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Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
Skyline Trail
Hollis, me
Low 80s, breezy

Hollis and I arrived at the quaint “Hemlock” cabin around 5:00 pm after the Ape Cave hike. It was like a hunting camp so I was fine but Hollis was a bit surprised by just how rustic it was. It didn't leak, it had hot and cold running water, electricity, and indoor plumbing - I was happy.

We had an excellent dinner at Alexander's Inn. I had king salmon in a blackberry sauce and Hollis enjoyed the Pork Duxelle in a raspberry sauce. Exquisite cuisine accompanied by a wonderful Blue Heron Pale Ale.

We drove into Ashford for gas, after our night in the fabulous Hemlock, and had a big power breakfast at the Copper Creek Inn - pancakes and bacon.

We arrived at the Paradise Inn around 10:00 am and found the entrance to the Skyline Trail. I was a bit disappointed by the hordes of people around but couldn't exactly do much about it. We took off and were passed with 100 yards by four or five screaming French kids. We stopped to change camera lenses and Hollis saw the French mom take off her pants and change in mid-trail. I, of course, missed the action.

The trail begins at 5800 feet, is a 5-mile long loop, and normally gets to 6800 feet above sea level. The lower Skyline trail was closed due to glacial damage, however, and the upper trail got to about 7200 feet. The 7200 feet point was at about the 2-mile mark. The point being the opening of the trail was quite steep.

The first and last half-mile of the trail, both of which end at the Paradise Inn parking lot, are paved. Before we reached the end of the pavement (going clockwise on the trail) we stopped for a breather. Hollis was having a particularly rough time, but I was feeling it, too. We left a guy who was sucking wind hard yet was planning on climbing to Camp Muir at 10,000 feet! I don't think he made it.

At about 6200 feet, around the timberline, traffic began to thin out. We stopped for a drink at a snowfield overlooking the Nisqually glacier. We could see a beautiful waterfall across the valley from our vantage point. We both got our second wind at this point and did fine for the rest of the trail.

From about 6000 feet on up we also saw several hoary marmots and western chipmunks. One almost ran over Hollis' feet while we took a break. We took several pictures along the way.

Above the timberline the mountain looks like a lunar landscape - bright sun, cold wind, and lots of rocks. It's beautiful in its minimalist kind of way. Of course, the peak of the mountain with its glaciers and stark faces adds to the effect.

At 6800 feet, almost 2 miles into the trail, is Panorama Point. The point of glacial damage began at the Point and forced us onto the Upper Skyline Trail. After a few more steep sections we reached the magic 7200 foot point and it was all downhill from there! We picked up the pace significantly and made good time.

Hollis had to pee at about the 3.5-mile point. She pulled up to a little bush and did her business beside the trail. I, of course, teased her unmercifully about it, suggesting that a telephoto lens from the next mountainside would have no trouble catching a close up of her in action.

We finished up the trail in 3 hours and 20 minutes, a good time by park standards. We were exhausted but satisfied with our hike and the beauty of the mountain around us. It was a wonderful experience for both of us and one we will try experience again.

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