The last few times at Sunrise we've had really good weather. But now it's Fall and it's time to be a little more cautious than showing up with a t-shirt, shorts, and boots (and, yes, an emergency bivy and another 10 pounds of emergency gear). Sunrise, at 6,400 feet, is usually a little bit colder than home. However, seeing 28F in the forecast made me think twice.
But the second thinking was when I decided we'd definitely need to go. Nobody else was foolish enough to join us this time, so it was just me and the kids heading for First Burroughs. "First Burroughs" is the first summit of Burroughs Mountain. It's just a bit beyond Frozen Lake where last year I was hooked on the easy access Sunrise provides.
In the parking lot, the very empty parking lot, we geared up with a light snow falling. Yeah. Snow. I was all giddy, too. I had initially planned to have the girls wear just a small amount of gear and pack the rest, but in light of the snow I changed my mind and they were wearing almost everything they had. That meant long johns, fleece pants, and hiking pants on the bottom. T-shirts, insulated shirts, wool sweaters, and fleece jackets on top. Henry was in jammies as his base layer, but then transformed into the Michelin Man by layering layers upon layers. We'd be warm, darn it.
Henry started walking, but we weren't going to make it anywhere at that pace. The girls were growing restless at Henry's slow pace. We helped him make it to the first trail junction and as he was eating snack I got him into the pack. Now we could move... until Lilly announced she needed to use the potty. <sigh> Never mind we had just been to the bathroom at the parking lot and never mind she had insisted she didn't need to go and never mind it was only 20 minutes later. Never mind all that, because that's the cost of hiking with a four year old.
Ok, so back on the trail and the snow started falling a little more seriously. We stomped in the little bit of snow we found by the trail, but in general were just hiking quickly. We made it to Frozen Lake in about an hour. It had taken at least twice that long last year so what a massive improvement. Of course, Frozen Lake wasn't even close to frozen and we still couldn't get down to the water since it's the water supply for Sunrise, but it's still a pretty nice little lake.
We didn't stop and continued up the trail. The snow was starting to stick on the trail and the snow-free section was getting more and more narrow and the slope below us was getting steeper and steeper. The girls kept pushing up the hill and were thrilled when I asked if they could get to the corner of the hill where the trail disappeared around a bend in the next 10 minutes. We almost made it, but not quite.
When we finally got to the top of the hill we were on the plateau that is First Burroughs. In good weather you have a magnificent view of Rainier, but all we could see was blowing snow and a few rocks and grasses. (Burroughs Mountain is supposed to be a unique example of tundra in the continental U.S.) The actual summit was about a third of a mile away, but we called it good and retreated to a spot where we were out of the wind (sort of) and broke out the hot chocolate.
Henry was freed from the pack for a few minutes and wanted to do little more than look through the binoculars I had brought to spot goats. Given the weather only Henry was able to see any goats. One the cocoa was exhausted I wrestled Henry back into the pack (seriously, this time he's done with the pack) and we started down at a quick pace. We had seen few people on the way up, but there were a bunch following in our brave footsteps. (No doubt, they saw the girls powering up and figured they could do it, too.)
At Frozen Lake we took a break and had some food. (We'd had sandwiches at the lake on the way up.) I realize I keep saying, "The snow was really picking up," but it stepped it up yet again. We also got the best comment of the day from some hardcore guys heading up the trail. You know, the type who look scruffy leaving the trailhead. "You're bringing them up right, dude."
Lilly and Henry started a game of peek-a-boo that lasted much of the way back. It gave way only when we started calling, "Here-goaty-goaty-goaty-goaty-goat!" as we looked down from Sourdough Ridge. (Yes, goats are the new cool thing to see on the trail.) Henry would yell out, "GOOOOOOAT! GOAT!" and then declare he could see goats. Ah... to be two.
The girls were hammered, but it was Henry that slept for about an hour on the way home. Clara helped enforce the rule about the DVD player while we were in the Park (i.e., no movies in the Park) and Lilly went along with it without to much complaining.
It was the second trip that we couldn't really see the mountain and again it was still a great outing. The effort was 4.6 miles long and just short of 1,100 feet of gain. Over the winter we'll have to go to Paradise if we want to get high on the mountain (Sunrise closes in a couple of weeks.) Next Spring we'll be at the head of the line of cars on opening day. That seems like such a long time from now. What ever will we do until then?