In the morning we woke up happy and refreshed. The air was some of the cleanest I’ve breathed in the US, and the humidity level was perfect for me (I’m part salamander so dry air is bad for me). Our only plans for the day were to do a day-long hike in Mt. Rainier. It was still drizzly, but the rainstorm had passed. With the daylight, we were able to explore, so we walked around the campground. The loos were really clean and impressive for middle-of-nowhere latrines. Also, there were several pavilions with picnic tables and giant fire pits which was really cool. Each campsite had a little firepit as well.
The scenery around Mt. Rainier was stunning, as we were in the rainforest area, and the trees and rocks were all covered in mosses.
We ate some leftover Szechuan and relaxed a bit before heading out.
I had no GPS so we were just following the map. At the end of the network of tiny dirt roads that came from the camp and led to other hiking trails, we met up with the ‘main’ dirt road. Our destination was to go to Paradise, which is on the Southeast side of the mountain. I wanted to do the Paradise / Skyline Trail hike, because you get amazing views of the mountains as well as wildflowers and interesting terrain. Accidentally we made a wrong turn and instead of going towards the road we needed to get on to circle the mountain, we actually went deeper into the forest and entered into Mt. Rainier park.
The road we were on led to a different area of the park with other hikes, so we decided to check it out since at that point going to Paradise would have tacked on probably another 3-4 hours of driving between getting there and then heading towards our next destination. It actually wound up being a stroke of good fortune that we went that way, because we found another awesome hike to take – the Spray Falls trail. This hike also had great views, but a lot more of it was in the forest, and we would cross Spray Falls so we’d get to see a waterfall as well.
The weather was still fluctuating between misting and drizzling, and the clouds were so thick that the visibility was absolutely terrible, so we decided no matter where we hiked we wouldn’t see Mt. Rainier’s peak anyway, so we decided to go ahead and do the Spray Falls hike. This was about a 6 mile hike considered moderately challenging, and took a decent portion of the afternoon.
A lot of the initial landscape was mossy trees, and mossy rocks. We came across some wildflowers and small streams that cascaded as we climbed. We ran into a handful of interesting backpackers along the way and had some good convos. As we continued, the trees changed to taller pines and at one point we approached a slope covered in boulders and moss where pica lived. Pica are cute little mammals that chirp and chatter and look like a cross between a mouse and a prarie dog. We spotted a few bouncing around and calling warnings out to eachother. We also saw the falls, and they were beautiful, as well as the view from the lookout point. Because of the fog, it really seemed like a different planet.
Overall the hike turned out to be amazing, and I’m really glad we went on that one instead of trekking all the way around the mountain. Next time we visit we’ll make sure it’s on a sunnier day!
After Mt. Rainier we were pretty wet, so we cleaned up and changed & then headed back to Bellevue for some ramen. After dinner, we drove to the Snoqualmie area, which is where the campgrounds were we planned to stay.
Washington is really cool because there are a ton of camping spots everywhere, half of which are totally free. Also, you can camp anywhere you really feel like as long as you aren’t on private property. Finally, there are a lot of restrooms and other amenities scattered through the wilderness and free campgrounds, so it’s really quite convenient to drive around and just camp wherever you decide you are tired, which is kind of what we did.
Our campground was just a tent spot with a fire pit next to a beautiful river. It was nestled in the forest, which was also drizzly and covered in moss. I’m not quite sure if this one counted as rainforest as well, but it sure looked the same.
We pitched the tent in the dark in record time and settled in for the night. Shortly after, the sky opened up and poured rain. Luckily the tent held up and kept us dry and cozy, and we had another amazing night’s sleep under the stars in the rain.