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Wrapping up Summer on Burroughs Mountain
posted by John : September 20, 2014

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Way back in June, when snow still blanketed much of Mount Rainier, the kids and I had a whirlwind weekend celebrating the beginning of summer. We started at Sunrise, toured the Grove of the Patriarchs, and finished with a spectacular day at aptly-named Paradise.

Now summer is coming to an end. There's little snow left low on the Mountain and the crevasses are all exposed. But the glorious summer weather we've had for the last three months gave us one last weekend in the sun. It was only fitting we return to Sunrise.

Over the years we've had the great fortune to visit many of the amazing areas accessible from the White River Entrance. The modest hike to Frozen Lake started our love affair in 2008 before Henry could even walk. Then there was Dege Peak, Sunrise and Clover Lakes, the Fremont Lookout, and a late season attempt on First Burroughs. Throw in a couple of epic overnight trips to Summerland, Berkely Park, and the summit itself and you could legitimately say we've been all over this corner of the Park.

Except that failed attempt at Burroughs Mountain. That one still bugged me. It was cold and windy and the views were non-existent. Surely, that couldn't count as my trip there. Not when we get one last gasp of summer weather and a free Saturday.

We got a late start and didn't arrive at Sunrise until 1pm. I got quite the fright when a sign declared long delays getting into Sunrise because it was "full" and we had to wait 15 minutes to flash our annual pass as the entrance. Thankfully, that was the only delay and it was clear sailing the next 30 minutes up to the trailhead.

The way to Burroughs Mountain is familiar. All of our hikes at Sunrise proper have started by climbing up Sourdough Ridge. It's a straightforward walk up a wide, graveled path through the meadow with honest-to-goodness steps. From the top of the ridge we head toward the Mountain and Frozen Lake. From Frozen Lake we start climbing.

Burroughs isn't a particularly high mountain, more like a series of rounded ridges. The trail slowly ascends the west side of First Burroughs (the first of three summits) until it pops up over the ridge onto the summit plateau. That's where the wind hit us.

There'd been wind down low, but it was just enough to make the girls' hair fly around. Up higher and exposed, it was strong and cold. It swept up from the Emmons Glacier down below and at times threatened to blow the kids over. No wonder there were a bunch of hikers eating lunch just below the ridge. We found a small rock to huddle behind and eat lunch.

From First Burroughs the view is amazing. We were above the lower Emmons and could see the melted moraine near Glacier Basin. But Second Burroughs blocked our view of the rest of the mountain. Clearly, there was nothing to do except climb.

Down a small saddle and up through dust devils until we were again moderately sheltered. A few descending hikers told us the worst was behind us. They also told us there were herds of goats and an ice cream stand that was closing soon so we should hurry. I'm not sure either I or the kids really believed them, but it was motivation enough to push on.

The wind was indeed howling at the summit of Second Burroughs. The drop to the saddle between it and Third Burroughs was pretty substantial and everyone was stopped here. We made it our final destination and dropped packs. (Well, my pack. The kids weren't carrying this time.)

The thing I liked most about the view from Second Burroughs is it provided views to just about everything we've done on this side of the Mountain. I was able to point out Summerland over the shoulder of Goat Island Mountain, the Emmons moraine, Berkeley Park and Grand Park, the Fremont Lookout, and the route we climbed to the summit. It's a perfect destination for someone wanting to get acquainted with the area.

Once the Pringles were gone and we'd shot a few (hundred) pictures it was time to head back. The Sunrise Rim trail is only 0.6 miles more than the Frozen Lake route and it's terrain we'd never covered. The final bonus was that we'd get to visit Shadow Lake, which we'd seen from the Sourdough Ridge trail on almost every trip.

The Rim trail is different in character, but not necessarily better than the way we'd come up. It got into the trees more quickly and then to the lake. Along the way we heard pikas, but couldn't see them. This was a big issue since we hadn't gotten the big lens out to capture the pika we had seen on the way in. (Turns out the quick snap I took with the small lens can be zoomed enough to (barely) make out the pika. Our iNaturalist observation is here.)

From the lake back the trail stayed in the woods. I had mistakenly thought we have to walk back on the service road (as we did on our first trip to Sunrise) so the trail, as pedestrian as it was, was a blessing.

All the kids admitted Burroughs was a great destination even though they might have been somewhat ambivalent (to put it mildly) on the drive to and from the Park. Ice cream at Wapiti Woolies in Greenwater probably helped, too.

Summer was great this year. We had adventures all across the state while getting stronger than ever. We'll slow down a bit as Fall takes hold. Rain high and low make many destinations less enticing than in summer's sun or winter's snow. If there's one lesson I'll take away from this season it's to take advantage of every day we can. There's no telling when life will take hold and transform our adventures.

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