Sunday we hiked up to Mt. Pleasant, which is a peak on a ridge that, together with Hessong Rock, forms a small massif-like formation just to the northwest of Mount Rainier, in Mount Rainier National Park. The way to get there is to head up to Mowich Lake, which is accessible by car. From there you can access both the Wonderland Trail, and the Spray Park trail, which forms the first third or so of the Mother Mountain Loop. We did about 8.5 miles of an out-and-back, but we added about a half mile or so of spurs and wrong turns.
Mowich Lake is a gorgeous lake, and well worth the drive even if you aren’t a hiker. You can drive right up to the edge of it, and don’t need any special plans or effort.
From the Mowich Lake campground there’s a trailhead that leads to all the aforementioned trails and probably a few others as well. The route we took is below, from our GPS watches. Mount Rainier is down and to the right just off of this map.
The early part of this hike is through pretty deep forest with huge trees, and soft, non-technical trail. There are a couple of viewpoint spurs worth taking, and log-bridge water crossings. Nothing at all challenging for the first about two miles. After that, the trail starts switchbacking and covering some steeper terrain. We climbed about 1400 feet to get to the high meadow. Mowich Lake is at 4800 feet, and out climb eventually took us up to about 6300′.
Below is the turnoff we missed, and had to go back for. It didn’t occur to us to look at the water crossing, which was just a few large stones, and we kept going to the right until we realized we were off course. We doubled back and crossed the water, then across a meadow and up a really crazy steep goat-track of loose gravel on a 35% grade. It was treacherous, and I wouldn’t recommend it to people uncomfortable with a scramble.
It was about this time we saw the Chipmunk. It was fearless, and bounded straight up to me. BB was quick with the camera, and we got this fabulous shot. We also saw eagles, and frogs, and lots of weird little clicky grasshoppers.
Below was the big payoff. To the left in the first panorama is Mount Pleasant, and the monster mountain in the middle is Rainier. There’s no way a photo can do justice to the immense majesty of it. We were at 6300 feet, and only about six miles from the peak. So it towered 8100′ above our heads, more than a mile and a half high.
Below is the panorama of the other direction, with Seattle invisible on the far horizon. The peak to the left is Hessong Rock, which is a peculiar looking ridged peak jutting out of the ridgeline.
Finally, here’s the nearly-360 degree panorama in video mode.
This was a wonderful hike and very encouraging for me. It was 8.5 miles, 2400′ of gain or so total, and took us five hours. But even though I’m injured, I can do this kind of excursion, and that makes me really happy. I’m hopeful that my hip will heal completely. But even if it doesn’t, there’s a lot of amazing stuff I can do with it the way it is.