A new audio book landed in my Libby app overnight. An auspicious beginning to my day for sure. Ann Patchett is one of my favorites, so Dutch House it is ! It’s read by Tom Hanks … bonus ! I’ve been enjoying the Starless Sea but I am hopelessly lost and my loan expired. Rather than try to muddle through (although the storytelling is brilliant) I will have to try it again without the distraction of driving.
Heading toward the mountain again in the “blue hour”. If I remember to slide the door to expose my moonroof, I feel a bit as if I’m in a capsule beneath the stars. The air is cool and it fills my interior with with bits of sky and moon and the sweet smell of fir as I inch closer to the road that takes me to Her Majesty. Approaching Greenwater, I come through the canopy of trees and I see pin pricks of light across the blanket of deep blue. Nothing is subtle in the blue hour. Hills and peaks have a sharp outline on the horizon and I can begin to make out constellations and planets in the sky.
The mornings have become a challenge for me again. Everything becomes a negotiation. The stiffness settles into my bones overnight and it’s harder than it should be to get moving. I choose my hikes wisely now. Not too much elevation and not too far beyond my 8 mile comfort zone. Even the drive is a consideration. Over two hours seems to “set” the stiffness and it makes movement awkward.
( A friend has encouraged me to hike a spectacular new-to-me trail up North that pushes every one of these boundaries for distance, elevation and drive time. If you know me, you know I love a challenge … today will be the gauge of my fitness level )
Today I settle on sunrise at Sunrise Point and a hike to Skyscraper Pass. The small peak sits directly across the valley from Mount Fremont lookout. That “valley” is meadow and stream filling up what is known as Berkeley Park. Skyscraper sits at 7,078 ft, roughly half the elevation of Mt Rainier herself. The hike itself is 8 miles with 1300 feet of elevation gain. This fits the bill for me. If my energy allows, I’ll take the Shadow Lake trail down past Sunrise Camp and make it a loop. I may even meander along the Silver Forest trail.
The Skyscraper name was coined by Edmond S. Meany as he noted the resemblance to some modern architecture of the times. It was made official and adopted in 1932 by the United States Board on Geographic Names. This has been a favorite hike of mine the past few years and will mark my fourth trip up.
As much as I love the flowers and meadows, these rugged, rocky hikes make me really feel closer to the mountain. I’ve packed my poles, remembering the steep approach to the peak as you make your way along Skyscraper Pass. This is a part of the Wonderland Trail so you don’t get the crowds you see at Burroughs or Fremont. In fact, I don’t believe that this hike even shows up on the Sunrise visitor map.
Nothing dramatic about sunrise this morning. Crystal clear skies and warm temps. Not a single atmospheric condition to turn the sky into fire. Instead, warm reassurance, like a hug from someone who loves you. Even without the drama there is a beautiful sky and a glow upon Her Majesty.
On these hikes I have a lot of time to dream. I think often of the book I hope to write about my thirty years at the P.O. This morning is no different except for the very clear recognition that when I sit down to write about the postal stuff I am not passionate. It’s been a bit like wandering a hallway with no doors. No passion, no openings.
I find that among these cool white pine and sub-alpine fir the words come easily. It seems that my passion is under my feet. I love the way snags of trees frame the trail and the smell of fir lingers on my fingertips. I breathe in what comes on the breeze and I’ve learned the patience of the wild. Perhaps somewhere between my love of this place and the cold dysfunctional work environment of the post office, lies my story.
The trail surprises me today. Some perfect combination of life being better than I can even imagine and my having learned to come with minimal expectation. I love surprises. Today different things draw my attention: jagged rock, blinding white snow, an explosion of wildflowers on this quiet trail. The Ridge seems alive in grey and green and the sky is a brilliant blue. The moon ! Every ten feet I spy heart-rocks beneath my feet. It is my path of love.
As I approach Frozen Lake I am met by two two young deer on the path. They look more curious than afraid as they lazily wander down to the snowfield below.
The marmots are up early too. I love these fat, sassy creatures. Moving toward the junction for Berkeley Park there are several. So many, in fact, they should call this marmot pass. Their faces are full of expression. They, too, seem more curious than fearful. It is a wonderful co-existence out here between the keepers of wild spaces and those of us just passing through.
I don’t always associate Sunrise with flower meadows. In my mind it is the rocky sister to Paradise. Today surprises me with the burst of color. There is a section of trail that holds everything I love. It’s as if I’m walking in a painting. A really, really cool painting.
Skyscraper Pass is gorgeous. You can see for miles up here. Looking down to Berkeley Park, across to Mt Fremont lookout, and out to Grand Park there are layers of hills and green meadow. I have lunch at the end of the Pass and save my knees the last quarter mile straight up to the peak. There are others there enjoying that small spot at the summit. It’s a 360* view that I have enjoyed before. Today, I’ll imagine it.
The hike back is largely UP and out of the basin. The saving grace on this part is a herd of nearly thirty goats sunning themselves in the cool snow bank. I have seen this group a few times this year and, they too, seem more curious than fearful. A couple of the babies are growing up quickly and a few adults have their new, soft coats. Several of us have stopped to see these beautiful, awkward creatures. ( I snapped a photo of these two women. I hope they are seeing this !
I see the massive crowd coming up toward Frozen Lake and opt for the “back way” to the Sunrise parking lot. There are two portions as you descend, covered in snow. I have a pole and vow to take it slow, but I still fall on both sections. The snow is melting and becomes slippery. With nothing to hang onto and an uneven weight on my back it’s definitely a challenge.
The rest of the hike back is stunning. More mountain views, more wildflowers and the shifting colors of Shadow Lake. Another great day at the mountain ! Oh, and then there was THIS milestone. It’s been a very good (almost) year !