It seems incomprehensible that it was only a month and a half ago that Henry and I were finding snowshoeing's second season on the Naches Peak Loop trail in Mount Rainier National Park. The road over Chinook Pass had just opened and the snow was still feet deep.
But now the snow's gone. In its place is a magnificent carpet of wildflowers, butterflies, and humming birds. You bet we returned to check it out. And not alone. We took two of the kids' friends in our continuing effort to convert them into diehard hikers. If Mount Rainier in springtime (nicer than Paris) didn't work nothing would. Of course, if it was a bust I was would be driving four kids for four hours.
What we found upon arriving at Tipsoo Lake was just about perfect. Purple lupine and red Indian Paintbrush were thick in the meadows. On northern slopes, where the snow was last to melt off, avalanche lilies hung their heads. On the east side of the loop phlox lay low in large mats with tiny flowers while the western pasque flowers let the breeze blow through their messy hair.
The route itself is an easy one. It starts at Tipsoo Lake and follows the well-maintained and well-marked trail up a short hill to Chinook Pass. There it leaves the Park and joins the Pacific Crest Trail on a bridge over Highway 410. Unlike our winter route, the summer route has no big uphills as long as you don't go around the loop the wrong way. The final third has amazing views of Mount Rainier, though it was clouded over when we were there.
For some reason it always surprises me when one of my kids outsmarts me. Not because I think I'm a genius, but because I too often think of them as little kids. (It's related to the state of denial regarding my age.) This time it was Lilly that got the better of me. She was given the task of carrying the Special Hiking Bites (M&Ms) and doling them out to keep energy levels up. Left to her own devices, she'd either eat them all or give them out too quickly guaranteeing a sugar crash. As a result, we had rules.
1 - Every so often Lilly could give each kid three or four M&Ms.
2 - If anyone complained, they would lose an M&M to me.
3 - If I complained about Lily's distribution plan all the kids got two extras.
Everything was going great until we sat down on a set of rocks for a rest. Lilly obeyed rule #1 and gave everyone a few M&Ms. A moment later she gave everyone two more because I had complained.
"What? That's not fair. I didn't complain."
"You just did."
Yeah. I got pwned by my 10 year old daughter.
Between the flowers, the weather, the views, and the company we had a great day in the Park. Even better, the non-hikers again reported to their parents (and grandparents) they had a great time. Maybe there's hope for them yet.
(If you want to learn more about wildflowers in the Northwest check out Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest (Timber Press Field Guides) by Gustafson and Turner. (This is an Amazon affiliate link. Details here.)