August 7, Tuesday
Mt Rainier, finally! I get up in the morning and check the weather for my current camping location near Randle, WA. Another hot day, low 90’s perfect. It’ll be much more pleasant up in the mountains, I’ll be effectively escaping the heat.
12 climbs steadily out of the valley heading east, and I leave it for 123 and then Stevens Canyon Road. The entrance is different from most national parks, not a concrete sign located at a pullout but a wooden one hanging over the road on beams and logs. Arriving in the morning before the crowds, I’m able to slow down and get a picture as I approach it.
Stevens Canyon Road is a fun drive. The views are great.
But it is pretty twisty and steep. I could take the Casita through it if I needed to, but all the same I’m glad I don’t. I stop at Reflection Lake to get the photo everyone gets when here: Mt Rainier reflected off its surface. It’s a windy day today so the reflection isn’t the greatest, but the wildflowers make up for it.
At the “top” of the pass, I see a sign for Narada Falls, which requires a short hike but is supposedly quite pretty. By this point the park is getting busier and parking is harder to find, but I snag a spot, then follow the crowds down the trail to the falls. There’s a little one at the parking lot…
But the main event is further down the trail.
Here the Paradise River falls 168 feet over a lava shelf. To me the most beautiful part is the way the falls follows several little channels in the rock, fanning out. I bet it looks different earlier in the season with more water flowing over it. Definitely worth the steep ascent back up the trail to the parking lot.
I also drive the loop to Paradise, including the visitor center up there, which is a madhouse. There are trails in the area, but a lot of construction is going on and it’s getting hot, so I don’t linger long. The drive is pretty though.
All in all, a good day.
After a two week stay, it’s time to leave Randle. Before the day can get unbearably hot, I hitch up and pull out of my spot near the boggy pond just south of town, waving to the ducks as I go.
As the Xscapers Oregon convergence is nearing, more and more of my nomadic friends are arriving in the area. I make plans to boondock near Mt Hood in Oregon with a group of them, a drive of about three and a half hours down I5, past Portland, and then southeast on 26.
On the way back up into the Cascade Range on 26, Bertha overheats for the first time ever, not including the Great Headgasket Incident of 2016. This is not like the catastrophic failure that occurred just outside of Leadville over Labor Day Weekend, just a slow and steady climbing of the engine temperature as Bertha pulls Cas up into the mountains, until I need to pull over because she gets too hot. I let her cool down for a while, and make it to Mt Hood without further complications, other than the engine running hotter than usual. It turns out that there’s a leak in the coolant system. Luckily I carry coolant with me, which fixes the problem at least temporarily.
Home for the next week is a piece of Forest Service land next to an old airstrip near Government Camp, OR. It’s one of the few free camping options in the area, and thus is quite busy, but there’s room for us to squeeze in. Somehow I fail to get a picture of Cas here. But it’s not much to look at. The best view comes from a one mile walk to Trillium Lake, where Mt Hood makes a good backdrop. We walk out to the lake a couple times during our stay here.
August 13, Monday
The main reason three of us came out here was to go on a backpacking trip. In the evening Jessica, Tami, and I get our gear together, and we meet at Frog Lake Campground where friend and fellow Xscaper Brian is camp hosting this summer for our trip out to Twin Lakes.
It’s about two and a half miles in to Upper Twin Lake, where the four of us set up camp. Tami and Jessica are only staying one night since they need to work tomorrow, Brian and I are staying two. It’s a far cry from last summer’s epic backpacking adventure across Isle Royale National Park, but I rather like the hike in. The trees are beautiful and as the sun is getting ready to set the temperature is much cooler. I rarely find myself hiking this time of day. Also because we’re only out a short time I don’t need nearly as much gear, and thus my pack is lighter and the hiking hurts less.
And because we’re not going far, we don’t arrive exhausted so it’s easier to enjoy our time at camp. The four of us stay up well after sunset, lights off to enjoy the Perseids meteor shower. Our camp is pretty well shaded by evergreens, but we’re right along the shore of the lake, and we do see one bright meteor over the water.
The morning dawns still and hazy. The end of the lake we’re camping on is quite shallow and trees that fall jut pretty far out into it. I set up my mini tripod to catch this photo before the sun crests the trees.
Jessica and Tami head out early in the morning, and Brian and I plan a day hike out past lower Twin Lake to a bald point that is reputed to have a good 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains. We suspect the view won’t be much with all the smoke in the area, but there’s no knowing unless we try.
The trail goes up and down, through forests, small clearings, and across one stream. Brian is surprised to see it still running, most of the seasonal water sources have already dried up for the summer, hence establishing camp on the lakeshore. We come to one clearing on a bluff and sure enough the view is pretty limited. Oh well.
At the end of our hike haze obscures Mt Hood. We eat our snacks under a pine for shade, then turn back around and head back to camp. By the time we get back it’s gotten quite warm, and we change into swimsuits to go jump in the lake. On the other end of the camping area the water is much deeper off shore and a rope dangles. We both get in using the rope without injury, yay! The water feels great and is very clear. On this end the bottom is rocky more than muddy which makes for better swimming. I stay in for quite a while.
In the evening, I feel pretty sick. Probably a combination of dehydration and dinner which didn’t agree with me. I decide not to sleep in the tent but out under the stars, in case I end up vomiting. Luckily it doesn’t come to that and no critters mess with me overnight. I wake up around midnight feeling much better, but decide not to go back into the tent because it’s such a nice night: great temperature, no wind, no bugs. I stare up at the sky through the trees until sleep claims me again. It’s my first night cowboy camping, and I’m glad I decided to stick with it, what a neat experience. In the morning, Brian and I pack up and head back to civilization.
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