Bears of Summerland on the Wonderland Trail

CHAPTER 6~ BEARS AND SUMMERLAND ON THE WONDERLAND

Episode 2 Video The following is a prelude to 14 Days of Wonderland video is on the very popular Summerland Trail on the Wonderland system.  You can skip to the video by clicking Episode 2 here or read and click at the bottom of this page.

Video Synopsis: Still boasting the ziplock plastic bags in her shoes, Lisa contemplates returning them to Carrie. Upon summiting at Summerland camp it is found the camp had recently been ransacked by a bear. Runtime 6:40

Day 3

Mt. Rainier from Summerland

We wake up to gorgeous weather at Tamanos Camp and decide on taking a popular trail on the Wonderland for a day hike. Earlier during our planning Summerland Camp and Indian Bar Camps were both full and we could not make arrangements to backpack through both of these beautiful areas. A recent sign, posted, boot prints and a single track of something being dragged across the ground is all that remains of evidence to a scary day to campers who had camped there a few days prior.

Dragging Evidence
Bear Tracks

The story from the other campers was, campsite #2 was occupied at Summerland. During lunch a bear walked into campsite two, snatched a backpack out of the possession of a camper and dragged it and commandeering the bag and contents.

After crossing Frying Pan Creek, having lunch on the rocks and taking a brief moment to catch a few golden rays of sunshine, we were met with a spectacle of wildflowers. Everything from Lupine, Columbia Tiger Lily, Columbine, Magenta and Orange Indian Paint Brush, Pearly Everlasting blooming all at once. In the background the lovely scents were married with the mountain as if standing so proud of her work.

Carrie and Lisa soak in some sun

The trail up to Summerland is a sought after day hiking spot, especially on a weekend in summer. It starts from lush, green forests, on a wide forgiving pine needle filled path that is easy on the knees. Later it switches back and forth as Frying Pan Creek cascades and falls over the rocky face of the hill. From it’s crossing you catch a glimpse of Rainier, here and there along with wildflowers that forever fill the hillside all summer. 

Sheli, Shannon and Carrie, Summerland

When we a arrived to take a walk through camp, we found a posh pit toilet, and high end, solidly constructed rock walled group site. I’ve been here many times with the chipmunks and marmots looking for a handout. I spotted one lazy marmot hiding from the heat under a tree. 

Group Site at Summerland

Which is probably how the bear came to be.

In essence I feel sorry for the bear. People feed the chipmunks, they are aggressive when you sit for a split nano second. They jump all over your bag, and hop inside if you walk away to peak over the hill. The marmots take their share too. 

So why not the bear?

Just there for his share of take-out.

Most, if not all of Rainier’s backcountry camps, have bear poles. We never leave any of our food unattended. Ever. 

It goes without saying Rainier’s bears are generally mild and do not aggressively take food away from humans but this bear decided it would go about his business differently. That’s when the rangers started putting up signs, checking in with hikers, and doing what they call mitigation to scare it away.

We didn’t ask for details what mitigation was, air horn, rocks, yelling, we were just more concerned there was still that particular bear there. 

Sheli chats with a backcountry ranger on “Bear Mitigation Duty”

After filtering some water for the trip down, we take in a snack on a nice warm rock.

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Where the Sam Hill is Deer Creek?

The following is a prelude to 14 Days of Wonderland video on finding camp on the Eastside of Rainier.  You can skip to the video by clicking Episode 1 here or read and click at the bottom of this page.

Episode 1 Video synopsis: A search for a lost camp known as Deer Creek as well as a rainy first day through gorgeous wildflower meadows. Lisa ends up wet from head to toe but with the help of her friends, ends up wearing gallon zip lock bags in her shoes and Carrie’s clothes for a climb up Tamanos Mountain. Runtime 9:31

Day 1

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Out in the middle of no where, our first day didn’t go quite as planned. To begin, Shannon’s car experiences a low tire alarm which keeps her driving at a snails pace in order to not cause any damage to her vehicle.

From past experience, Mowich Lake road is pot-holed, chuck-holed, dusty and busy. Hiker’s and their vehicles hoping to get a parking spot at least a mile within a trailhead on a weekend in summer, get antsy and sometimes plain old crazy. They pass each other, drive erratically, and in more than one case, as the scattered evidence proves, loose pieces of their vehicles to the belly of the washboard gravel road.

Shannon arrives safe and unharmed but her sweet car may never be the same.

From here on out is easy enough!

Our first day out was mostly trips to cache and plant vehicles at various locations and luckily we have all day.

If all goes according to plan, we will make it to camp at Deer Creek for a relaxing JetBoil dinner, filter water for the morning, get plenty of rest and settle in to the sights of the evening forest and sounds of babbling Deer Creek.

Shannon and I plan to meet at Mowich Lake on the north side of Rainier around 10 am. We plan to leave Shannon’s parked car, then proceed to drive together, masked up, in my car to Sunrise, pick-up Sheli where she will be leaving her vehicle. Then we all three will head to White River Campground to drop our cache location behind the ranger station. Finally, we will arrive at the Deer Creek Trailhead on the Southside to Owyhigh Lakes.

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Raspberries make everything better from Shannon’s garden as we ditch Shannon’s car in a somewhat safe and cozy spot we were lucky to get. After jockeying our backpacks, we head down the mountain once again to the other side, a 1 1/2 hr drive away.

Chewing dust couldn’t taste more sweet as we head toward our rendezvous with Sheli.

We arrive at Sunrise around 2 pm. Sheli has encountered a bit of traffic leaving her home in Seattle as Shannon and I enjoy the sights and scenes of Sunrise. The wildflowers are blooming, the summer breezes felt lovely even in a COVID mask and bandana. Luckily we have pad our day with time and aren’t rushed because we know the backcountry camp at Deer Creek is right off the highway with best part being downhill. We could just roll down it if we had to.

We find a good spot for Sheli at the overnight parking area just as she pulls up, stretch our legs, jockey our gear once again in the back of the Jeep and are on our way!

The journey from Sunrise is a short 20 minutes as we pass the image of the mountain in our mirror and through our window as we weave in and out the hills and forest of the dryer side of the mountain. Finally, descending deep into Steven’s Canyon, I remember my comment how the hike tomorrow will be somewhat the same going back up with full backpacks. I am confident mentally we will be ready and prepared for whatever this mountain gives us over the next two weeks, the good the bad and the ugly if there will ever be one given the beauty of what our first evening will hold in our memories.

When I spoke with the ranger the week prior, she gave me specifics on where Deer Creek camp was located. Since I had never been to that particular trailhead, I needed a bit more information on where to park or some interesting landmark that might help me if we had a later start and it got dark in the canyon. The ranger assured me it was right off the highway within 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile on the Owyhigh trail, just past the bridge over Deer Creek.

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Shannon as well looked Deer Creek up on several websites, Washington Trails Association and AllTrails. She comes prepared with a printed copy of a recent trip report that gave directions supporting our start location.

With the beep of the Jeep, we set off for our first night at lovely Deer Creek.

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Passing by Deer Falls, a popular tourist stop, we come upon just a few families who are making their way back up the steep hill. The smell of the forest and the falling waters create a peaceful Zen and worthwhile stopping point for travelers heading west to east in the summer. As soon as we find camp, our first night will be a celebration complete with a bottle of Summit wine and an evening of relaxation.

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As soon as we find camp.

We come to the Eastside junction, of four corners. To the west Owyhigh Lakes, to the North Eastside Trail, to the South Eastside Trail, to the East, where we came from the highway. No sign said Deer Creek.

We continue west on the Owyhigh Lakes Trail as Shannon pulls out her trail report. We read, it can be hard to find and “Good Luck”.

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We walk, and walk some more, then start heading uphill. Things are going to get sweaty now.

We walk, and walk some more. Lisa in a cautious yet hopeful tone says, “Shannon, in your mind did you envision this being this far off the highway?”

We walk, and walk some more. Shannon, in her cool as a cucumber voice speaks positively, “Hmm, maybe not.”

Lisa then says, “Let’s turn around. It is getting late.” realizing I know where my car is but not the camp.

We return to the four corners and talk.

We talk and talk and decide which direction to take, between North Eastside and South Eastside.

Sheli with confidence pointing a trekking pole and says, “That way!” and then points to the tiny etched arrow and scratched in words of Deer Creek.

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We are home after a short what was known as our pre-tour of tomorrow.

Sheli earns her badge as trailblazer, wild animal spotter and she also gets an A+ in pitching a tent.

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From Left: Sheli, Lisa and Shannon

According to Wikipedia, Sam Hill is a euphemism for the devil.

Episode 1 contains a search for a lost camp known as Deer Creek as well as a rainy first day through gorgeous wildflower meadows. Lisa ends up wet from head to toe but with the help of her friends, ends up wearing gallon zip lock bags in her shoes and Carrie’s clothes for a climb up Tamanos Mountain. Runtime 9:31

Backpacking Around a Volcano

I have no idea what I am doing.

I just entered the Seattle Film Festival with the urging from my hiking friend Shannon. The trailer for it is below.

This is my synopsis.
“I’ve lived my entire life in the Pacific Northwest and spent my career within the four walls of a classroom as an elementary school teacher.
With retirement and my newly found freedom, I became involved as an ambassador with the non-profit, Washington Trails Association.
Washington Trails Association has a strong commitment to diversity and a belief that trails are for everyone to enjoy and use, regardless of race or socio-economic status.


Bringing equity to less advantaged, Washington Trails Association was in the process of finalizing and advancing their outreach of a hiking equipment lending outpost at the Boys and Girls Club in Tacoma. The first goal and target was for at risk youth to become invested in the outdoors and nature by bringing them to the trails and building a relationship to become lifelong stewards.


When COVID shut our state down and with the project on hold, instead of retreating indoors, I decided to bring nature to the screen.
My goal was to walk around Mt. Rainier in 14 days. It started with explaining my role with Washington Trails Association then asking a few friends who were willing to take a chance to explore the beauty of Mt Rainier National Park to come along. Their experiences varied from novice to experienced backpackers.


The hike into the backcountry of Mt. Rainier included over 150 miles of trails of protected wilderness within Mt. Rainier National Park. It also included a grueling 30,000′ vertical feet of elevation gain and over 30,000′ vertical feet of elevation loss which reduces its accessibility.
A portion of my trip also touched on the famous Wonderland Trail. Iconic in scenery and blessed with natural protected beauty, Mt. Rainier National Park was named the fifth national park in the United States of America.


My hope for 2020 is to show how beautiful and fun backcountry hiking can be, build stewardship that lasts a lifetime, encourage protection for the environment, and bring this incredible footage to one of the largest growing audiences, the outdoor hiking enthusiast.”

Here’s the trailer

14 Days of Wonderland Trailer

Outside In

Washington State recreation is in crisis mode.

Known for its beauty, Washington State without a doubt has a large urban population who have either lived their entire lives or have moved here to enjoy the scenic outdoors of the region.

A Right or Entitlement

Recently our state made the news with pictures of hikers and trail usage on rocky hillsides with no social distancing and going against the wishes of our leaders.

Wildlife at Risk

Park workers and rangers have been pushed to the max and have had to issue no trespassing signs on thousands of trailheads where hikers refuse to follow good judgement and feel entitled to use them anyway.

This past weekend rangers started towing cars at popular trailheads that were closed.

It goes without saying, it is getting ugly in the iconic outdoors of the Pacific Northwest.

Outside In

Outside in is all about this one person outdoor enthusiast who is now found caught-up indoors. It is moral belief to follow the recommendations of our leaders because we must do all we can to stop the spread of this disease and protect our lands.

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Here’s the story.

Friday last week I was notified my volunteer work as an ambassador for Washington Trails Association had ended abruptly.

My supervisor, Crystal Gartner with Washington Trails Association emailed me with a very professional and heartfelt letter that her duties were being turned over to another WTA employee, mostly due to the recent Covid-19 outbreak that has rocked the world and our country.

Washington Trails Association

A bit about Washington Trails Association. It exists as a non-profit organization and with the economy taking this downward turn, WTA has decided to reallocate funding (what little they have) and focus on trail reports only that empower its members to make informed choices while choosing a hike outdoors. WTA runs a giant data base with hiking information at your fingertips.

I would like to spend more time on another post why WTA is such a class act when it comes to organizations but, the top reason I chose to volunteer there is because it was first, an interest of mine and second, the focus of inclusion, equity and diversity while creating access and protecting and maintaining our trails.

Back to Crystal, I’m reading between the lines here but, one can only summarize in Crystal’s well written letter, many programs that co-exist as public service and help maintain trails in parks were cut.

Left in existence as of today is the online trail or trip reports with all other projects being cancelled. This means, no trail maintenance, no advocacy, no gear library, no ambassador program, no Trail Newsletter and blog, etc.

Crisis

Washington State Parks, lands and trails are in crisis mode as trails are overrun and are now at risk of being destroyed by our love. A right yes, but so many organizations have come to depend on non-profits.

One idea the talented employees left WTA with last weekend was a hope of filing trail reports with titles of “My Neighborhood” and “My Backyard” in order to show others the correct way on the trail as of today.

My Neighborhood Hike

Outside In

The following is my trip report on Washington Trails Association

…It took two dandelions to find four hours of bliss today.

I located the specimens on my way out on a neighborhood run this morning. Upon my return home I found solitude with my camera and faced the daytime with future fractals.

It’s amazing how a few practice shots and some common items around the house can provide hours of entertainment and peace.

My friends are among the backyard flowers as they return social distancing that is required for my survival.

It is an act of moral responsibility by saying above all else, I care enough about the future of our environment to not go to into the woods.

 

It’s Time to Submit for the Permit

Meet Candace. This week Candace and I met to go over our itinerary we are submitting for the Wonderland Trail. We have a few others who may hop on and off the trail along the way but mostly it will be just Candace and myself and then the potential of meeting close to 100 more folks that we have no idea who they are and they don’t even know who they are yet. In other words, it is a random lottery fest to see who gets the coveted permit within the desired window of time. Mt. Rainier National Park holds the statistics on the lottery with only a small percentage being issued ahead of time and most all handed out after appearing at the door of a ranger station ready to go.

I am sure I put too much thought into it but, the most popular and currently used book is Tami Asars, “Hiking the Wonderland Trail”. Since Tami Asars book is currently so popular, we picked the more leisurely 13 day trek and settled on submitting our permits for both counter-clockwise and clockwise, mid August, beginning at Mowich, a less desirable starting point.

Timing is everything and the later the better. Reason one we decided on mid August is, the snow pack is much higher this year and will more than likely put us a week or two later in the season.

Mowich is also less desirable for the following reason. Mowich Lake drive-in campground is an eleven mile dirt hole drive through potholes and mud until you arrive at your even more dusty location.

After you leave your vehicle there for over a week, no telling what could happen. You may not be able to find it with all the dust. There is also no running water and pit toilets. The one desirable thing about Mowich is the beautiful crystal blue serene lake.

Planning is hard work…

In the end, since the probability of being pulled out of a lottery for any itinerary published in Tami’s book is slim to none, coupled with the most desirable time to do the Wonderland being late July and August, I really thought through our strategy over and over again in my head in the middle of the night.

The window to submit is March 15th-30th this year. Here is where we started after meeting and then here is where we discussed again Tuesday and landed…

Here is my thinking why starting at Frying Pan Creek is most desirable….

First, the trailhead is in a good spot for one of the most challenging portions of the trip.

This trailhead leads to Summerland and the highest point of the Wonderland, Panhandle Gap. Panhandle Gap is usually always snow covered and there is a 2900′ elevation gain from the TH to the gap. The nice part about this is, we will stay at Indian Bar one night, then Nickel Creek day two. Our next cache is at Longmire, adjacent to our stay at either Paradise River or Cougar Rock or The National Park Inn.

2900′ elevation gain with two days of food sounds really desirable to me. It gives us a burger and a beverage at Longmire with our trip ending at Sunrise for another burger and adult celebration beverage.

After day hiking for years, I think Frying Pan Creek is most certainly the ticket!

I am using the Wonderland Guides Trail Planner to play around with several scenarios. It has online tools and easy guides to adjust days.

The best book currently available is Tami Asars Hiking the Wonderland Trail

Growing up in the Shadow of a Mountain

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Burroughs Three, Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington State


This is the year of my own story. It begins at the Wonderland Trail. I plan to spend 10-12 nights in the backcountry of Mt. Rainier backpacking.

You will find many helpful tips on my blog because everything I have accomplished in my life so far has led me here to my own backyard.

My family came to the Pacific Northwest over 100 years ago. It was a family who respected all people, and who were above all else passionate about nature, service minded, and hardworking.

My name is Lisa Elliott. I have been a wife, teacher and mother most of my life now. My friends say I’m badass but, I am really a big woosy. I have some major fears with being outdoors at night and alone in my own home at night by myself for that matter.

Our family has grown a new generation of grandchildren now. Having my own grandchildren has brought back memories of when I was little. Memories that include what I hoped and dreamed for and what continues to matter the most in my life as an adult today.

In the very least I hope to inspire a strong generation of men and women who are fearless, compassionate and serving.

A Life of Purpose

I recently retired as a public school teacher but just because I gave up a paycheck doesn’t mean I’m done with life. As of late, I applied to be an Ambassador for Washington Trails Association in Pierce County, WA. It was quite the interview process too. The mission of the WTA is access for all. That means they take it very seriously when it comes to diversity, equity and access. Their mission to connect people to trails, to provide access and grow and nurture a lifelong appreciation for the outdoors, really fit me. So if you see me know on the trail, I might look more like this.

How My Purpose Changed

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When I was a very young girl, my grandmother on my mom’s side used to tell me of when she lived on the mountain at Longmire, Washington. That mountain was Mt. Rainier, located in Washington State. The mountain and the community of people she encountered had such a tremendous impact on her as a young girl.

As a young child I began to know the mountain because my grandmother would take me on long nature walks and teach me the names of all the plants in our back forest of 10 acres. This brought her much happiness and joy because she frequently would speak about those times with a smile.

Grandma’s Life on the Mountain

Our own home was a small farm with an immense dense forest within the Fruitland area of Puyallup, pronounced Pew-all-up. Sometimes it felt like you could reach out and touch the mountain but we were still 30 miles away as the crow flies. We have a saying around here, “Live like the mountain is out.” With my grandmother’s encouragement and living like the mountain was out each day by being outdoors, climbing trees, and building forts, it instilled a lifelong appreciation of nature and for the environment that surrounded me. An appreciation that my grandmother passed on to me through her hand to mine.

My hope throughout the remainder of my life is to be able to do the same with my grandchildren and live a little speck of time on the mountain in order to conquer some personal fears of mine.

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Stories and a Man they Named a Glacier After

My grandmother also had many stories of adventures from living on the mountain. One of my favorites was of when she lived at Longmire and would be stalked by a cougar at 11 years of age. Then there was the story of the raiding bears of Longmire Campground who came for dinner each night. Finally the stories of following Professor J.B. Flett around the mountain as he cataloged plants. Today there is a glacier named for Dr. Flett, Flett Glacier.  Her first love was more than likely the mountain first, but I could tell she had a place in her heart for Dr. Flett, too.

Summers on The Mountain

The following is a part of my grandmother Ruth’s stories…

Most of my summers when growing up were spent at Longmire Springs in Rainier National Park. They were happy, healthy, carefree days and also very educational. My family all worked at Longmire and we lived in a tent community with all the other employees of the park. The tent frames would sort of remain there, year round except that they would usually need repairs in the spring. Everything else would be stored over for the winter in a large warehouse.

Living with the Bears

by Ruth Lillian Knoll

Bears were our constant companions and garbage cans could be heard being ransacked all night long. Days we swam in the sulphur plunge and drank the soda iron and sulphur water from the springs. No wonder we were healthy. Most wonderful of all were our days spent with our dear teacher.

Every morning when we would see him start out, every kid in tent city would be ready to follow him, to have unfolded to them the beauty and marvels of the universe. Especially those around Mount Rainier. The Pied Piper of Hamlin couldn’t have had more entranced followers.

Nearly everyday we would follow him up a different mountain trail and he would tell us all about the fishes and bugs in the creeks. All about the rocks and the mosses. We would gather flowers as we went along and he knew all their botanical and common names. He knew the names of all the animals and birds, and it seemed to us that he knew and loved everything and also loved all of us. And never seemed to tire of imparting his great knowledge to us.

The mountain and its pungent smells, meadows, streams and glowers always bring back a fond memory of this most wonderful man. What a privilege to have known him, not knowing who he really was or even caring, but later learning that he was Professor Flett, a renowned botanist teaching at Pacific Lutheran University and was classifying all the flora and fauna of Rainier National Park for the United States Government.

Professor Flett was a pioneer of Pierce County, Washington, and the Flett Dairy family are a part of him. His work on earth was very well done.

A bit more about my grandmother. My grandmother, Ruth Lillian Sharpe was born in Buffalo, New York, April 8, 1904. She came west with her family, when she was 2. Her family consisted of her older brothers, Carl W. Sharpe, and Clarence Sharpe. Her mother, Isabelle McPherson Sharpe (Belle or Bella) was born in Canada, Her father, Charles William Sharpe was born in Wateringbury, Kent, England.  Her grandfather, Alexander McPherson also moved here, born in Scotland and buried not too much longer after coming here in The Old Tacoma Cemetery.

                                     Great Aunt Mildred McPherson 

Early Years

In the early 1900’s the Sharpe family purchased a 10 acre plot of land in Puyallup between Fruitland and Woodland avenue on 104th and south to 112th. The trolly came down 104th and turned at Fruitland and headed down Fruitland Avenue and also flowed the opposite way allowed them access to Tacoma. During this time my great-grandparents mostly raised chickens while my great-grandmother and great Aunt Lil worked in the Elite Restaurant in downtown Tacoma at 26th and Pacific.  I was told my grandma Ruth as a toddler used to sleep under the counter while my great-grandmother worked in the restaurant.

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While working in Tacoma my great-grandmother, and her two sons, Clarence and Carl, who also worked in Tacoma came upon a grand opportunity. The opportunity was to move to Longmire at Mt. Rainier National Park and help run and work as the park was becoming more developed. There had been some debate over how the Longmire’s ran the current property as they were a private family who profited from their business. Eventually the park purchased all the property from the Longmire family.

Longmire Hot Springs

Sometime around 1910 my grandmother’s brothers Clarence and Carl, ended up managing the Longmire Hot Springs Hotel. Perhaps it was just Clarence because Carl worked as a postal worker in Tacoma. They were both handsome, full of energy, outgoing and hardworking. At Longmire, my great-grandmother worked at the store, my great-great grandfather, her father, built the rock fireplace in the store and community building across the Nisqually river. I believe big dreams eventually caught Uncle Clarence as there was mention of MGM studios and he ended up living in Los Angeles and married to my Aunt Edie who was a beautiful professional singer.

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Longmire’s Gas Lanterns and Tents

The following is a part of my grandmother Ruth’s written stories…

My brother Clarence worked at the Rainier National Park Inn which is across the road from the only one Longmire now. My brother Carl drove the bus that carried the passengers that had come from Tacoma and Seattle by train to Ashford and then from Ashford the bus brought them to Longmire and up to Paradise. That was the way nearly everyone came to the mountain at that time. There was no electricity in the park yet and I can still see my father lighting all the gas lamps or lanterns they were called, and putting on new mantels so that they could be lighted before dark and the guests could see where they were going. I remember how he was always worrying about the plumbing that was always breaking down. Many of the guests sleep in the tents and the lanterns were spaced along the wooded walkways between the tents.

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Longmire Sulphur Pool

by Ruth Lillian Knoll

At the back of the Longmire Inn was a sulphur swimming pool, called the plunge, that the hotel guests used but, we had use of it too. It was so buoyant that it was impossible to sink or drown in it and the sulphur water was wonderful for your skin. When you came out of the water you felt great. Longmire Springs was considered a health resort during those years.

The Longmire Family was Gone

by Ruth Lillian Knoll

The Longmire family, who had by now gone from the park and now lived in Yelm and Roy, came up every summer with their pack horses taking tourists in every directions, all over every part that wasn’t too steep for an animal. I managed to make a lot of these trips too, as one of the Longmire girls was a close friend and there were always horses that needed exercising. I guess I earned the trips tho, as I can remember washing an awful lot of dishes for a very large Longmire family that were in their own camp over by the Nisqually River. One of the other privileges I had was inviting any of my friends to have a milkshake or soda or sundae at our local confectioners anytime and my father or two doting brothers would pick up the tab. You can’t do better that that. Although they were a lot cheaper then, then they are now. We consumed a lot of them. Also a lot of candy won on a punch board.

Being Stalked by a Cougar

by Ruth Lillian Knoll

As a young child a hair raising thing happened to me. My parents were always working, and seemed to trust that I would take care of myself, which I usually could do but by some hook or crook, I managed to attach myself to a group of mountain climbers who were going to climb the Ramparts, a rather short climb out of Longmire Springs.

They were a group of doctors and their wives, about either or ten people, I did not know one of them personally and how they agreed to take me with them has always been a mystery. We left Longmire rather late in the afternoon, and had an uneventful climb up. After reaching the top and admiring the view with Longmire below, we were all sitting on a log resting. First we heard a cracking noise, and about 25 feet from us was a cougar sitting and looking at us, and absolute panic struck everyone. By this time it was beginning to darken and we hastened to start back. We were walking single file down a narrow mountain trail and the cougar was following us through the woods, not behind us but opposite us at what seemed a very close range. The men were saying that if the cougar attacked it would be the child (me) that it would go for so they put me in the middle of the line between two men. Some of the men carried flashlights and kept them turned on as it was getting darker every minute. No one had a gun.

That cougar followed us every step of the way back and it became dark and all we could see was its eyes.  When we finally saw the lights of Longmire, we lost the cougar, much to to the relief of everyone.

I have often wondered what that big cat had on its mind.

Later On

Years later during high school in the 70’s, I became a member of our hiking club at Puyallup High School. We hiked much of the trail system at Rainier. At that time you could drive all the way in on Westside Road, now closed, clear up to the Tahoma, St. Andrews and Klapatche trailheads. You could also drive into Ipsut Campgrounds and access the Carbon Glacier, an easy day hike, or bust your butt on Ipsut Pass and onward to Mowich. My friends know this story.

In many ways getting around the mountain used to be easier when you could just drive up. I became familiar with and got around the Wonderland by day and could easily come home to a comfy bed and shower at night. In this way the mountain became a map is in my head like a walk in your own neighborhood might be however I never got to see it at night and for me that was a real good thing.

Today I see myself there, this year. This is my year. I am doing it.

Any Hikers Frustrated with Expensive Jackets. You’ll be Shocked.

Any Hikers Frustrated with Expensive Jackets. You’ll be Shocked.

Washington Weather Tested Jackets

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…

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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.

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Yard Sales and Biting It

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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.

High Hut Video

Creaky Old Bridges and Spectacular Views

Creaky Old Bridges and Spectacular Views
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Beargrass bloom on Tolmie Peak

#4 Tolmie Peak Mowich Lake, Mt. Rainier National Park

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Mt. Rainier and Eunice Lake, Mowich, Mt. Rainier National Park
Photo Copyright Lisa Elliott

Tolmie Peak Fire LookoutModerate 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.

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Fairfax Bridge

Video of this trip

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…

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Sunset on Tolmie Peak, Mowich, Mt. Rainier National Park
Photo Copyright Lisa Elliott
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Full Moon at Tolmie Peak, Mowich, Mt. Rainier National Park
Photo Copyright Lisa Elliott

…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.

Video of Mowich Blue Waters and the View

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Foxglove Field, Mowich Road, Mt. Rainier National Park
Photo Copyright Lisa Elliott
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Eunice Lake, Tolmie Peak, Mowich, Mt. Rainier National Park
Photo Copyright Lisa Elliott
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Harebell, Scots Bluebell
Photo Copyright Lisa Elliott
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Mountain Bog Gentian
Photo Copyright Lisa Elliott

Reach out and Touch a Volcano

#3 Burroughs Three at Sunrise, Mt. Rainier National Park

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Burroughs Three, Sunrise, Mt. Rainier National Park
Photo Copyright Lisa Elliott

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.

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Lisa and Tami

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!

Lisa and Luellyn

The details of this particular hike can be found here on my Garmin or at Washington Trails Association.

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Paul and Tami
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