After gimping down the last miles of the high divide loop along the Sol Duc River, I realized a lot of things: My knee hurt like hell and I could barely walk 100 feet without stopping. I still had a sinus infection. I just backpacked 19 miles in two days with a really heavy pack on my back. This was one of the best weekends of my life and I wanted more… so much more!
I already had a permit for two to backpack the Northern Loop on Mt Rainier two weeks later. I always bought two permits… who knows… maybe someday I’d meet my Mountain Man. My best friend (well, ex boyfriend but still my best friend – no it’s not weird… it’s pretty amazing actually!) knew I was planning this 34 mile trek solo. He also knew I had permits for two. This trip was making me nervous… the more I looked at the map, the more I saw this was one hell of a ride. I gave myself two nights and three full days. Sure, that’s only a little over 11 miles a day, but some of those days were steep. Beyond steep for me, at least.
The day before my adventure, my friend called me at work. “I’ve been thinking about this for a few days; I’m going with you. I’ll be a your place tonight to pack up….” or something to that effect. I was speechless… I couldn’t decide if I was happy, excited, ticked off that he was just bombing my adventure, or just plain thankful. I looked at my map again and settled on thankful, and then the excitement started to build. 12 hours later my alarm was going off and we were packing up the car.
Day one alone was breathtaking… just a few steps away from Sunrise brought us to this viewpoint:
Day two was a little rough, but I must say that the Windy Gap area and the Natural Bridge were probably my favorite places on the loop:
No, I did’t walk across the bridge like others had boasted about. James Lake (left) was what we still had to get to before our day could end. We made it to the incredible mosquito haven with some daylight to spare. The final day was a 12 mile trek out through Burkley Park, Grand Park, and back out to Sunrise. This trip was the most incredible of my life, and there are so many photos and little stories to tell about it, I feel like I need a separate blog just to expand on this adventure alone.
The Northern Loop taught me a lot of things… bridges can be built, sometimes it’s ok to ask for help, you can do more than you ever thought possible, and we are so, so small in this amazing planet we call home.
My next little adventure was just a little loop along the PCT from Mirror Lake, up to Silver Peak and back, and back out for about 12 miles total. Another dear friend who had never backpacked joined me on this trip, and it was fun to pretend I knew what I was doing for a little bit. 🙂 The view from Silver Peak was amazing, and certainly worth the scramble up!
Soon after that was Gothic Basin, thanks to an amazing new friend in my life that now is so much more…. If you ever want amazing views with a 10 mile out and back trip that is straight up and straight down, I highly recommend this!
Very little of this trail is actually runnable. But once you get to the Basin, it won’t matter!
The 10 mile Thorp Mountain Loop seemed like the logical next adventure. 2.5 miles of UP, and then the rest was a nice rolling down, not counting the bushwhacking. But that’s another story..
By mid-August the fires in Washington had taken over much of our treasured wilderness. A safe area was Noble Knob, another 3 mile “UP” trek with some fun rolling trials back down. The smoke was still there, but we were safe from any flames.
Next up was the Eastern Loop on Mt Rainier. Not to be confused with the Northern Loop that I already completed. This loop was 37 miles in two days. My first actual “fastpack” experience with my newly befriended Mountain Man was certainly a traverse to remember! Waterfalls, bridges, amazing views, and splendid trails for running were just a few of the perks of this adventure.
The weather was cold and rainy, and there was even snow already up along the Panhandle Gap.
There was a lot of fog so the views weren’t what they could have been, but I could’t have been happier!
I may have pushed myself a little hard on the Eastern Loop… but that’s what Mt Rainier does to you. She just makes you so dang happy, you don’t realize how hard you’re pushing yourself
Now my left knee was ticked off at me, and I had to pull back a little with some shorter day runs/hikes. A fun little out and back to Annette Lake was a good check on how my knee was. It (my knee) still was’t good, but 7.5 miles was a good tester, and had a few nice views, even with the low water levels!
My next adventure was simply a day hike in and out to Lake Caroline, helping to see friends get from one trailhead to another. They had an amazing trip planned, but I my knee couldn’t take it, so I just tagged along for part of the trek and then left them to their adventure. I could’t complain – it was cold, windy and starting to rain, but once again… these views!
Only five more adventures to report on from 2015! I’d just keep going, but I feel like this is getting more lengthy than I anticipated. Much like many of my adventures! 🙂 Apparently I need three installments to sum up my amazing year.
Stay tuned for more amazing views, some physical therapy to get back at it, and as always, enjoying adventures in this beautiful place we call the Pacific Northwest!