Sub-Alpine Bliss at Glacier Basin

Sub-Alpine Bliss at Glacier Basin

By: Spenser August 20, 2013 5:15 pm 0 comments

We went to Mt Rainier for the second time of my life to hike our way up to Glacier Basin during the 4th of July holiday weekend. This trip had a lot more to look at than our last one that was filled with clouds, cold, and snow. We headed out early for the 3 hour drive to the mountain and got started on the trail by about 10 or 11, just as the day was starting to warm up.


Before we began, we walked through the camping area that was nestled into the trees and decided that this might be a good place for our next car camping adventure. As we approached the trail we were walking along a big river with some of the mountain in the background, but unfortunately it was blocked by trees. This was not acceptable for Shelby, as she told me: “I wish someone would cut down these trees so I could have a better view.” Despite this view being blocked we were sure that there had to be more to look at so we began our accent at a pretty speedy pace. We quickly found out that this trail is a bit steeper than it looked because we were quite winded shortly into the hike, but we were definitely up high enough to justify being so out of breath.




About a mile into the hike, another trail spurs off: the Emmons Glacier Overlook. The Emmons Glacier has the largest surface area of any glacier in the contiguous United States. We debated taking the extra mile round-trip hike, but after seeing the narrow way hikers were taking, we decided to hold off until next time. Look in the bottom part of the picture below and you’ll see what I’m talking about!


As we wound up the trail, we crossed over crystal clear streams leading down the mountain which were ice cold when we stuck our hands in them. The clouds had basically cleared out by this time and stopping at each of these streams and miniature waterfalls was a nice way to cool down as we made out way to the destination.

Further along the trail I noticed a bunch of giant metal things lodged in the ground that looked fairly old. I wrote down of the name on them, “Fairbanks Morse” and took note to research a little more about the company when we got home. After some research I found out the were a company which made pumps, engines, windmills, locomotives and industrial supplies. Wondering why these sorts of devices were along the trail I continued researching and found out they were part of a mining camp run by the Mount Rainier Mining Company. In the early 1900s the section of the trail before the meadows that now contains a few campsites used to hold a hotel, a blacksmith shop, and a power plant.

mining thing



When we got to the meadows the ground flattened out and we got a wonderful view of the mountain and a decent selection of wildflowers in bloom. Shelby took some pictures and figured out the names of some of them: glacier lily, Pacific lupine, common paintbrush, fan leaf cinquefoil, buttercup, Penstemon, Merten’s bluebells. After seeing the variety of flora just in this section of Mt Rainier, as well as recently watching “Into the Wild” made me want to learn more about the local botany and how to identify what exactly we’re looking at. Some day I have some more free time I’m planning to create a Wikibook as well as a set of Anki flashcards which I will share the links to here when they are complete.


Western Sage



Pacific Lupine


Merten's Bluebells

Merten's bluebells

Fan-leaf Cinquefoil

Fan-leaf cinquefoil

Throughout this whole hike I was motivated to try and figure out how to make hiking and blogging about said hikes a full time job. I quickly came to the realization that it will require a lot of saving an planning. I’ve since added this to my 5+ year plan, and we’ll keep you updated with the progress on that. It also reminded me that I need to finish reading all of John Muir’s books.

While we were sitting in the meadows on our awesomely portable camp chairs, we saw two mountain goats walking around off in the distance. This was Shelby and I’s first time seeing mountain goats outside of a zoo, so that was pretty cool. We also talked to some of the Wilderness Rangers that were hiking up and down the trail and asked them about what a day in the life of a ranger was. They informed us that most of the time is spent hiking and educating fellow trail goers about safety along the trail and the principles of Leave No Trace. They also spend a small portion of time issuing permits, cleaning up, and other administrative tasks.

Overall, this was a great hike which wasn’t extremely difficult and seemed long overdue. We can’t wait to go back for more!

Check out this sweet photoshpere we took from the top (360° panorama. Click to drag around):




Things we should have brought

  • Eye Drops
  • Tripod
  • Book
  • Camp Food/Stove
  • Trekking Poles
  • Sandals
  • Bug Spray
  • Water Filter





White River snaking down

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