Sunrise: Heed the name

Going hiking is not always beautiful views, gorgeous sun and a good time.

Sometimes it is screaming children, long lines, annoying tourists and traffic jams!

Veronica, Catarina and myself recently picked my sister, Olivia, up at the airport and had a free day before she had to be at a church camp she was speaking at, so we figured we should immediately take her to Mt. Rainier.

Mount Rainier towers over the landscape.
Mount Rainier towers over the landscape.

Despite growing up in the Seattle area, she’d never been to Mount Rainier National Park and we wanted to fix that – and we wanted someone to help carry Catarina in the pack, lets be honest.

After going to the Paradise portion of the park the last two times we’d visited, we decided to go to Sunrise which is only open in the summer, is the highest part of the park you can drive to (6,400 feet) and is located in the Northeast corner of the park.

The Sunrise Day Lodge with the network of trails in the background.
The Sunrise Day Lodge with the network of trails in the background.

On a blistering hot day in the Puget Sound, it soon became obvious that we weren’t the only people who had this bright idea.

After entering the park and winding through a beautiful forest, we were met with brake lights like we were on I-5 in Federal Way. After coming to a complete stop and not moving for five minutes, desperation set in.

Catarina enjoying the scenery from one of the glacier overlooks.
Catarina enjoying the scenery from one of the glacier overlooks.

Catarina was melting down, I had to go to the bathroom, we were questioning whether there was room to turn the car around and head back to a different hike and we were wondering how quickly we’d die from lahars if the big earthquake chose that moment to strike.

After our never ending drive to Sunrise, Veronica, left, Catarina, Olivia and I enjoyed a picnic in the parking lot.
After our never ending drive to Sunrise, Veronica, left, Catarina, Olivia and I enjoyed a picnic in the parking lot.

Suddenly, the car in front of us moved – we were saved! Wait, why are they already stopping? What is happening?

Anyway, after I reached a desperation point with the bathroom, hopping out and forcing Olivia into the driver’s seat, I speed walked forward, past the ranger’s gate and to the nicest bathroom (not really) I’ve ever visited.

Disaster averted.

But the monster line of cars still existed.

Turns out there is limited parking at Sunrise, so sometimes they meter how many people can enter at once. In our case, it was four cars every 3.5 minutes – which isn’t very many cars when you are stuck in a half-mile line on a two-lane highway in the woods in 90-degree weather with a 2-year-old screaming in her car seat and a driver who has to go to the bathroom.

But we survived.

The Nisqually River Valley with the Emmons glacier was visible for most of our hike.
The Nisqually River Valley with the Emmons glacier was visible for most of our hike.

Oh, and we also went on a short little hike on the Silver Forest trail. It wasn’t very long – but that was because we were low on time. We went out only about a mile, but in the process we got crazy good views of a glacier and Mount Rainier.

I enjoyed Sunrise because you are much closer to the mountain than you are at Paradise, but I like the area around Paradise a little better.

The side of the mountain had this creepy cave/hole in it. Not sure what it is, but it was a bit frightening.
The side of the mountain had this creepy cave/hole in it. Not sure what it is, but it was a bit frightening.

Next time I go to Sunrise I want to go up Dege Peak or the Sourdough Ridge trail, both of which offer amazing views of Rainier.

Anyway, our trail was certainly fine and easy enough for everyone involved. Catarina even hiked about a quarter mile by herself before laying down in the hot dirty path and demanding to be put in the pack. We obliged and had a lot of fun.

Catarina was having a high old time while Veronica packed her up the trail.
Catarina was having a high old time while Veronica packed her up the trail.

So, if you plan on going to Sunrise you should heed the name of the area and leave early in the morning, thus avoiding the crowds.

– Craig Craker

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