I’d never been to the Sunrise side of Mount Rainier until today – all summer, the road gets horribly backed up, so we decided that a cool September Sunday during a football game was a good time to go! Destin had looked up the Fremont Lookout hike in our Day Hiking: Mount Rainier book, which rated the hike as a 3 out of 5 for difficulty… 5.6 miles round trip, with 800 feet of elevation gain. Not bad, right?
The sign at the trail head listing it as a “strenuous” hike was more realistic… because a 5.6 mile hike that starts at around 6,400 feet elevation is an ass-kicker! Starting out, it felt like we had to stop and rest every 50 feet, and I thought my heart and lungs were going to explode! It started getting easier – especially after it leveled off – and the view was completely worth it!
We could see the mountain from a good portion of the trail – spectacular views. We saw quite a few mountain goats from a distance. I didn’t have the zoom lens on my camera at the time, so I apologize for the blurry photo. We saw several smaller groups, and a whole herd off in the distance, too. No bears, but I was on the lookout!
We also saw quite a few little chipmunks scurrying around looking for food. Too cute! The chipmunk we saw when we got back to the visitor center at the trail head was considerably fatter – it must be good at begging food!
After what seemed like forever, we finally got to the lookout. The view of Mount Rainier was amazing! I’m so glad that I took my DSLR camera instead of just my little point-and-shoot. There were several other people at the lookout (as you can see in the top photo in this post) – more than we expected, actually. The lookout was already boarded up for winter, but the walkway around it was open to check out the views from, and there were lots of smooth rocky areas to sit and rest and eat lunch.
Today’s lunch was hiking in style – PB&J didn’t sound good to either of us, so last night I dug out a freeze-dried Mountain House Rice and Chicken meal (they’re actually really good) and packed up the JetBoil. Voila, hot lunch! Very easy, too – pour boiling water into the zip pouch of freeze dried delightfulness, zip shut, and let sit 8 minutes. The JetBoil had even cooled back down before the food was ready to eat, and since I actually paid attention as I unpacked it this time, I was able to get the fuel and stove packed back into the cup part easily. The neoprene pouch isn’t required, but it helps the food stay warm longer.
While we were at the lookout, I swapped out the lenses on my camera to my “bigger” lens (55-250mm) to get some better zoom, and I was able to zoom in on the snow on the mountain for some cool shots.
Pretty neat, huh? It’s not nearly as close as it looks – I love the zoom on that lens. The only downside is that it doesn’t zoom out far enough to leave it on my camera all the time. For some of these hikes, I’d love to have a wide-angle lens. Donations, anyone? 😉
I love all the layers you can see of the mountains in the distance, and just how far you can see from up there.
The hike back down was a lot easier than on the way up. Gravity was on our side, and combined with using my inhaler twice, it felt like my lungs had started to come to terms with the thinner air a bit. Towards the end of the hike, I had the added motivation of having to pee like mad, so the visitor’s center was a welcome sight! We have 3 liter camelbak bladders for our hiking backpacks, and I’ve never regretted the added weight of that extra liter by the end of the hike. Today is at least the second time that I’ve finished it off on a hike.
We pulled off at one of the viewpoints on our way home, and took a few pictures. Proof that I was there!
I bought a Garmin Forerunner 15 this summer, and thought it would be fun to take along on our hike – it tracks distance, speed, and elevation. I had originally planned on tracking our hike round-trip, but I had a few issues with it on the way up – if it “auto-pauses” for too long, it stops recording, so I missed the beginning of our hike. Once we reached the lookout, I turned “auto-pause” off, and just let ‘er run for the hike back down. It gives distance while it’s running, which meant we could tell when we were getting close to the trail head, but you can’t check elevation on this model until you upload to Garmin Connect. It’s pretty cool to be able to see that chart, though!
There were several other trails that branched off of the trail we were on that looked like fun to go back and try for another time. The hiking books and websites list Sunrise as generally being open July to October, since it snows in early and thaws late due to the elevation. I didn’t check the temps when we got back to the truck, but it was 44 degrees when we started out – and with how hard we were working, I ditched the gloves and fleece pretty fast! The heat this summer kept us from going hiking – I’m not into it enough to go hiking in 90+ degree heat – so it was wonderful to have a cooler day to get out and get moving with such pretty views. Hopefully we can manage a few more in October and maybe even into November depending on how the weather goes – and once the snow hits, we can bust out the snowshoes again!
If the number of photos in this post caused any problems with this page loading, I apologize. But it could have been worse – when I loaded the photos onto my computer this evening, I found out I’d taken over a hundred today! And what’s a blog post about a hike without a gazillion photos?