One of my plans while we’re in Seattle was to rent a car and head out to Rainier for some hiking, and today was the perfect weather for it. Clear skies with temperatures in the low seventies in Seattle, and a bit cooler up on the mountain due to the altitude and snowpack.
It’s amazing just how quickly the skyscrapers of downtown Seattle turns to residential areas, then farmland, then National Park. High rises give way to bedroom communities, then to horses, then to dirt roads and towering pine trees. With the relatively easy access to such great outdoor activities, I can definitely understand why people live here – well, except for that whole crappy weather part.
The park itself is huge, surrounding Mount Rainier in it’s entirety. The two entrances on the Northwest corner are the closest to Seattle, and given our limited time we picked the entrance which would get us to the Spray Falls and Spray Park trail. Trails.com listed this trail as a ‘moderate’ 7.6 mile round trip, well within our skill and conditioning level. Mostly so. The trail to the Falls themselves wasn’t too bad, but continuing on up to Spray Park turned into vertical switchbacks that left me grunting and groaning and complaining for oh, at least, 100% of the time. I need to lose about 20 pounds!
We both love waterfalls, and Spray Falls definitely doesn’t disappoint. The nickname is due to the high volume of spray thrown into the air due to the rocky multi-layer vertical drop. Even from where we sat well away from the bottom of the falls, I we were misted down pretty well and I needed to clean the camera lens from the droplets. Amazing to watch and listen to, and well worth the price of admission (buy yourself a National Park yearly pass!).
We should have stopped here since we were already running low on water (I’ll take the blame for poor planning), but we thought that the trail to Spray Park would get us to the top of the falls. Not so. The grueling (yes, I’m still complaining) vertical hike to Spray Park progressed from heavy forest into deep snow with patches of open field. I heard that the snowpack this year was the most since 1983, and in some places the snow was taller than Colette, with streams of melted runoff running underneath. Unfortunately Spray Park was a bust, and we never did find the top of the waterfall, but we got some great photos some great exercise, and a lesson in better planning.
Remember your parents telling you about walking to school in snow uphill both ways? I think perhaps they weren’t lying as much as I once did. Mother Nature has a tricky way of moving things around, I’m quite sure that our hike in was all uphill, but we ended up with more uphills on the return trip. Bah.
We’re glad that we got an early start, as there were only a few cars in the parking lot when we arrived and most of them were overnight campers. When we returned from our four hour hike, the parking lot was overflowing and we crossed paths with several large groups on their way in. The early bird gets the best photos! It also let us get back to Seattle rather early for a soak in the hotel’s hot tub before our early morning flights out. Not a shabby way to end our two week Seattle stint.