The Land of Glaciers, Rivers, and Emerald Lakes

Over the past weekend, I hopped onto a Greyhound bound for Tacoma to meet up with a college friend and go camping with him and his friends near Mt. Rainier. [Side note: Greyhounds are great, affordable ways to travel – they have free WiFi, are cheaper than planes or trains, have power outlets that you can charge your laptop on, and they aren’t as sketchy as hitch-hiking around.] I arrived in Tacoma with my travel-worthy Kelty Lakota 85 strapped on my back and could already feel the resfeber setting in. The following morning, we left the Tacoma area amid a sea of rain pounding down upon the pavement and pouring off the windshield. We arrived at the White River Campground and after setting up camp, we set out on a hike to stretch our legs and see how close we could get to the glaciers on Mt. Rainier.

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Partway through the Glacier Basin trail, the sound of rushing water caught our ears and after a slight off-trail bushwhack, we came across an idyllic scene of water pouring over ancient rocks and moss-covered roots.

By now the clouds and rain had simmered down to an eerie, misty haze blanketing the mountain ridges nearby. We tramped on along the slick muddy trail, as our pants legs became drenched in the ever-present moisture lingering on the grasses that stretched their blades into the path.

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After gaining roughly 2,000 feet in elevation, we gazed back down toward the glacier basin from whence we had come.

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Gazing up to where Mt. Rainier should have been shimmering in its glistening glory, only a thin meandering segment of snow was to be seen. The rest was hidden by the fog. We pressed onwards to the distant spires that stuck out like jagged teeth from the ridges nearby.

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Getting there was a bit of a challenge, and after a while of stumbling about in the growing darkness and haze, we turned around and hiked back to camp.

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The next morning, we awoke to bluebird skies without a cloud in a sight. The sun was burning off the soggy ground, and the White River rushed by in its chilling state. New friends from World Vision cooked up a fantastic breakfast of orange zest french toast, bacon, and eggs. By far the best camp meal I’ve ever eaten (as compared to instant oatmeal and crushed Pop-tarts on my PCT trek). Wore my Poler hat throughout this entire trip – check them out at polerstuff.com!

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We all left the camp shortly before noon and departed on different day hikes throughout the area. My group went up to Palisades Lake, and the view at the trailhead was a significant improvement than the cloud smothering day before.

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After passing through lush valleys and spotting several mountain goats dotting the nearby slopes, we stumbled upon Hidden Lake. Hidden Lake is an emerald gem that is at the base of a massive scree field, and the view was astounding. As always, I donned my dive mask, stripped down to my sliders, and dove in. The clear water was breathtakingly cold, and after only a few minutes of attempting to swim to the other side, wisdom prevailed and I returned to shore where I attempted to dry off in the chilly mountain air.

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After fishing for an hour and noticing a large buildup of clouds appearing near the mountain, we proceeded back down the vividly fall foliaged trail and headed north to Upper Palisades Lake.

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Upper Palisades Lake was a much smaller gem, with water just as cold as Hidden Lake. The approaching clouds began casting their shadows upon the lake, yet the nearby rocks hinted at adventure all around.

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While the gang rested near the smooth shoreline, my wanderlust set in and I eagerly clambered over the nearby piles of rock, always wondering what was on the “other side.”

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Billows of cloud began to sweep up from the valley below us and soon began to blot out the sun, so we kicked ourselves in gear and hightailed it back to the trail.

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Looking back, the once clear skies had given way to a white shroud moving swiftly after us.

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We made it back to the trailhead amidst the calls of elk echoing throughout the valley forests and even managed to see the sunset at Sunrise. That evening, over a dinner of seasoned beef steaks cooked over the fire, new friends and old told each other their day’s adventures.

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Adventure awaits! So go out and explore!

JC

Check out my instagram at http://www.instagram.com/johnachau

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