By Labor Day weekend my feet were feeling much better and we'd promised ourselves a while back that we'd get to the Sunrise area of Mount Rainier, which is only open for a short time through the summer season.
We got our gear out of storage and threw together 5 days worth of backpacking meals. Our plan was to drive to the park Thursday morning, pick up our permit for the 33 mile Northern Loop and head about 4 miles down the trail.
Sunrise Trailhead to Berkeley Park - 3.5 mi.
Berkeley Park to Yellowstone Cliff - 11.2 mi.
Yellowstone Cliffs to Mystic Lake - 8.7 mi.
Mystic Lake to Sunrise Camp - 10.6 mi.
Sunrise Camp to Trailhead - 1.5 mi.
The weather forecast was only so-so, with Thursday and Friday being the worst of the days for the weekend. We figured a little bit of rain wouldn't dampen our spirits, as long as the temperatures held.
Unfortunately the temperature plummeted as we climbed up to Sunrise, settling at a measly few degrees above freezing. We got ourselves geared up and hit the trail by about 2:30 p.m.
There are a whole network of trails in the Sunrise area and we had a bit of trouble sorting them out, ending up on a service road for the first mile or so before joining up with the Wonderland Trail above Sunrise Camp. From there we climbed about 400 feet to an overlook of Frozen Lake and then dropped down towards Berkeley Park.
We made it into Berkeley Park campground and hurried to set up our tent and get some shelter. We were quite chilled and it took a long while to gain some warmth to our bodies. We were quickly realizing that we weren't as prepared as necessary for rain and such cold temperatures. We likely would've been able to tolerate one, but not both together.
We enjoyed a warm dinner of pad thai and then snuggled into the tent, with a discussion about evaluating our options in the morning. We both slept somewhat poorly, distracted by the rain on the tent and the cold night air.
For me, the biggest influencer was the prospect of hiking over 10 miles that day in miserable weather, with a moderately heavy pack and re-injuring my foot. For Dan, it was the cold weather, as he hadn't planned clothing for freezing temperatures.
The last couple miles to Sunrise passed quickly, and we did at least have the pleasure of spotting a Cascade Red Fox running through the rainy meadows.
While I was certainly disappointed to not be able to backpack, we weren't giving up on the park and would still be able to enjoy some day hikes, returning to a tarp shelter, a hot fire and a cozy wool duvet back at camp. We got a brief taste of the Northern Loop Trail, and it will remain on our list of hikes to do in the near future!