July 28, 2007

Scouting Rainier Northeast

Today was another day of sunny skies with clouds shrouding Rainier, so I decided to scout another area outside the park for views, this time to the northeast. I'd explored the area around Sun Top minimally before, but that day had been completely overcast and the gate closed. This time proved better for views, but just as tricky for access. There was some kind of footrace along the road, and the parking lot at the top was overflowing. I was able to scout enough from a turnout to see the logging scars in the foreground that marred an otherwise great view of Rainier and knew there were no photos there.

Rainier From Sun Top

Those logging scars were on Huckleberry Mountain and promised better views into the park, so I headed down FS-73 and explored all the side roads and spurs. There's an intricate network of roads where FS-73, FS-74 and FS-74 converge and several of the spurs end near the park boundary. These promised views into the park without a scarred foreground, and several of them did indeed turn out to be decent access points with potential for sunset photos.

Mt Rainier and West Fork White River

There were some interesting clouds hugging the ridge tops across the West Fork White River Valley, and I wanted to cross over to explore around the Clearwater Wilderness for additional viewpoints, but much to my surprise, the entire length of FS-74 is closed due to the floods. The person I talked to at the closure said the bridge had washed out upstream and it would probably be several years before the road was repaired. Until then, all the roads to the west of the river were inaccessible, including access to Clearwater Wilderness -- and all the trails therein. I ended up exiting the road network via FS-75 so I could head down to Sunrise for evening photos, and caught a hazy glimpse of Rainier from Haller Pass.

Mt Rainier From Haller Pass

On the way to Sunrise, I drove up to the Crystal Mountain ski area and explored the small amount of roads there. They proved to be uninspiring, without so much as a view into the park, but I did find one that connected with the road network near the Goat Falls Trail. I always wondered where that road went. I made it to Sunrise Point as the clouds were rolling in, and I had hopes of the sunset light arriving before the clouds obscured the area, ala Kolob Canyons at Zion. I only managed a quick photo of Dege Peak as they rolled in, and after driving the road between Sunrise and Sunrise Point several times looking for breaks in the fog, I finally conceded defeat.

Dege Peak in Clouds

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