Rampart Ridge, Signs from Adventures, and a Return to Paradise – Mount Rainier Day 3

I woke up Wednesday 9/15/2021 after another cold night and not sure what I was going to hike today and where I was going next. Heavy rain was in the forecast for Friday, so I wanted to spend one more night here and depart Thursday afternoon to stay in a hotel and avoid the heavy rain forecasted.

The Ape lava caves near Mt St Helen sound very appealing to me. Mount St Helen would also if the visitor’s centers and museum were not shut down for construction. The idea of heading there now and putting me on course for Oregon this quickly was not sitting well with me, I felt Washington still might have more to explore. After some coffee I drove 15 minutes to Paradise for internet connectivity to contemplate my next move and to get some swag from the gift shop since it was closed Monday and Tuesday.

I arrived at the Paradise visitors center around 9:30 only to see the gift shop doesn’t open until 11. I decided to do some trip research and catch up on work, email, and upload yesterday’s adventure to this blog. As I looked at the map, I realized I hadn’t been to Takoma or Gig Harbor which were both things’ people had mentioned. With heavy rain coming, a city with indoor things to do was appealing. I did some research while I waited for the visitor center to open. I got some souvenirs, then deciding it was time for a hike before making any decisions.

I had thought of doing the Comet Falls hike, but as I drove back I saw the small parking area was full. I was a little relieved, this would have been my steepest ascent so far and a tough hike. I decided this was a sign I should have a lighter day and headed to the Longmire Area.

Unfortunately, the museum about Longmire’s history was closed due to COVID. I took a quick peak at the visitor’s center and examined the hiking trails in the area. I decided to do a recommended route of the Rampart Ridge Trail using the intersection at the Wonderland trail to form a loop back. The trail started with a short segment called the Trail of Shadows. Signs along the trail talked about James Longmore who had founded this area and built a spa in 1890 around the natural hot springs that used to be here. The .7 mile start of the trail had many other signs about the history, wildlife, and even a log cabin from the 1900’s.

The first 1.8 miles of the Rampart Ridge trail were very steep. I ascended 1300 feet in this distance. The dense forest surrounding me was a sharp contrast to the mountain filled hike the day before. As I rose the steep climb the wind slowly started to pick up and sounded like whispering among the trees. The sun fought desperately to fight its way thru the tree covering but only small rays were visible. The temperature fluctuated frequently due to the wind, lack of sun and the effort I was putting into this hike, causing me to adjust my layers many times.

Unlike yesterday this hike was mostly absent of people. I maybe ran into 8 people or so all day. One group was a mother with her son. The son was in his mid to late teens. We first met climbing the trail and then at a beautiful view of a mountain range. It reminded of when I had gone hiking with my own mother in July at Devils Lake in Wisconsin.  It was a couple days before Devils Lake that the idea to take this sabbatical appeared in my head. I talked with some close friends 2 days prior about my ideas to get their advice and had decided to use my time in Devils Lake to think contemplate this decision, how fitting. We took each other’s pictures, taking in the view before I hiked on ahead, I was still wondering about where I would head tomorrow and what I would do during the rainy weekend ahead.

The wind that had sounded like whispers thru the tree’s earlier grew louder as I ascended higher. I approached what I assumed to be the peak of the uphill climb. The whispers of thing wind thru the tree’s kept getting louder and became what sounded like ravaging rapids. I saw the sun which had been lost in the tree’s shadows as I approached the next turn.

When I turned the corner, I was stunned and said WOW!! Not even aware the words were coming out my mouth. At the top of this trails peak I was treated to a magnificent view of Mount Rainier that came surprisingly out of nowhere.  I took in this majestic view for what seemed like an eternity. Eventually the mother and son from before caught up to me, but I stuck around so long taking in the picturesque views, I never saw them again on the trail.

I departed this beautiful view as happy as could be and started to think about what to do tomorrow, I hadn’t decided yet and was in no hurry to, but it had been popping in my head in and out during this hike. The next bit of the trail was very easy and mostly flat. I approached the end of the Rampart trail where it intersected with the Wonderland trail which was the way back to my starting point.

As I approached the Wonderland Trail I heard the voices of travelers, which I had not heard for over an hour. There was a group of 4 with large, framed backpacks taking pictures at a sign that pointed to the different destination at the trail intersection.

I started talking to this group and heard tales of their journey the last 7 days of camping and hiking over 100 miles and doing a loop around Mount Rainier. They had come up with the idea 2 years ago standing at this very point and this was their last 2 miles. I was happy to see the joy on their faces that they were close to accomplishing this dream. I know that feeling very well as I was living my own dream and it brought another smile to my face. We chatted for a bit as we took the deep descent to our final destination. They told me they were from outside Takoma, Washington…  Are you kidding me? I had been thinking all day about where to go next with Takoma on my list, and I run into a group who hiked around this whole mountain and were from Takoma? That’s it, decision made, this is a sign, and my next stop is Takoma.

I talked to the group of 4 as I hiked and was giving some recommendations of what to do in Takoma which I tapped into my phone. I was ahead of them for a bit and their joyful conversations filled the air before they passed me when I was taking more pictures. I finished the trail at a brisk pace and decided to drive 20 minutes back to Paradise to find a hotel in Takoma and research some more things to do there.

On my drive back to Paradise I took a small detour which read scenic drive which I had skipped previously and was treated with some great views.

I booked a nice downtown hotel in Takoma, I figured I was due after 3 days of camping and didn’t want to do a lot of driving around while I was there. Check in was not until 3, so I also found a map of some short hikes to do tomorrow in the Ohanapecosh area of Mount Rainier on my there. I returned to my campsite for some dinner, drinks and to capture today’s thoughts.

TLDR: Hiked the Rampart Ridge trail unsure of what to do tomorrow and was given a sign by a group who hiked 100 miles around the mountain.

Full Photo Albums

Longmire – https://photos.app.goo.gl/rnytW6fYx8N5TmuH6

Paradise (Updated) – https://photos.app.goo.gl/ykz5s99eRgRGi2si6


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