trip wasn't entirely a bust. I did capture a few nice photos of magenta paintbrush.
|A few straggling avalanche lilies
And also discovered a small patch of straggler avalanche lilies.
|A beautiful lake
The setting sun illuminated Tipsoo Lake's waters a lovely shade of deep blue.
|Gnats at sunset
And huge clouds of gnats swarming above the trees made for a few interesting photo ops.
But I could tell sunset wasn't gonna be great, so instead of sitting around for the next hour, I opted to head back to camp early. I was extremely tired and ready to take up the neighboring campsite's invitation to join them for a beer.
|Rainier view from Sunrise road
The following morning, my last day in the park, I decided to revisit Tipsoo Lake on my way out. But first the road up to Sunrise Lodge called my name. Since my Friday hike was cloudy and foggy I'd missed seeing the fabulous mountain views. After two days of hiking, I wasn't ready for another long climb from the campground. Today I'd take the lazy way up.
The road up to Sunrise, is long and winding. Built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corp, it was designed to be driven slowly, so visitors could take in the tremendous views.
|Mt Rainier fills the sky
And tremendous they were! From near the huge parking lot that marked road's end, Mt. Rainer dominated the skyline. Although I decided not to spend any time walking around the visitor center this time, I did get some fantastic views and photos of Washington State's iconic mountain.
|Tipsoo Lake in the morning
Then I headed downhill (passing a half dozen very adventurous bike riders screaming down this narrow road) and climbed back up Chinook Pass to see Tipsoo Lake again.
Morning light was way better for photography. Rising up behind Tipsoo Lake, Mt Rainier was illuminated perfectly.
The prior evening, I'd noticed a few people crossing the road and disappearing into a wooded trail. Where were they going? Time to find out!
|Upper Tipsoo Lake
I discovered another lovely alpine pond. Not only was it lined with a few brilliant wildflowers, Mt Rainier was situated so that it cast a perfect reflection in it's still waters.
|More magenta paintbrush
So this was where the photographers got their money shots! After capturing several images of this wonderful reflection, I began to trek around the lake's perimeter, hoping for another good angle.
|Path above the lake
But my legs and feet, worn out from two long hikes in as many days, protested loudly. I ended up only climbing part way before calling uncle. But at least I'd found the coveted photo spot.
A successful weekend of exploration! After a long absence, I'd finally returned to Mt. Rainier National Park. Although the peak wildflower bloom was yet to come, I'd gathered data on where and when to photograph some of it's natural wonders. And after discovering how short a drive it is to get here, I guarantee I'll no longer be a stranger.
Hmmm......fall color trip?