Day 4: Northside Figure 8, Mount Rainier

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Ipsut Creek to Eagles Roost, 7.4 miles

We break camp pretty efficiently this morning, even though we are moving at a leisurely pace, and we are on the trail by 8:30. Right out of the gate, we have a huge uphill climb with 3200 feet of elevation gain over just 3.5 miles. We didn’t encounter gradients that steep on the JMT, so we are really hoping that being about 5000 feet lower in elevation will work to our benefit here.

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The trail starts in lush, temperate forest, and we sweat through our clean T-shirts and underwear in no time. Even though the grade is quite steep, the footing is easy, and we make pretty good progress. We take our first break near a pretty trailside waterfall, where we stop to take some photos.

We decide to test out our new mini-tripod, only to realize pretty quickly that only getting the camera 8″ or so off the ground is definitely problematic for good composition and ease of use. Verdict: two thumbs down, at least in this situation.

Back on the trail, the nice, shaded cover of the trees disappears, and we emerge into the hot sun on a series of non-stop switchbacks that takes us through dense waist-high vegetation where sun-loving flowers, including paintbrush, larkspur and Queen Anne’s Lace, are all competing for space. The trail seems more difficult here, but it may just be due to the heat factor. We push on until finally we find some shelter under a tree.

After a short break, we make the final push to the top of Ipsut Pass. Here, there is a view back to what we just hiked up, but ahead it feels like we are about to enter the back door of the forest trail to Mowich Lake. The side trail up to Tolmie Peak is at the pass. It is supposed to offer a gorgeous view of the lake and Mount Rainier at sunset, but, since it is only about 1:00, we decide to take a pass and save it for another day.

We start hiking the 1.5 mile trail down to Mowich Lake instead. A beautiful lakefront spot beckons to us like a siren, and we chill out there for a good long while, getting a jump on the day’s journaling and doing some reading during the heat of the day. We bust out the solar charger again and finally manage to get the camera battery charged up to 100%—hooray!

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After a few hours, we pack up and head out to the Mowich Lake campground where we dump our garbage in the trash bins and pick up the trail to Spray Park. The trail is through thick forest, and we climb up and down over and over again over the 1.9 miles to Eagle’s Roost Camp.

Just before reaching camp, we see a side trail to Eagle’s Cliff and decide to check it out. Somehow we missed this spot while doing the WT, and we can’t believe the incredible view of Rainier that is visible from this tiny, little perch. We vow to come back at sunset and make our way to camp just 10 minutes or so up the trail.

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Eagle’s Roost is a nice camp, especially for its proximity to Spray Park. We plan to take advantage of this and get going early tomorrow, before the crowds of day trippers arrive from Mowich. There are seven sites carved into the steep mountainside here. We are only the second group to arrive, so we pretty much have the pick of the litter. After checking them all out, we choose campsite #6, a large space with a flat front porch, which is perfect for our camp chairs.

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We set up camp, filter water at the trail-side stream up the way, and cook dinner, eat and clean up all in plenty of time to head back to the viewpoint for sunset. The mountain is already pinkish from the setting sun when we arrive.

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We take tons of photos, but we are really waiting for the alpenglow that will come 10-15 minutes after the sun actually sets. It never fully materializes, but it’s still a gorgeous view, one which we are sure to be dreaming about as we rest our heads in our little tent. Good night!

6 thoughts on “Day 4: Northside Figure 8, Mount Rainier

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