Sunrise at Sunrise 4.0

It’s been awhile since I’ve arrived to the Sunrise parking lot at sunrise. What that means is a middle of the night wake up (2:45-3:00) , a couple dark roast nespressos, a wetting down of my hair and my butt in the seat of my car with a fried egg and cheese muffin (because I have the best wife ever) by 3:40.

I cruise slowly by Muckleshoot knowing the only people on the road at this hour are the early hikers and the late night party crowd. Saturday night was a cacaphony of explosions and booms beginning at 8:45pm and lasting until just after midnight. I swear I haven’t had a good night sleep in a month. The stands open in early June and every night is a warzone.  Let me just say for the record: (pardon my language, but …)

I’m so fucking sick of fireworks.
I’m so fucking sick of fireworks.
I’m so fucking sick of fireworks.
I’m so fucking sick of fireworks.
I’m so fucking sick of fireworks.
I’m so fucking sick of fireworks.
I’m so fucking sick of fireworks.
I’m so fucking sick of fireworks.
I’m so fucking sick of fireworks.
I’m so fucking sick of fireworks.
I’m so fucking sick of fireworks.
I’m so fucking sick of fireworks.
I’m so fucking sick of fireworks.
I’m so fucking sick of fireworks.

That’s all. The rudeness of people never ceases to amaze me. We live in a different time, where compassion can be non-existent. And you know I could go on and on here, but I’ll spare you. Let’s just say I am looking forward to July 6th. That’s MY holiday. 

As I drive, I am finishing up an audiobook recommended by a friend. I am sticking with it because I love the story, but I find the writing a bit exhausting. Is it possible to overwrite? I’m glad for the story, but look forward to finishing. (I hear the final sentence as I pull into the Sunrise parking lot)

The drive is familiar: I pass the towering soon-to-be open Muckleshoot Hotel, the Pentecostal church and the White River Ampitheater. Beyond that is farmland and, even in this low light, a strip of orange sherbet on the horizon. As I approach Greenwater I have to slam on my brakes for a small group of huge elk crossing the highway. Past Greenwater there are more and another ‘giant of an elk’ just before I enter the park. 

I have been here so many times I have created my own landmarks. The twisted stump, the rocky cliff, the hairpin turn before Sunrise climbs. At 6400 ft, Sunrise is the highest point you can drive to at Mount Rainier. It is one of the last parts of the park to open in summer and remains open just a few short months until the first big autumn snow. All four seasons are evident on this morning of July 2nd. 

I arrive at the turn of Sunrise Point just ahead of sunrise. The lot there is nearly full and I am flabbergasted! People wandering aimlessly in blankets reminiscent of a bad zombie movie. I don’t stop. I continue on the road and arrive at the parking lot at the Visitor Center to a lot already a quarter full. I know, I know, I know. It’s a Sunday, and a holiday weekend and just the second day this side of the park has been open. I take a deep breath. 

I wander a little on the Silver Forest trail while I wait for my hiking companion to arrive. She pulls in right around 6 and we head out for Sourdough Ridge without a plan. My RA is not well-managed right now and while I can endure the stiff joints, it’s the fatigue that worries me. (That and a month of crappy sleep). I had told Casey I wouldn’t probably be able to do anything “epic” and she responds that it’s always epic. She’s right. 

We wander the ridge to Frozen Lake and take in the views. It’s stunning to see the frozen lip and the clear blue-green water against the snow. Lots of chipmunks out early and there is a noticeable stiff breeze that chills to the bone. I question my clothing choice, but remember how quickly it warms up after the sun hits the mountain valley. There is a steady stream of tourists making the climb to Mt Fremont so we pivot. We head in the direction of the Wonderland Trail and take our chances. 

From Frozen Lake we head down. We are alone on the trail and know we’ve made the right choice. There are a few snowfields to cross but we do fine without any traction or poles. The marmots are waking up and we hear a little pika in the talus rocks. We finally spy him, way up the side of the hill. Tiny body and big voice. Casey calls them “mountain potatoes” and it’s a good sign that we see him. We head up the trail toward Skyscraper Pass. 

We wander until we can see the valley below and decide to backtrack to the junction and head further down the trail into Berkeley Park. It was one of my last hikes here last year and Casey has never been, so down we go. We are greeted by avalanche lillies, western pasque flowers, young sprouts of lupine and magenta paintbrush. There are wild purple daisies and other flowers dotting the path. And then there is a snowfield we didn’t anticipate. Yikes. 

It’s still early and the bootprints across this slope are iced over. We dig out our poles and consider spikes before heading across. I go first, trying to dig my heels into the ice to give our feet something to grip. Halfway across I wish I had put on my spikes, but geez, it was only 15 yards or so across and we thought “how bad can it be?” We take it turtle slow and make it across without incident. Of all the snow we crossed this was really the only harrowing one. So far …

The Park is green and lush and the stream from mountain run-off is raging. No words for how beautiful this place is. We park ourselves just shy of the camp and settle in for lunch. In a couple weeks the flowers along this trail will explode. If I don’t make it back I will be content with this. Beautiful. It’s why we do whatever it takes to get here. 

Of course we are joined by a handful of birds and some of our favorite marmots. Horned larked with a chick is my favorite. I’ve never seen them here before.

The thing about Berkeley Park is that it is down, down, down into the basin. That translates to a whole lot of up, up, up to get back to Frozen Lake. By the time we arrive back to the junction we opt to go back to our cars via Sunrise Camp and Shadow Lake. This trail can be tricky as the snow in places is slow to melt. I ask a volunteer about conditions and he says, yes there is snow on the trail, but only one steep section. Right. 

We head down and navigate the first section no problem. I think we’re done, but nope. The steep section lurks just below and having made the committment, we decide to try it. I go first. It is slippery, melting snow and steep. I step just off the beaten path into deeper snow and try to get some traction. Casey is behind me and I hear her go down. Having already landed in the cold wet snow she continues down, sliding on her bum to the bottom. A good, albeit cold and wet, pivot. 

I stay to the side and slip just once. My camera swings wildly and I catch myself before fully falling. Eventually I make it to the bottom intact but my Nikon’s enemy is water. I hope it’s okay. I have already lost the fitness tracker on my wrist earlier in the day and I am not looking to add to my techological misfortune. Sigh. 

The test of the hike is lovely and Shadow Lake is gorgeous as always. Our maiden voyage has been full and lively and soul renewing. The summer is uncertain but I hope to be able to sneak in a few hikes and maybe even to a new place or two. This one is in the books. We logged just over 9 miles with our side-trip towards Skyscraper and nearly 1900 feet of elevation gain. My lips and forearms are burnt, I’m short one fitness tracker, but as is always true, in spite of everything, it was a good day. 

As I write this, we are packing up for a relaxing few days away. A bed and breakfast near our favorite restaurant in La Conner with Yoda. There is a soaking tub, fireplace and a 4pm massage awaiting me. I’m in heaven after all. The fireworks have exhausted Yoda too. He’s ready … ❤️

12 Comments on “Sunrise at Sunrise 4.0

  1. So much beauty, such a variety of sights and scenes, things I will not see for myself in my life. And such intrepid hikers you two! I love all the getaways and am glad for the healing power. I hope that continues!

    • Oh, you and I both, my friend. For as wiped as I was after the hike is as refreshed as I was after the massage yesterday. Kelly went from no massage to a 90 minute session complete with back and foot scrub! I must have inspired her!

  2. Beautiful pictures of The Mountain in all its glory. One of my dogs will be trembling in my closet until the fireworks end so I understand your feelings about them.

    • We have escaped to the north and last night Yoda slept like a baby. It’s worth leaving my home base if I can lessen the pain for him. The mountain was stunning. One of many early trips I have planned there this year.

  3. I guess the Pyro Village fire did not deter. Dammit. Girl, what you got microspikes for if not for there! Berkeley is my favorite hike at Sunrise. (Truth be told, the only one I love.) I will make it my next “me hike,” after my first Rove at Paradise. Maybe I’ll catch the lilies. Probably not, but next come the lupine and paintbrush! Thanks for the tour.

    • Yeah, I had hoped the brush fire would shut down the discharge area, but no such luck. The microspikes seemed like a good idea only after I was halfway across. And on the second steep section it was too soft to help. I see why you love Berkeley Park … meadows and streams and views. I like the jagged rocks of Fremont and Burroughs but there is no limit on my heart’s capacity in the park. I see the smoke drifting back in this morning. Glad I had such a stunning clear day!

  4. Everything about this makes me smile. Thanks for sharing.

    • Me too! I had a grin so wide when I came up the last bit of Sunrise road towards the parking lot. Stunning in every. Thanks for coming along!

  5. Thank you, thank you for taking me to these high places–and for the commentary that gives the trip insight as well as the sheer determination and sometimes step-by-step drudgery of “nothing epic”!?!?! Take care of yourself in these coming weeks when you want to be outside and out beyond. hugs, cb

    • Thanks, CB. We have a very different summer ahead of us and I intend to bank some of these days out for when the longing hits later. A little serenity goes a long way. So happy to be out at Sunrise!

  6. Like, Like, Like…
    LOVELOVELOVE all of this… the little critters especially, since you captured every bit of their personalities! And you have shown that for all the majesty and brilliance, there is usually a payment required. But still… WOW!

    • Oh yes, the best part of seeing what I see is that I need to earn the privilege. Nothing like being on a trail and knowing you are the only one in the world with that exact view!

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