Sunday, August 28, 2011

Rattlesnake Mountain hike

Rattlesnake trail- my first hike after moving to Seattle, and I was waaaay tired. At the end of the 2 mile upwards trail, I was panting hard like the dogs. Yes, the trail is pet friendly, and dogs of all sizes were spotted on the trail. It was fun to see how some big dogs were over enthusiastic and pulling the human zealously up or down the path, while some were very small and were taking one step forward and two steps backward before the human just picked it up and went on their way without hindrance. 
 The whole trail is around 8 miles one way. We reached till the first landmark which was 2 mile up. The path was well defined zig zags cutting through the mountain, with very steep cliff dropping on one side and mountain on the other side, with enough space on the road for two way traffic. Even though I was out of breath, mostly because I was a novice that day, the trail would be classified as a moderately difficult one. Along the path,there were small benches cut out of stone and logs for hikers to rest awhile and take in some breathtaking views of the central cascades and the rattlesnake lake. It was fascinating to see how the lake gradually became smaller and smaller as we went up, and when we reached the ledge, the whole view had just opened up. 

We rested on the ledge for about half an hour. Others who had packed lunch were snacking too. We hiked light with only water bottles and energy bars on us. Because the trail is steep, I would recommend not to carry unnecessary weight as it would make the ascend more difficult. 
It felt nice to sit on the ledge with our feet dangling over the edge from where there was a 1000 ft straight drop, and gaze at the majestic mountain peaks around.

From the ledge, there was still more way to go on till the  Snoqualmine Point , but we returned from there. The way down was 99% downhill, which merited more caution than stamina. The Rattlesnake trail is at North Bend, about 1.5 hours from Seattle. If we had gone further up on the trail, we would have had better views of the MT. Si; now that's a difficult hike, I read somewhere. The Snoqualmine Casino is very near to the Rattlesnake, about a 10 mins drive, and can be an option to chill out after a wonderful day of hike and sun, before heading back to Seattle. 

It was enough experience for the first hike. I enjoyed the workout a lot and had resolved to go on more hikes in the future. The Rattlesnake trail is accessible and comfortable from the month of May till November. I fell in love with the mountains and the wilderness of the grand Pacific Northwest.

To reach there from Seattle: Take I-90 east and get off on Exit 32 (436th Avenue SE) just past the exits to North Bend. Take a right off of the exit, heading south on 436th Ave SE which turns into Cedar Falls Road. Travel about three miles and follow the signs posted for Rattlesnake Lake.

The Pictures:
  • Rattlesnake Lake at the starting of the trail.
  • Along the way.
  • View of the lake from the trail.
  • The Rattlesnake ledge, 2 miles up from the trailhead.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Camping @ Mt Rainier National Park

There is a reason why Seattle-ites fall in love with their Mt Rainier. 25 out of 30 days in a month, it manages to hide behind a layer of clouds; and when the clouds drift away the snow capped wonderful scenery we beheld, looming above the concrete highrises, just makes the day.
 Mount Rainier is a dormant volcano which had last erupted about 150 years ago. That is a little scary fact , albeit no one can absolutely ignore the charm of this snow capped volcano. Once a person has set his foot in the mountain's vicinity, the glaciers, the meadows and the constant sound of flowing springs will keep beckoning him back again and again.
We recently made a plan to go camping in the Mount Rainier National Park. First fact I had missed while planning the trip is that there is no phone connection in the park. The first point where we can use the phone is 20 miles away from the Ashford entrance to the park.We had taken two cars, and were depending on walk-in campsites' availabilities. The second fact I had missed was that this park is hugely popular, and if we need to walk-in to a campsite on a sunny Saturday, we better reach there very early around 7am, because when we reached at 1pm, there were no campsites available at Cougar or Ohanapecosh! However, due to absence of AT&T network, we lost contact with our friends in the second car, and were waiting at Cougar Rock campsite for them. That is when luck looked up and the nice ranger informed us that somebody cancelled and a site had become available.We claimed the site, parked our car at the summer-weekend-shuttle stop at the campsite entrance with messages for our friends, and took the shuttle to the Paradise valley. There were pay phones near the campsite entrance which took coins only. Since we did not have any cash or coins, we had to purchase a phone card from the Longmire store.

Paradise valley proved so true to its name. John Muir is noted to quote that this mountain top meadow is the most luxurious scenery for a traveler.This was the month of August, and there was snow on the meadows, and yellow, white and pink flowers grew all over. We saw deer grazing the meadows, marmots playing in the rocks, and water falls flowing. The clouds came down very near to us. The snow capped mountain top we see from Seattle which is 2.5 hours away was so near and big to us now. That place could so aptly be called the Paradise on earth. After 4 hours of walking and enjoying the Myrtle Falls and Reflection Lakes, we went back to the campsite at almost sunset. We were disappointed to find that our friends had not received our messages, because we did not find them or any traces at the site. But, since we had already paid for the site, two of us decided to stay the night. Another phase of inconvenience ensued for that decision. We had to buy wood, and lady selling wood would not accept credit card, and there was no ATM machine within 20 miles of the park. So we put up the tent, and drove out of the park, beyond the Rainier park camp-base, to Elbe to fill up the tank, take cash and leave some more voice messages for our friends.
As a handy bit of know-how, one bundle of wood is available from the lady at the campground(cash only) for $6.50 and same price at the Longmire stop (credit card acceptable), 2 miles from the Cougar Rock campground. But if you are willing to drive a little further down beyond the park entrance(about 8 miles), one bundle is available for $3.99 and as you go further, the cheapest it gets is $2.99 a bundle.
We went back to the camp, started fire and I was still hoping that our friends would get the message and join us, when a car's headlight suddenly blinded us ! After a very zealous reunion, we had roasted chicken, vegetables and smores, and after a game of Uno, went inside our tents.

I find the morning after as the best part of camping. When I opened my eyes, I could hear birds and the cool morning breeze. In Cougar Rock, I was rewarded more with the awesome sighting of the huge mountain surrounding the campsite and the morning sun rays falling on parts of it.The campsite was great with clean flush toilets and separate pads for cars and tents, and a nice sturdy grill over the fire pit.Tea, parathas and omlettes constituted a huge fulfilling breakfast. After cleaning up and packing everything, we were then headed to the Narada Falls. This falls did not have much to mention, but the environment was very scenic. Probably a hike down the falls would have given me more insight of its magnificence. From there we went to the Paradise Valley again, this time with everybody.The Paradise Inn's cafe serves nice coffee and an awesome balcony to enjoy the mornings among serene nature. This time on, I have realized one more fact that even when we are seeing clouds above us and snow below us, a good UV protection is absolutely recommended because I was not feeling the sun, but it burnt me well. On mountain tops, the sun rays reflect from the snow and can cause more harm to human skin than on the grounds in the city.
Another hike worth mentioning from this recent trip was the Trail of Shadows near Longmire.This trail was through very tall and daunting trees casting a perennial shadow on us, and a feeling of insignificance.When one have traveled this path, he can realize that these trees have been here for ages and anyone trying to change it for any cause must be a fool.
And, as my wanderer heart has longed to take this trip for a long time since the day I moved to Seattle,after this trip,I have to go back there again soon to see the Sunrise.
I will write about that then.