Over the past several years I’ve had the opportunity to test a number of so-called, water resistant “Gore-Tex” jackets. Each one of these jackets cost well over $100 each but only one out of the three truly did not “wet-out”.
Living in the pacific northwest gets challenging for hikers and backpackers when it comes to waterproof jackets, pants and shells. The Mountain Hardwear (red) seen on the left was the most expensive, Columbia (white) was next,The North Face (pink heather) and then followed by Marmot (blue turquoise) being the least expensive.
I wore all these jackets all seasons with layers underneath. Three of these did not perform and one came out on top. If you are testing a new jacket, I highly suggest you bring a cheap plastic poncho because you will be shocked at the lack of results for the price you pay for all but one of these jackets. Keep in mind I hike in all kinds of extreme weather. Rain that soaks, completely soaks, is not uncommon in our neck of the woods.
Want to make a guess which one performed in the worst conditions?
Then click to picture to find out why…
Sometimes you don’t get what you paid for and in this case, always carry a $1.49 plastic poncho. I call it the 10 essentials +1 for Washington State.
Last weekend we snowshoed up to High Hut. High Hut is a part of the Mount Tahoma Ski Association hut to hut groomed ski system. You might notice the operative word here is ski and not snowshoe.
While it is permitted to snowshoe, the volunteers ask you stay to the right of the groomed area so skiers can use the cords to gracefully glide on. This is where the terms “yard sales” and “biting it” come into play.
The elevation gain is rather steep 2300′ within 4.7 miles and ends at the 5,200 ft level where you can see a picturesque view of Mt. Rainier in the background. It truly is worth the struggle to the top.
I almost always bring my GoPro with me. It is better than lugging my nice full frame Nikon DSLR. I can usually capture enough footage, that I can freeze and clip into still shots as well. Every once in a while I get in the way of myself however like in this example.
It’s a good thing my friends Carrie and Valerie were with me this day, because Carrie rescued the GoPro in a snow pile and when I took a major tumble, they both just got on adjacent sides and pulled me up off the ground. I am almost embarrassed to admit that I am such a bad snowshoer.
By the time I made it home, I decided that I was going to go get touring skis. So I ended up purchasing, with the help of another friend, this combo
There is a bit of a learning curve here however. The boots are touring boots and just above the heel you can unlock the top to get hiking mode. The bindings are called “shift” bindings, they also unlock at the foot so your heel can come loose for sliding up the hill with these other things called “skins” that you attach while going up and take off while going down. The skis are crazy too. They are wider and shorter for better, now this is what you have been waiting for “control”. It’s all about control Lisa.
I think I’ve educated myself enough on the why and how, now I just need to get practicing. Hopefully away from other people.
If you want to watch the video of the High Hut trip you can find it here.
#4 Tolmie Peak Mowich Lake, Mt. Rainier National Park
Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout– Moderate 7.5 miles round trip with 1,100 elevation gain to 5,920 feet.
Named for Dr. William Fraser Tolmie. In August 1833, employed by Hudson’s Bay Company and stationed at the newly built Fort Nisqually, Tolmie made the first recorded exploration of the Mount Rainier area. Unable to summit Rainier itself, Tolmie and two Indian guides, Lachalet and Nuckalkat, summited one of the snowy peaks near the Mowich River headwaters. Although Tolmie Peak is named for this event, it is not known exactly which peak was climbed.
Driving to this location is half the fun! First the Fairfax bridge near the Melmont Ghost Town is spectacular and creepy to drive across its one lane. Next, 11 miles of potholes, which turn into craters later in the season, up the Mowich Lake Road in the northwest section of Mt. Rainier National Park.
Once you have arrived to the beautiful blue waters of Mowich Lake, you will feel like you are in the true wilderness. The mountain peeks around each turn and grows larger in your front window if you can see through the cascading dust. Some of the fool hardy, chance driving up this road in cars and end up with major damage. Make sure your friends help wash your vehicle when you return!
My best story is hiking it at night and waiting for the full moon to appear. As we hiked up rather early and picked our perch around the fire lookout, a few thousand mosquitos and pesky deer flies decided they would also camp-out with us…
…we decided to get out the heavy artillery which means a large spray can of DEET and coverage. As four more hikers arrive on scene our insects decide to swarm in and invade them as our feet happily dangle off the porch and we finish our dinner. I then give an offering of my large can of DEET to our new arrivals which they gladly accept and in return “pass the bottle”. Now we are all happy as we watch an airplane buzz the fire lookout and the moon appears in the east as the sun sets in the west. Glorious evening.
#3 Burroughs Three at Sunrise, Mt. Rainier National Park
Burroughs Three– Strenuous- highest point 7,828 ft with elevation gain of 2,500 ft. Distance round trip is usually around 10 miles because we do a bit of exploring at the top and stop and have lunch. This is a taxing hike if you haven’t been running or hiking on a regular basis. It can also get hot but usually there is a cool breeze so bring layers.
Each summer I cannot wait to head up to the Burroughs. Burroughs is a set of three mountains in front of the big mountain, Mt. Rainier. From each mountain, named one, two and three, you get a fire lookout view of the grandest of all.
Although hiking to Burroughs two is generally the stopping point for most people, if you venture up to three it is really spectacular. I took two videos this past summer of my multiple trips this past summer. I took two other couples up there that really wanted to go. Click here for Video ONE taken in August with frequent hiking friend Tami and her husband Paul. Click here for Video TWO taken in September with another hiking friend Luellyn and her husband Chris. I used a GoPro handheld stick for these. Drones are not allowed in the park. I think I’ve been here with almost all my hiking people, Delia, Carrie, Audrey my husband Scott. Spectacular!
#2 Skyline Loop Trail, Paradise, Mt. Rainier National Park
The Skyline Loop Trail is probably the most popular trail at Mt. Rainier National Park- Moderate 5.5 miles highest elevation at 6,200 ft. Best to go in August for wildflowers and marmots.
Click for Video. It starts at the Paradise Inn and loops around vistas, waterfalls and sweeping views of Rainier. This day was in August with Tami.
Best to go on a bluebird day, you will hear languages from all over the world with differing abilities and equipment.
She Can Climb It Without Oxygen
My favorite story has to do with when I was solo hiking here. It was a hot August day and I my hydration pack in my day pack along with the tube that connects and extents out which then you drink from called a bite valve. I was heading up the hill and a lady was coming down. I had the bite valve in my mouth taking a sip. She responds to me, “I can make it up that hill without oxygen.” I told her she was absolutely amazing and not many can. Then she told me I didn’t have very much farther to go to the top. Hang in the there.
Like I mentioned there are all kinds of people from all over the world there and it is also best treat others with respect. I also like watching the people in flip flops and shorts in the snow…
…the family dog (not allowed in the park), and the best was the family hauling a 1/2 case of beer up the hill for a picnic. Fun trip down I bet!
My friend Diane and me used to just head up to watch the climbers who were training for the summit climb in how to self arrest. This is also a great spot to watch those folks yell out falling while hurdling themselves down a snow bowl and self arresting with their ice axes as we sat on the sidelines tanning our legs and arms.
We also met up with a solo climber who kept us at bay with his stories for half the day. Some were a bit far fetched and rather dangerous for someone climbing solo.
And wait until you see the luxury toilet at Panorama Point.
Westside Road Tahoma CreekRoute– My husband and me were out for a day hike at Mt. Rainier. We veered off onto the West Side Road and followed it to the end at approximately three miles and parked at the small lot. Beyond that we walked up the road to the Tahoma Creek Trail Head (somewhat hidden) but look for a red piece of duct tape on a stick on top of a stump, a barrel or some kind of unmaintained trail head marker about 1 1/2 miles up the road. Next we entered a trail for 100 yards toward the Tahoma Creek. Next we followed pink markers staying close to the forest and in the smaller rocks. The Tahoma Creek often changes direction and floods often. Staying close to the smaller creek until the trail picked up again we set some markers on our Garmin so we could find our way back for a total of about 2.5 miles to the suspension bridge. 6 miles, and slight gradual elevation gain. By far my favorite route. The last two years it has become rather sketchy and unsafe along the unmaintained portion of the Tahoma Creek due to repeated flooding and washouts.. What makes this one my favorite is the Tahoma Creek Suspension Bridge that you get to walk across.
Click this picture below to watch the video of the Tahoma Creek Suspension Bridge. It swings and bounces and recommended only one person at a time.
I spent a few days visiting my son and daughter in-law in Ft. Worth, Texas a few months ago when I captured this amazing picture of Mt. Rainier.
My son recently had had an emergency procedure for a spinal tumor. He is doing great now, walking all over and will make a full recovery. It was emotional for me to leave him once again. I cried a bit on the plane but as we descended towards Seattle the beautiful Mt. Rainier completely overtook me.
As photographer, I grabbed my camera, futzed with the setting and readied myself for the perfect opportunity to get a clean shot at that lovely mountain sitting proudly in the solitude of the setting sun.
As I sat perched and contorted in a seat behind the wing with the haze of a dirty and frozen window, the mountain seemed to look back at me as if saying sorry I’m not much of an opportunity or comfort right now but I am here for you.
My point in all this is, today as I look at my camera sitting on my desk and process photos, I realize there are many people we know that live like the mountain. As we become older, we begin to spend less time with family and friends and our world seems to shrink.
Because of this, a lot of self talk that occurs. We contemplate, rewind the past, and perhaps think if we had the past to do over again how we would do it differently.
Most importantly, I’ve experienced more loneliness and was a bit scared I wouldn’t feel valued for the first time. This fear of being isolated can get in the way of connections to others, the ability to be patient and thankful towards one another, and to be a comfort when others need comforting.
I saw a quote this morning,
“Today you could be standing next to someone who is trying their best not to fall apart. So whatever you do today, do it with kindness in your heart.”
#1 Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground is by far my favorite day hike in the park.
A great part of this hike is on the Wonderland Trail. I’ve started at three points to make it a day hike between 12-14 miles.
Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground is at minimum 12 miles and several thousand ft in elevation gain, along with several pushes up and over a ridge that puts you in sloping meadows carpeted with huckleberries and laced by little creeks: a precursor to your final destination. Continue on, arriving at a trail junction in Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground, two and a half miles from where you joined the Wonderland Trail.
From this junction there are plenty of options for exploration. Take the trail branching to the left to visit Mirror Lake, or continue straight on and arrive at the ranger’s cabin in about a quarter mile. From the patrol cabin that dates back to the 30’s, rest up and imagine So-To-Lick also know as Indian Henry living up here, hosting explorers and guiding them up the enormous mountain looming overhead. It was said he had three wives and many thought he came to this location because he had a secretly hidden gold mine. Mostly it was to hunt. Read more about Indian Henry.
Longmire Start– StrenuousRoute– 14 miles, 3,200 elevation gain. This by far was one of the hardest hikes I have been on in a day. This particular day I was with my longtime friend Diane. The forecast was for in the upper 90’s in Puyallup and we thought we would escape the heat and head to the mountain. I had shorts and tank top on, bug spray, lunch and a couple of water bottles. Good enough! As the elevation and climb started, I began to really heat up, then pour sweat that attracted hundreds of thirsty mosquitos.
After repeatedly having Diane spray my back and head to no avail I was pretty much eaten alive. We continue on, not taking any breaks so the bugs couldn’t swarm and with working at that intensity in the heat, I decidedly and thankfully drank all my water.
After reaching Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground, it was good thing I remembered a small little lake behind the patrol cabin about another mile north called Mirror Lake or I might have ended up drinking unfiltered water ripe with mosquito larva. I yanked off my boots, jump in and swim around with the salamanders for an immediate shock of relief. It probably saved my bacon as well. Walking back with wet clothes was a rather nice way to end the trip.
Kautz Creek Start– StrenuousRoute– 11 miles, 3,800 elevation gain. This particular hike Diane and me have done quite a few times but the day I attempted to showcase the beauty to my friend Tammi, her husband Paul and my Krysta and her husband Corey was misery.
The day we picked it was raining. You would think we would all be used to it but this rain was relentless and hard. It was early spring so I just stripped down to a tank top and base layer leggings and wrapped all my clothes tightly in a plastic garbage bag and stuffed them in my backpack.
The rain just cascaded down the steep steps going up the Kautz trail making the steps washed out and even steeper. By the time we made it to the patrol cabin there was another group of 6-8 standing at the porch, all in big heavy ponchos. We wedged our way in and had a nice chat with them since they were doing the Wonderland and had young teens with them from Puyallup.
After lunch and rethinking my trip up and all the water, I eventually put on every layer I had carried up, buttoned up, zipped up and covering every body part, I high-tailed it down the hill.
We never did see the mountain that day.
Westside Road Tahoma Creek Start Route– 12 miles, 2,502 elevation gain. Strenuous but by far my favorite route. The last two years it has become rather sketchy and unsafe along the unmaintained portion of the Tahoma Creek due to repeated flooding and washouts.. What makes this one my favorite is the Tahoma Creek Suspension Bridge that you get to walk across.
My friend Candace and me attended a book talk and slideshow by Tami Asars last evening at the Tacoma Mountaineers.
Tami really engaged the audience with hikes we have all shared and got me excited for planning our trip on the Wonderland. She is also a funny writer and very accurate in every respect.
As a part of audience involvement, she asked about who had been on various hikes around the mountain. Many people raised their hands except for one hike which was to the Paradise Ice Cave. I was the only one in the room that raised their hand.
The reason is the Paradise Ice Cave no longer exists. The mountain reclaimed it many years ago.
Since I was the only one, when asked what I remembered. My response was “I was eleven years old, and running around in tennis shoes and shorts in the snow.” The year was around 1968.
Now being only eleven at the time, what I really remember was my feet were super cold, and I was slipping all over the place, and climbing up stairs is hard work and the place for food was back down the hill.. Lucky my filter still works and I left that part out.
If she would have asked what did you see, it would have been a different story. It looked like this and it was an image I will never forget.