Mt. Rainier National Park – Norther Loop Trail Day 4

I had another night of poor sleep as my stomach decided to mutiny shortly after 11pm so I was happy to finally see the sky begin to lighten in the morning. After having breakfast and packing up we left Fire Creek Camp and climbed back up to the Northern Loop Trail.
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We had over 2000 feet of elevation gain ahead of us again today but we were feeling surprisingly good as we set off. We were tired but at the same time we both felt like we could do this for at least a few more days. It was encouraging since someday we’d like to do a long trip when we have the time.

We had just over a mile and a half climb to reach Grand Park. Along the way we a couple of viewpoints offered great views of Mt. Rainier.
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Grand Park lived up to its name. Despite the dry weather it was still an impressive sight and the views of Mt. Rainier were spectacular.
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As we were passing through one of the smaller meadows we noticed that there was frost on some of the plants. It was funny how excited we got seeing the frost. It has been such a hot and dry year that the sight of the frost was a welcome sight.
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After leaving Grand Park the trail headed down a ridge.
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We had been able to see the trail far up the valley climbing out of Berkeley Park and here we were heading downhill.
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The trail eventually stopped dropping and began climbing again below Mt. Freemont. Lodi Creek was on the opposite side of the trail between Mt. Freemont and Skyscraper Mountain. We passed through several small meadows with views of Skyscraper Mountain where we spotted a mountain goat.
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We spotted a second mountain goat on the cliffs of the mountain a little further along the trail.
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As we passed Berkeley Park Camp we found more frost covered plants and even saw a small pool with a thin layer of ice.
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The trail continued to climb up the valley along the increasingly scenic Lodi Creek. We popped out of the shadow of Mt. Freemont into sunlight filled meadows and quickly warmed up.
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As we neared the top of the valley we spotted a pair of marmots on the hillside. They were hilarious to watch especially when one of them plopped itself down on a rock and spread out its legs.
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When we arrived at the Wonderland Trail I realized that I had forgotten that there would still be more climbing to do. I had been thinking we would be heading downhill from that point on and was disappointed when I realized my mistake. The .7 mile climb to Frozen Lake was probably the hardest for me because I had planned on coasting downhill at that point, but once we had reached the lake I was over my mistake and back to enjoying the scenery.
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Near the lake I happened to say the word “goat” and two girls nearby freaked out. They thought I had spotted one and they really wanted to see one. They were disappointed to learn that I hadn’t really seen one and even more disappointed to learn that we had seen two on Skyscraper Mountain from Berkeley Park because that was where they had come from. We left them by the lake and turned up the Sourdough Ridge Trial. Shortly after doing so we did spot another goat. Three to be exact, a nannie and two kids.
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We looked back to see if they were following but they hadn’t come around the bend yet. Heather considered running back to tell them about the goats but there was no guarantee that she could reach them before the goats disappeared.

We stopped a couple of times along the trail to take in the view to the north. This was the furthest north we’d been while hiking and were seeing Cascade peaks that we had never seen before including the snowy Glacier Peak.
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After getting some pictures of the new mountains we began our final descent. The trail was full of hikers huffing uphill from Sunrise. We couldn’t believe how many people there were and we were becoming anxious to reach the car, get cleaned up, and escape the crowds. It was such a stark contrast to the peacefulness of the Northern Loop Trail.
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We dropped our packs off at the car and then stepped into the snack bar to get a cold drink and a souvenir. We had discussed chocolate milk on the trail after some muddy water had reminded us of the drink and it had sounded really good. We wound up leaving the snack bar with the most expensive chocolate milk we’ve ever had. Mine was gone before we even got back to the car.

I don’t know when we’ll get back up to Mt. Rainier but I have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of that National Park. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157655104282083

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