Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Laughingwater Creek trail, Mount Rainier


My first hike on this 6-mile trail to Three Lakes via the Laughingwater Creek trail was absolutely gorgeous. It was a comfortable day in early summer with many lowland flowers in bloom. While there were no dramatic views we enjoyed the ferns, moss, wildflowers, rivulets and the old growth trees. Most memorable were the Alaska cedars – many of them giants. That first hike was about three years ago.

This time I was leading a Conditioning Hike Series for The Mountaineers. The hikers who signed up for the hike were part of a CHS weekend campout at Soda Springs Campground off SR 410 so the plan was to meet at Cayuse Pass at a designated time.

When we got to Cayuse Pass our three hikers were there; a little tired from hikes the previous day (Mount Aix, Goat Peak) but more than willing to tackle another trail.

As for the weather – it was the beginning of what could become a record-breaking hot-spell. Fortunately, most of the hike was in shady, ancient forest.

We set out on the trail, stopping to admire saprophytes, bead-lily, Canadian dogwood (bunchberry) and columbine. We also stopped for several water/snack breaks – an absolute necessity on such a hot day.

By the time we reached Three Lakes and the patrol cabin we were ready for lunch. Sadly, there was no one at the Patrol Cabin to let us seek refuge from the swarms of mosquitoes so lunch was short. After lunch we looked around the lakes (two are nestled side-by-side, connected by a narrow strip of land) – the third lake is a little further along the trail. The third lake provides a view of higher country but we didn’t linger; once again, the bugs drove us away from the water.

We hiked down as quickly as we could; it was a relief to get back to the car. The hike is 12 miles round trip with about 2,700 feet of elevation gain. If we’d had more time and energy we could have hiked another 1-1/2 miles to the PCT. There are also a couple of abandoned trails near Three Lakes we’d like to explore but given the heat, no one had the energy.

This is a trail for hikers seeking solitude and the peace of ancient forest. The lakes are pretty but for backpacking we suggest waiting until September when the bugs are gone. This would make a nice fall hike; plenty of vine maple to brighten the dark forest in September/October.

Our adventure was not over. As we drove back toward SR 410 on Highway 123 we braked to a stop. Here was a dead car in the road and the smell of gasoline in the air. We stopped to offer help (though what we could have done is doubtful other than a telephone call). It was two young guys – they said they thought their gas tank had ruptured. We offered the use of a cell phone but they said a friend was on the way to assist. It wasn’t a good place for a car to die; right on a curve on a two-way road. We drove up to Chinook Pass, found the park rangers and alerted them of the situation. They said they would get help ASAP.

Silverback and I stopped at McDonalds for a cold drink before the hot drive back to Seattle. Then it was our turn for trouble. The car wouldn’t start. It wouldn’t go into reverse or into neutral. We had parked with the car facing the curb so we were unable to move forward as well. Had to call Triple AAA for a tow truck – they said it might be a 3-1/2 hour wait. In the heat, that was Hellish news to ponder. About an hour and a half later the tow truck arrived; he looked at the car, used the winch to get it off the curb and drove it around the lot. It sounded like something was dragging on the ground and it STILL wouldn’t go into reverse. So we ended up riding with the tow truck driver (and a dead car) back to Seattle. The good news is that we didn’t have to take one of the hikers back to Seattle (she needed a ride back to Seattle) – thankfully, she rode back with one of the other hikers. She wouldn’t have enjoyed standing around the parking lot at McDonalds in the heat, I’m sure.

The news is grim – about a $3,100 repairs to the car. The transmission went out (on a car with less than 49,000 miles no less!!).

Laughingwater Creek is a nice hike but there sure wasn’t much laughter at the end of the day.

No comments:

Post a Comment