I started the morning early, with another trip to Reflection Lake to try and capture the sunrise.
Sunday I left Justine to sleep, and I went back to Reflection Lakes to try the sunrise again. There was a lot more cloud, which I hoped would mean more colour in the sunrise. There was also a lot less people there, which was nice. Sadly, the colour didn't really materialize, and while the photos were nice there was no real "wow" factor to most of them.
I spent a good couple of hours shooting, and waiting for the light, but it never really got much better. Eventually I gave up, packed everything back up, and started to make my way back up towards the Inn.
I decide to make a couple of stops on the way back to shoot a couple of other landscapes and waterfalls, that I had noticed on previous drives around the area. As Justine was still asleep, I didn't feel guilty making her hang around in the cold morning.
The waterfall didn't really work out that well either, and the second sunrise spot produced one OK photo. After a little while I gave up, made my way back to the Inn and then headed back to bed for a little while. Around 9:00 we got up and got going again, with plans to do a second hike.
The last time I was at Rainier, I had tried to do this hike to Comet Falls, but got turned back before I could complete it because there was still a lot of snow up top. That was early June, so I wanted to finally finish the hike. The waterfall is supposed to be spectacular, and I reallt didn't like not getting it finished.
So we drove down the mountain, on another beautiful day. We stopped for a look at Norvan Falls, as it wasn't too busy yet. Sadly the sun was a bit too high for good photos, but it is still an impressive waterfall, and Justine hadn't seen it yet. We didn't spend too long there, before continuing down the mountain.
The parking lot at the trailhead was already full, so we had to find a spot on the roadside. The road is pretty narrow, but they do a good job of creating some pullouts where you can park a few cars. There was a massive mushroom on the edge of the embankment near where we parked. I wish I knew which of these were edible, as it looked awesome!
We were fairly quickly geared up and on our way. The trail is a fairly steep one, rising quickly through a series of switchbacks. Early on we had a great view of the top of Christine Falls, before heading back into the forest. Along the way there were a couple good views of the river, and some smaller waterfalls. All the while, gaining elevation fast. We crossed a couple of open area where rock slides had occurred in the past. At one of the a pika was busy gathering bedding for his den.
Before too long we were across a log bridge and past a big waterfall, before climbing up an embankment that led to our first view of Comet Falls. At 340', Comet Falls is one of the highest waterfalls in the park. Later in the trip we had to do some quick research, but Comet Falls is over twice the height of Niagara Falls, which was a surprise. Obviously no where near the water volume, but much higher.
About a decade ago, there was a major melting of one of the glaciers that caused a huge runoff ( a lahar), and the devastation near the falls clearly shows the power of the water. The broken trees in the river course are pretty incredible. A number of people lost their lives in the big one, and the local towns have emergency procedures in place for the next time something similar happens. One piece we saw shows that the mudslide from a big event on Mount Rainier could reach parts of the outskirts of Seattle.
We hiked up to the base of the waterfall, close enough that the spray got you pretty wet. We stopped there for a snack and some water, and to admire the view. Before long, we were on our way again. We decided to keep climbing, and headed up to a small meadow in Van Trump Park, another 3/4 of a mile straight up. The stretch was more stairs and switchbacks, but before too long we were rewarded with this perfect little meadow right below the mountains peak.
The meadow itself was pretty tiny, but was filled with wildflowers. It was this little jewel, nestled beneath the giant. At the urging of a couple of other hikers, we continued up another 5 or 10 minutes, up to another valley. While it was nice, the weather suddenly turned on us, and the ominous looking black clouds opened up, and it started to rain. Not just rain, but rain and hail that had us running for cover. While we were quick, it still came down hard enough to get me and my gear soaked, including my camera. It stopped working after that - I'm not sure what I'm going to do about that.
At that point it turned into a mad dash back down the mountain. About half way down we got out of the rain and back into the sunshine, which was good. Once back at the car, we got changed, and then headed down to Longmire to have some lunch. As we were paying the bill, we were taking with the waitress about the crazy weather, and noted how dark it was getting outside. About the time of her mentioning some of the crazy storms she'd seen, the skies opened up, and it started pouring, with thunder and lighting and the works.
That was our cue to head back to the Inn. But at about that time, the mountain decided to demonstrate to everyone that you can't take it for granted. About half way up, the rain intensified, and it was coming down so hard you couldn't see. A few miles later traffic came to a halt for about 15 minutes as a landslide had buried half the road, and they were having the alternate traffic, getting people off the mountain, and getting people like ourselves back up. A few miles up from the landslide the rain turned to snow, and there was a good couple of inches on the road! Yes, it was still August. Never take the mountain for granted - it will turn on you at a moments notice.
Fortunately we got back to the hotel ok. While it was early, the weather gave us an excuse to make it a pretty lazy evening. We had dinner at the Inn, played some crib and Yahtzee over a bottle of wine, and called it an early night.