PCT Day Hike: Chinook Pass on Mt. Rainier

Noelle here:

Of all the fire mountains which like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest. …John Muir

I’m in love with this mountain, ever since Steve and I backpacked the Wonderland Trail some 20+ years ago. She holds such happy memories and experiences for me, for us. We stayed in a beautiful log cabin on Copper River once. Oh what a beautiful place in the world.

It’s 14,410 feet, making Rainier the tallest volcano in the Cascade Mountain Range. There’s been talk over the years of changing her name back to Tahoma or Tacoma, but I’m not sure where that stands. The Pacific Crest Trail skirts the East side of the National Park and the William O. Douglas Wilderness.

I drove from White Pass to Chinook Pass on a Monday morning. The mountain was out and she was gorgeous, especially since I’ve been waiting all week for the clouds to leave so I could see her!

It’s also an easy drive from the Seattle area out Hwy 141 (I know because the next day I drove a hiker to the city).

The parking lots were pretty full, but there are several, so no worries about finding a spot. I didn’t enjoy all the people as I’m pretty used to being alone on backroads, but the good part of crowds is that there are pit toilets and garbage cans! Woo hoo, the mountain is out and there’s a pit toilet. A great day already!

From the larger Chinook Pass parking lot, I hopped right onto the Pacific Crest Trail heading south. It took me up over the highway, yes over it, right across the welcome sign! Here’s Steve coming back over it later in the day.

So fun! People were taking the trail to the road to cross there, then I heard someone says, “she’s going over the sign!” 🤣

I felt comforted seeing the familiar PCT sign on the other side of the road. It was calling me, like come on, you can escape people here!

The trail is pretty easy, lots of families with small children were on it. I felt a smidge out of place with my trekking poles, but I’ve fallen too dang many times out here to leave them in the car.

I saw all these Dr. Seuss flowers. So whimsical!

Technically I think they’re the “towhead baby” seed head of the Western Pasqueflower, but they’re super fun. Steve took so many pictures of them last summer when we were backpacking.

The trail goes up about a mile and a half or two miles, with a small lake along the way.

And a great view of Dewey Lake(s) down below. There are lots of large rocks to rest on and take it all in. I saw families enjoying picnics before heading back down. I heard a dad say, let’s stop for ice cream on the way back. What a fun day for his family!

I sat for a while and then continued down the other side towards the lake. You have to fill out a permit, presumably so the Parks Department has an idea of the number of visitors. It’s free and quick to do. It also served as a turning back point for quite a few folks, so the trail got much less crowded.

Pretty quickly, I came to a trail junction.

Choosing Tipsoo Lake makes the hike into a big loop, easy to get back to the parking lot. I read that Tipsoo is a Native American word meaning grassy.

I continued down towards Dewey. It was steep and a bit rocky, but not very long. On the way, I met Shady. I still don’t think I have a picture of her, but I first met her at Rocket Dad’s party at Walker Pass. We played Yahtzee and were two introverts at an extrovert event. She had made the decision to get a hitch to Seattle from Chinook Pass and take a few days off at a friend’s to regroup. She’s not having much fun in the last couple weeks and will decide whether or not to keep going or to come back another time for section hikes. I told her I’d be happy to drive her, as I know it’s such an agonizing decision to get off the trail.

Further along I met up with “The German Girls”, whose names have slipped my mind. They took this selfie with my phone so they’d be in my contacts but now I’m not even finding their contact info. 😕 Next time I see them I’ll have to get it!

Anyway they air dropped a bunch of photos to me from the Knife’s Edge.

It’s a great perspective of the trail they all crossed the other day!I like the picture above. See the hikers on the right? I sat at the creek with the girls for a half hour or so then we all continued on.

I crossed this small stream and actually saw about an 8-10 inch trout in it. So I sat for a while to see more. There were no day hikers down here (except me, I guess, haha!) so it was very peaceful. There were a couple lakes besides the large one and several smaller ponds.

I saw these tracks, which I’m fairly sure are bear prints. Realistically they’re probably raccoon, but the eyes see what they want to see!

I should have put my hand beside them I guess but they were literally as big as my hand! So fun! I was on high alert to see a bear or a mountain goat, but I didn’t see either, darn it. I would’ve been happy with a marmot but I haven’t even seen one of them.

Went a little further to a sunny spot right beside the lake and only sat for a couple minutes before Steve came along.

We made our way back along the lake and up the hill. He’s so fast! I was huffing and puffing. I’m enjoying challenging myself to keep up with him. It’s hard!

We took each other’s pictures near the Dr. Seuss plants.

We met some day hikers as they were going up. They asked about the loop hike and we told them where to turn for it.

We saw more interesting foot prints on our way down.

I’m guessing six year old human female. 😂 I loved the little flowers in her prints.

We made it to the parking lot and were chatting with Shady and Ron (a trail angel) when we saw the day hikers again. Their accents sounded familiar to me. Sure enough, he was from Lafayette, Louisiana and she was from New Orleans. We introduced them to some hiker trash and had a great visit! They were both visiting the state and met for the first time in the parking lot earlier. It’s a small world sometimes.

By early evening, the parking lot was empty except for camper vans, stealth camping. There were maybe ten of us. An easy and beautiful drive from the city, a great hike and an easy place to van camp for the night! What a good day.

2 thoughts on “PCT Day Hike: Chinook Pass on Mt. Rainier

  1. I love reading your posts. I guess I am kind of a Steve and Noelle groupie. I read you almost every day!

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