Walter and Sara Let the good times roll
On Thursday August 21st, we motored from Iron Creek Campground on the northeast side of Mt. St. Helens to Silver Springs Campground on the northeast side of Mt. Rainier.

We stopped along Hwy 410 on the eastern slope of Mt. Rainier to switch drivers and I spied wildflowers in bloom along the verge and in the ditch. There was Harsh Paintbrush.

Harsh Paintbrush

Lewis’ Monkeyflower (Mimulus lewisii)

Lewis’ Monkeyflower (Mimulus lewisii)

And Cascade Asters (Aster ledophyllus).

Cascade Asters (Aster ledophyllus).

It was cool and sunny and we found a nice spot near a creek that was big enough for Genevieve the Silver Palace.

Genevieve the Silver Palace at Silver Springs Campground WA

On our way to pay our campsite fee I spied a wonderful Pinedrops (Ptersopora andromedea).

Pinedrops (Ptersopora andromedea)

After lunch we took a little walk down to the stream next to our campsite. Later we discovered that this stream starts just a few yards away as water pours out of the upper bank. Clearly that water pouring out of the bank is Silver Springs. Duh.

Silver Springs Creek WA

Then we made our way out to the White River. The Emmons Glacier on Mt. Rainier is the source of the White River. Glacial melt is full of rock flour and that makes the river that interesting beige color and hence it’s name. Well they don’t call it the Beige River but I guess with enough rock flour somebody decided it was white.

White River at Silver Springs Campground WA

There were interesting winds aloft making for mare’s tails in the sky.

Mare's Tails clouds

On Friday August 22nd, it was cool and clear when we got up. After running the generator and making a lunch we set out for Sunrise, the main hiking area on the north side of Mt. Rainier. It was in the 50’s when we reached Sunrise Point, a viewpoint on the way to Sunrise. The snow field straight ahead in this photo is the Emmons Glacier.

Emmons Glacier from Sunrise Point Mt Rainier

If you cross the road to the right here you can see the Sourdough range and little Sunrise Lake in the valley below.

Sourdough Range from Sunrise Point

If you go the other way you get a view of Governor’s Ridge, Tamonos Mountain, the Savant Glaciers and Mt. Rainier.

Sunrise Point Panorama

The parking lot at Sunrise was pretty full so we took a spot in the gravel area at the edge of the lot. Here’s the view from our parking spot.

Sunrise parking lot view Mt Rainier

We stopped and got a map of the hiking trails and wandered around a bit trying to find what turned out to be the main trail. Duh. The description made it sound like it was hidden behind the picnic grounds when in fact, it was a trail wide enough for 4 people to hike abreast. But since there were flowers everywhere, who cares? There was a nice clump of Cascade Asters ( Aster ledophyllus). This was the main flower in bloom in the meadows.   

 Cascade Asters ( Aster ledophyllus)

But I also found some Parry's catchfly (Silene parryi).

Parry's catchfly (Silene parryi)

The trail goes up the hillside opposite the mountain so you get a continually changing view of the mountain. I took tons of photos hoping to get a view without some clouds obscuring the top.

Mt Rainier from Sunrise

Here’s a view down across the meadow to Sunrise and the mountains beyond.

Sunrise area from trail above

Earlier in the summer the main flowers in the meadow are Pasque flowers (Anemone-occidentalis). By this point in the summer they have gone to seed and their wonderful hairy seed heads dot the meadow.
Pasque flowers (Anemone-occidentalis) seed heads

There were also a lot of these pure white seed heads that come from Short-beaked Agoseris (Agoseris-glauca-var.-agrestis)—clearly a relative of the dandelion.

Short-beaked Agoseris (Agoseris-glauca-var.-agrestis) Short-beaked Agoseris (Agoseris-glauca-var.-agrestis) seed head

The top of the mountain was almost all the way out of the clouds when we got to the top of the trail.

Mt. Rainier from Sunrise Nature Trail

There was a big patch of Gray's lovage (Ligusticum grayi) where the trail took a turn to follow the Sourdough Trail along the ridgeline.  

Gray's lovage (Ligusticum grayi)

Walter found a nice bench and I got a great photo of him and the mountain.

Walter Cooke at Mt Rainier Sunrise

Along the ridge there were more islands of alpine firs. They provide cover for flowers and so there was a greater variety of things growing along this part of the trail. There was Petite Penstemon (Penstemon procerus) and new one for me.

Petite Penstemon (Penstemon procerus)

And Alpine Buckwheat (Eriogonum pyrolifolium) which comes in pink and white.

Alpine Buckwheat (Eriogonum pyrolifolium)

Alpine Buckwheat (Eriogonum pyrolifolium)

As we crossed the ridge the top of the mountain finally came out of the clouds but of course then the west side was in clouds.

Mt. Rainier from Sourdough Trail

So I got Walter to take a shot of me with it.

Sara Schurr Mt Rainier

And while I was at it, I found a patch of yarrow to make a classic photo of flowers and the mountain.

Mt Rainier and wildflowers

There was a really nice patch of false hellebore (Veratrum viride) in bloom along this stretch.

false hellebore (Veratrum viride)

Showy Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium californicum)

Showy Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium californicum)

And Cusick’s Speedwell (Veronica cusickii)

Cusick’s Speedwell (Veronica cusickii)

There was even a patch of Phlox still in bloom!


There was Sitka Valerian (Valeriana sitchensis)

Sitka Valerian (Valeriana sitchensis)

And a patch of this strange stuff I’d never seen. I think it’s Bracted Lousewort (Pedicularis bracteosa).

Bracted Lousewort (Pedicularis bracteosa)

When you come to the turn where you can either go on across Sourdough Ridge or go back down to Sunrise there’s a great view of Mt. McNeely and the valley below.

Mt. McNeely view

Looking out the other way, northward the view looked almost like a diorama, the light made it seem so unreal looking.

Sunrise Trail view Mt Rainier

On the way back down the hill I spied some American Bistort (Polygonum bistortoides). Oftentimes the meadows are full of these little guys but there were very few this time.

American Bistort (Polygonum bistortoides)

Nearly at the bottom again I spied a large patch of Harebells (Campanula rotundifolia).

Harebells (Campanula rotundifolia)

Right next to the building that holds the gift shop and snack bar there was a huge patch of dwarf lupine (Lupinus lepidus var. lobii).

dwarf lupine (Lupinus lepidus var. lobii)

We saw some small patches of Subalpine Daisy (Erigeron peregrinus subsp. callianthemus) up in the meadow but there were great specimens of it down next to the parking lot. Maybe there’ll be more in the meadow in coming weeks.

Subalpine Daisy (Erigeron peregrinus subsp. callianthemus)

On Saturday morning August 23rd, we got up and ran the generator and made our lunch. Then we set out to drive up Hwy 410 over Cayuse Pass and on to Tipsoo Lake for another wildflower hike with views across the lake to the mountain. But at 11:45 am, the parking lot was full. All the spots along the road were full. And all the spots in the next two parking lots for other hikes were full. In fact, there wasn’t a parking spot near a trailhead to be had all along Hwy 410! There was a steady stream of cars coming up the mountain because it was a beautiful sunny warm weekend day in western Washington and it appeared that half of Seattle had decided to come visit the mountain.

We visited all the lots twice and only managed to find a place to pull out and take a photo but it was miles from any trails!

Mt Rainier

So we bagged it and drove down the road to get gas (a madhouse in the little town of Greenwater) and then to have a quiet afternoon off. On the way there, there was a wide spot in the road and we parked and I hiked back up to get a photo of the mountain without any clouds! That’s the White River winding up the valley.

Mt Rainier

Here’s a closer shot, just so you can understand why we say, that “when the mountain lifts her skirts, the view from home will downright melt your mind.”

Mt. Rainier