Today marks exactly three weeks until we start on the John Muir Trail. We have been busily working at getting our food drop package together and collecting the last odds and ends of gear needed for our trip. We’re not doing as much hiking, but the few hikes we’ve fit in have shown us that we are pretty well ready to tackle the trail.
A couple weekends ago we had an amazing trip to Mount Rainier National Park with the friends that will be joining us for a section of our JMT hike. Our goal was to hike up to Camp Muir, on the South-East shoulder of the mountain. The hike climbs nearly 5,000 feet in 4 miles, travelling over the Muir Snowfield.
This challenging hike would give Dan & I a bit of work on elevation training and would give our friends from San Diego a chance to practice snow travel techniques for the high passes we’ll be going over on the JMT.
We hadn’t been to MORA for over 2 years, and it was a much overdue visit. The park is about a four hour drive from us, not including the challenges of Seattle traffic. We picked our friends up around dinnertime on Friday and motored onward to the South-West entrance of the park, pulling into the Cougar Rock Campground around 9:30 pm.
Cougar Rock is a really nice campground. The campsites are tucked back into the trees, offering great privacy and space. We were only there for a couple nights but I could easily see a group really enjoying a longer stay.
Saturday morning we were moving a bit slow. We enjoyed a hearty breakfast and then hit the road, driving up the mountain to Paradise, which sits at an elevation of 5,400 feet.
Dan and I tackled this trail a couple years back with snowshoes. This time we had trail crampons to put on over our hiking boots. While we didn’t float as well over the softer snow, it made it much easier to follow the boot path that was carved by all the hikers ahead of us.
We made a point of taking our time as we worked our way up the mountain. The sun was hot, though there was a pretty good breeze helping to keep us cool. We took a break at the base of of the first steep climb, another once we reached Panorama Point and then another about halfway up the Snowfield. All in, we took about 3 hours to reach Camp Muir.
We spent nearly an hour at Camp Muir, soaking in the sunshine and the view. We had worked pretty hard to get there and it was well worth it!
The trip down was much easier, and much more fun as well. The snow was softer, but still had a pretty good crust on it, especially in areas without others’ footprints. The boys particularly enjoyed using some of the glissade chutes.
Perhaps the best part was the view we were treated to, which we’d been forced to ignore on the slow plod up the mountain. We had the joy of seeing Mt. Adams, Mt. Saint Helens and even a brief glimpse of Mt. Hood in Oregon!
We made it back to the parking lot around 4:30. We took a well-deserved break to enjoy some snacks in the beautiful lobby of the Paradise Inn before driving back to the campground for a hearty dinner, good conversation and card games.
Sunday was another slow-moving morning. We were all a bit stiff but made it out onto Rampart Ridge, hiking the 4.5 mile loop from Longmire.
We grabbed a quick bite of lunch from the grill at Whittaker’s, a local icon for any hiker or mountaineer around Rainier. We also scored some excellent first-of-the-season Wenatchee valley cherries on our drive out along the National Park Highway.
Dan and I were sad to drop our friends off at the airport for their trip home, but we’ll be seeing them soon enough when they join us for the last week of the JMT!
Postscript Edit: I broke 100 miles of hiking so far this year with our Rainier Hikes! Many more
miles to come!