First good thing about today – we did not wake at 5.30 and in fact we slept in until about 7. We are both getting used to the tent as a place to live and can cope with the tiny space – and the fact that everywhere else has voracious mossies in large numbers. We are both covered in bites but there is little we can do about it, and it does little to detract from this adventure.
We had porridge for breakfast, with crushed bits of museli and so felt set up for the day. We were met at just after 8 by Leslie, the campground host who had agreed to take us hiking for the day. She is in her early 60s and is a former high school principal. Leslie, as we learned during the day, has lived all over the world, raised 4 children after her husband was killed by drunk driver, speaks multiple languages and has a heart of gold. We were overwhelmed by her and Rich’s kindness and hospitality.
She drove us to Sunrise, which is at 6,400 feet and has superb views of Mount Ranier which towers over the park at 14,400 feet. It is lower than Mont Blanc (about 1000 feet higher) but is perhaps more impressive because it towers over the surrounding mountains and, because it is so far North, has 8,000 feet of glaciers. 10,000 people attempt to climb the mountain each year but only half make it up. It is a tough climb on the easiest route and there are plenty of more challenging routes. We toyed with the idea of an imprompu summit attempt but were dissuaded by (a) the lack of a suitable pass, (b) the absence of any climbing equipment and (c) it all seemed a bit too much like hard work. So we ambled around the foothills instead, having a lovely day which was quite tough enough for us (and it was our day off after all).
We climbed through some wonderful alpine meadows. When we get the photo thing working again we will show you but at the moment you will just have to take our word for it. Lupins and Indian paintbrush in multiple colours (or should I say colors). Then we reached the Frozen Lake which was not quite frozen in mid summer but had glaciers above and below the water giving off a blue glow to the water.
As we climbed towards the Mount Fremont lookout a marmot emerged from the scrub and came right up to the path. It was astonishingly fearless, but was equally not seeking food from us (as far as we could see). It was like a moving hearthrug, with teeth, as it scurried betwen the rocks. Quite a sight.
Then we inched our way along the path towards the fire lookout station. Forest fires are a major problem here and there are a number alight at the moment. The smoke from these slightly obscured the view, but also gave the mountains a hazy feeling, so they looked as if they had been drawn rather than existing in real life. We lunched at the lookout where we saw something which was hard to explain.
A young woman (maybe mid-20s) had hiked up on her own with a camera, tripod and full photographic kit. She set up her kit and then proceeded to do her hair and make up, and then took multiple pictures of herself smiling at her own camera (with an electronic device to make the shutter work) with the mountain in the background. It was the careful hair and make-up on a rough, stony promintary at 7,800ft that was difficult to explain. I thought that this was either a college art project, photos for her forthcoming album of country and western songs or was a photo for a dating website showing her beauty and interest in nature; but then I could have had the courage to ask but did not do so. The truth may have been much less interesting.
We went down from this marvellous place with Lesley, who was taking it gently but keeping up a good pace, and then got back to the car park, visitors centre and tea room by about 4. A lovely walk which was dominated by the brooding presence of this massive mountain which seemed omnipresent.
Lesley drove us back to the campground, would not hear of taking any petrol money and insisted we stay for wine and crisps. It was just overwhelmingly kind.
We ambled in a not entirely straight line back to our campsite where all was well, cooked dinner and faced down the mossies for a evening under the tall trees. We will be sorry to leave this beautiful place but the next few days sound challenging but with superb scenery.