Thursday, August 25, 2016


(Part two of my late July trip to Mt. Rainier National Park)

After hiking all around Mt. Rainer's Sunrise area the first day, I slept like a log.  But the early morning light (and a full bladder) roused me from my slumber.  Rise and shine!  Today was a big day - I planned to explore a lovely place called Summerland.


Summerland, a high alpine meadow practically under the shadow of Mt. Rainier and Little Tahoma mountains, is one of the most popular hikes in the park.  In late summer, when the wildflowers begin to bloom, the place is reputed to get overrun with hikers and backpackers.

Ranger crossing the White River

From the official trailhead on the park road, the Wonderland Trail to Summerland is an 8.5 mile round-trip journey.  But not wanting to drive from my camping spot, I opted to travel the extra distance from White River Campground.  Yes, I was fully aware this would add over five extra miles to my total, but figured what the heck, I had all day.

Boiling, boisterous White River

My first bit of excitement came right away with the crossing of treacherous White River, right below the campground.  This fast-moving glacial stream looked mighty intimidating and at first I was unsure of how I'd cross.  Luckily, the trail led to a series of log bridges, which made traveling over the river an easy task.

Tiny cairn

I will admit that the third log crossing over the most turbulent channel got my heart racing just a teeny bit!

Scary river crossing

On the river's far side the Wonderland Trail continued southward, through a gorgeous, mossy forest.

Lovely old growth forest

I'd begun my hike fairly early in the morning, and immensely enjoyed the morning clouds, as well as the cool temperatures.  Cloudy skies made for some great photographic conditions to capture this lovely forest.

Wonderful trees and shade

The extra 2.6 miles to the junction with Summerland's parking area seemed to take a long time.  After a mile of level hiking, the trail dipped steeply downhill, which I soberly realized I'd have to climb back up at the tail end of today's journey.

 A rare viewpoint

With the exception of a lone trail runner, I was by myself the entire first leg.  But upon reaching the trailhead proper, I joined in with the mass of humanity.  Large numbers of hikers were already on the trail, everyone heading for Summerland.

Glaciers and waterfalls

Although the path climbed steadily, it was mostly forested.  The woods parted in a few places, giving visitors great views of the nearby steep cliffs, with several hanging glaciers and waterfalls.  A couple clearings offered views into Fryingpan Creek's deep canyon.

First Mt Rainier sighting

The morning clouds burned off quickly.  Temps were predicted to be toasty, and by mid-morning, I was already sweating buckets.  When the trail crossed a sunny area, the air felt much hotter.  But I kept steadily climbing, thankful for the thick forest's shade.

Path through lush greenery

But after three miles of climbing, the path crossed Fryingpan Creek's rocky bed and entered a bushy, green meadow. 

Flowers and mountains

It was here I got my first glimpse of Mt. Rainer, her glaciers gleaming a blinding white in the midday sun.

Little Tahoma

Although I missed the forest's cool shade, I did enjoy the fabulous mountain views.  Not only Rainier, but the pointy top of Little Tahoma rose prominently over the horizon.

Little Tahoma and Mt Rainier

Another great bonus - this meadow was full of wildflowers!  My pace slowed as the camera came out to capture all this beauty.

Summerland meadows

By now I'd covered nearly six miles.  I was hot, sweaty, hungry, and my feet hurt.  But Summerland couldn't be too far.  I kept walking, thinking it had be just around the bend.

Fantastic Rainier view

Except that it wasn't.  The meadow kept on going.  From reading the hike description, I knew the last half mile was a steep climb up a bunch of sharp switchbacks.  My hopes were dashed when I asked a group hiking the opposite direction if I was close, only to be told "about one more mile."

More lush alpine meadows

After more hot walking, the trail finally began to rise.  And up it climbed!  Through a steep, rocky pitch past a lovely patch of avalanche lilies.  I puffed and panted, sweating as I struggled up the hilly inclines.  It was near one o'clock, and having not eaten much since early morning, my energy level started to flag.  It was the beginnings of a massive bonk.

Glacial stream and flowers

The last half mile was an extremely slow climb, but suddenly the ground leveled off, and Mt Rainier filled the skyline.  Up ahead, a sign directed backpackers to the designated camping area.  I saw a stone shelter cabin where several hikers were sprawled out taking a lunch break.  I had arrived!

Truly an exceptional place!

Gratefully, I claimed a spot on a nearby log.  Sitting down had never felt so good!  I took off my boots and socks to let my sweaty, achy feet air out.  Then I dug into my lunch.  It wasn't much - a couple of string cheeses, some salami, an apple and a Cliff bar, but it tasted delicious.

Back on the trail

After eating, I made myself sit and rest for a good 20 minutes.  The food and mandatory downtime really helped recharge my inner batteries.  After a quick visit to the outhouse (yes, there was an actual toilet here!  But you had to bring your own tp)  I was ready to hike again.

Purple asters

Below the Summerland shelter cabin, I noticed lots of people heading towards a lush meadow.  Curious, I followed the trail to a small alpine valley with a creek gurgling through the middle.  Mountains rose from three sides, and colorful flowers bloomed at water's edge.  Oh it was jaw-dropping!

Heading back through the flower fields

A park ranger passing through told me the summer wildflower bloom was just getting started.  Boy, if this was just the beginning, I wished I could see this area at peak bloom.  I made a mental note to return later next year, possibly in August.

Sturdy log bridge

After taking a good half hour to photograph, explore and admire this gorgeous alpine meadow, I knew it was time to head back.  My gps said I'd traveled 7.5 miles so far.  That meant I had to cover this same distance on my return.  It was gonna be a long, tiring slog back to the campground.....

Final grand view before heading into the forest

But at least most of it was downhill!  The steep half mile climb before Summerland was now an easy cruise.  I passed dozens of hikers, all toiling up this slope in the afternoon heat (I was extremely thankful to have this part behind me).  Reaching the cool forest, I put my legs into high gear and concentrated on covering ground.

Dainty flowers

The time passed quickly.  I kept promising myself gummi bears for every mile covered.  Soon, I was back to the junction with the parking area.  Okay - only 2.6 miles left!  Except....I  had that steep slope to climb.

A family way too close to the strong current

The trek through the last couple miles of forest seemed to take an eternity (I swore someone came out and stretched the trail!)  My feet were hurting, I was hot and sweaty, and just wanted to be done.

But finally, I saw an opening through the trees, and there was the White River!  Boy was I glad to see that swirling glacial stream, even if it meant I'd have to cross it again.

Color spot

The hot day's snowmelt had swollen the White River, and it was a muddy, churning powerhouse.  The current was moving so fast, it scared me.  Crossing back over the main channel was even more nerve-wracking than the morning.  And, as I prepared to cross, I noticed a family with a small child standing at the river's very edge.  The child couldn't have been more than two years old, but the parents weren't doing anything to keep him away from the strong current.  I was almost ready to say something when the parents finally pulled their child back.  Be careful people!  This is how tragic accidents happen!

Majestic Rainier view from the White River

As I crossed the White River's rocky plain, not only did I notice many patches of brilliant pink monkeyflowers, but looking upriver, noticed Mt.Rainer peeking behind a patch of clouds.  A great final view to end my hike.

My gps clocked a round-trip distance of 15 miles.  No wonder my feet ached!  Luckily, a tiny creek ran across my campsite and upon my return, the first thing I did was fling off those boots and soak my tired feet in it's icy waters.

But the sweltering climb, long distance, and achy feet were totally worth access to this magnificent alpine meadow.

Sharing with:  Through My Lens


  1. Wonderful and beautiful pictures flowers, mountain covered with mist. Stone made design was good.

  2. From the log bridges, moosey forests, flowers and snow covered mountain tops, your trip to Mt. Raunier National Park proved to be stunningly captivating as well as thrillingly exhausting. The long hike up there is really worth the sweat and I feel like I came along. You brought home some amazing imagery and stories.

  3. 15 miles wow! I am impressed and the views were stunning:)

  4. Amazing scenery once again. I am so envious of you, lol. Summerland reminds me of Yankee Boy Basin high in the San Juans Mountains of Colorado. We visited there once and I LOVED it too. Only we drove a 4x4 road only instead of hiking

  5. What a magical, serene and inviting place, Linda! Absolutely gorgeous! Thank you so much for sharing.

  6. I love it all, but tiny calm is great.

  7. A long but exhilarating hike. I had to laugh at your use of the word 'bonk' it has a completely different meaning here in the UK!

  8. Wow, 24 'killer metres' of steep trail and in heat, yes totally worth the effort. So many stunning images! What an amazing summer of hiking you are having.

  9. Fantastic hike you took us along on.. great post!

  10. Ha ha, enjoyed your comments about wanting to be done with 2 miles to go....boy do I know that feeling "...I have to walk two more miles? But I'm done!" Great pictures as usual and I'm, going to be in Ranier NP in just one day! BTW, your "dainty flowers" are Twinflower Happy Trails!

  11. Oh yes, this was totally worth 15 miles! Stunning! Alpine vistas are my favorite, throw in wildflowers and you've got it all! That does look pretty intense having to walk over that raging current!

  12. Gorgeous! I'm a little jealous of the accessibility of the north Cascades. To get to gorgeous meadows like that around here (Trinity Alps) it's at least five miles of very strenuous climbing.

  13. PS- Matt likes to carry a bag of gummy bears for when I get grumpy and tired on the trail. He calls them "Grumpy Bears" and they always seem to perk me up. :)

  14. Wonderful spectacular hike, thanks for shring. Glad you can handle the steep slopes and 15 miles!

  15. the scenery is AMAZING. The rush of the water, the forest, the lusious greens - all beautiful. I hope you have a lovely weekend.

  16. Beautiful place to explore. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Hello LInda, what a great hike. The views are just stunnung. I enjoy going along on this hike with you the easy way, virtually. Awesome collection of photos. Happy weekend to you!

  18. Just spectacular! You are the second person I know who did this hike this summer. Simply beautiful, but way too long for me to do in one day. :-)

  19. What an amazing hike - truly some of the finest scenery in the world. But that's a long hike!

  20. Absolutely stunning scenery and photography, Linda. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about you hike.

  21. Stunning area. Must admit I'd think twice about walking a 15 mile up and down mountain route these days but scenery like that would keep me going. Snowy peaks in summer always lift the heart.

  22. Wow. I thought the ranger had some new form of hiking umbrella with him!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  23. Spectacular photos Linda. I would love to go that route one day.

  24. Amazing scenery and amazing place to hike and take photos. That does look like a scary river crossing!

  25. Hello Linda
    breathtaking scenery and wonderful panorama, such images one looks very much like to ...
    greetings Frank

  26. Wow! The flowers are beautiful. Hiking looks very fun seeing the mountains covered with glacier.
    Thanks for sharing.

  27. Thanks for sharing all these photos of your Summerland hike, Linda. It's a trail I've never hiked, and now I want to do it. Next August... it's on the calendar!

  28. Loved reading about your hike. It reminds me of the book Hinds Feet in High Places and the journey that she took.

    Summerland, just by its name, sounds like a much more pleasant destination than Frozen lake. Loved the monkey flowers and the purple asters. The Ranger looks like he is carrying a load! Crossing the river on a log bridge with that on his back looks like it would be interesting. The old growth forest is absolutely beautiful, and I loved the views, waterfalls, mountains, and your photo of the trail leading into Summerland meadows. What an awesome trip!

  29. Holy cow, my feet ache just reading this! You got some marvelous photos to show for it though and as always a great story and remembering for "next time"!

  30. Gorgeous country but I don't think I could cross those bridges.

  31. Goodness - what a difficult trek and so many miles. The river current looks so strong. I've never seen those crossings with a span of wood and the hand tails. (Gulp) Great shots of the magnificent views, Linda. I've never seen pink monkey flowers - only yellow. My bunion aches just thinking about 15 miles!

  32. The views of the mountain are stunning.

  33. I had to smile at your descriptions of this trail, Linda. I often ask people coming down from a hike how close I am to the end of a trail. I'm afraid my bunion left foot, which is always slightly swollen, would never allow me to hike so many miles, but I always try to push myself to finish if I can. You found some beautiful wildflowers on the trail and gorgeous summit views!

  34. My husband and I hiked the summer land trail at the park a number of years ago, and I loved it. Thought that Mt Ranier Park was awesome. Have to admit thought that that log bridge over the rushing river would have made my heart flutter.... Gorgeous shots as always

  35. Gorgeous scenery! I love the snowy mountain tops.


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