Nothing beats getting out into the mountains and seeing plants in the wild. Try as you might, you can never really reproduce what Mother Nature does so effortlessly. That is provided man stays out of the way and doesn’t disturb what happens naturally.
Having Mount Rainier in our backyard provides an easy escape to witness the wild flowers happening this time of year. I had the opportunity this past week to get up into the mountain twice, both on the north and south side of the mountain. The first hike was up Tolmie Peak.The other was Paradise, which I’ll talk about next week. Tolmie Peak is just off the wonderland trail on the north side of Mount Rainier National Park. The hike is only about 7.5 miles and not too difficult. The worst part was the 17 miles on a logging road full of pot holes before you get to the trail head at Mowich Lake. The trail head was just under 5000 feet and the first 3 miles was up and down, in and out of the forest to Eunice Lake.
In the shade there were a few blooming small perennials and a lot of beargrass, Xerophyllum tenex. When you came into an opening there would be a mix of several perennials, such as Star Solomon Seal, Woodland Penstemon, Green False Hellebores, Crimson Columbine, Cow Parsnip and Rosy Spirea.
We gradually climbed a little to Eunice Lake and it was a much more open area with dense meadows of mixed wild flowers. In addition to what we had previously seen, there were Columbia Lilies, Spreading Phlox, Avalanche Lilies, Pasque Flower, Paint Brush, Lupine and Lousewort. On a little side note, Lousewort or Pedicularis is a genus I fell in love with in Tibet. To see our own native forms reminded me of those beautiful flowers. Ours are equally beautiful. This seems to be a genus that only does well at higher elevations so I never see them in gardens down here at sea level.
Some flowers such as the Lupine and Avalanche Lily were in big drifts while others were in mixed meadows. Together the combination was breath-taking. The clear waters of Eunice Lake against the backdrop of Tolmie Peak with the meadows of wild flowers was the perfect destination but this just set the stage for the last little part of the hike.
The last mile was a rise of 1000 feet to the fire station lookout. Lots of switchbacks some in the sun and others into the woods gave dramatic views at every turn. When we finally got to the top the clouds had rolled up again the peak of Mount Rainier so that was a bit anti-climatic but the view was dramatic none the less. We had our lunch and caught our breath before reversing the trail. Going down gives you a different perspective of the same sites. It wasn’t downhill all the way so by the end I could tell that I need to do this more often to get my muscles more in shape but this was much more fun than a gym.
This is one of the best wild flower seasons in years, probably because of the wet spring and warm dry summer. Whatever the cause I would highly recommend the trip (NOW).