Saturday, September 14, 2013

Mount Rainier National Park - Sunrise Hikes: Fremont Lookout, Skyscraper Peak, Burroughs Mountain

Overview

Left: View of Burroughs Mountain and Mount Rainier from Fremont Lookout; Right: Winthrop Glacier from Burroughs Mountain
View of Burroughs Mountain and Mount Rainier from Fremont LookoutWinthrop Glacier from Burroughs Mountain

For our eighth hike of the season we decided to try hiking from the Sunrise Visitor Center, Mount Rainier National Park. At 6,400 feet, Sunrise is the highest point you can reach by vehicle. On this clear, sunny day we struck out around 9:15 am. Ten hours later we were back at car, making for a very tiring day. We managed to cover 20 miles and do the following (in order):

  • climb to the Mount Fremont Lookout (7,181 feet). This is one of four remaining historic fire lookouts built in the early 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The other three are Tolmie, Shriner, and Gobbler Knob Lookout. The CCC was a work relief program (1933 – 1942) that was part of the New Deal providing “unskilled manual labor jobs related to the conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by federal, state, and local governments.”
  • climb Skyscraper Mountain (7,018); At the peak, we encountered a lot of bees and flying ants, and while not bothering us, nonetheless, it was a bit uncomfortable. We talked briefly with a lady who studied entomology and she said that insects (or she might have specifically said bees) go to peaks to mate. True?
  • come down from Skyscraper peak and go to Granite Creek following the Mystic Lake Trail.
  • return back to Frozen Lake and follow the Burroughs Mountain Trail to Burroughs Mountain 3 (the third hump of the Burroughs Mountain) at 7,820 feet. Burroughs Mountain is classified as an alpine tundra. It differs from an artic tundra in that snow melts and drains way in an and does not remain frozen or puddled on the surface.

Stories in the Landscape

Many of the things we saw today were named after people. Here’s a short list: 

  • Winthrop Glacier, on the northeastern side of Mount Rainier, is named after writer, lawyer, and traveller, Theodore Winthrop (1828 – 1861).
  • Burroughs Mountain on Mount Rainier's northeast slope honors naturalist and essayist John Burroughs (1837 - 1921).
  • Emmons Glacier, on the northeaster side of Mount Rainer is named after geologist Samuel Franklin Emmons (1841 – 1911).
  • Fremont Lookout. According Mount Rainier, a record of exploration [p. 314, 1916] the origin is uncertain. After many things named Fremont, it could likely be to honor the American military office, explorer, and politician John C. Frémont (1813 – 1890). From the forward of The Expeditions of John Charles Frémont: “John Charles Fremont (1813-90) explored the American West at a time when thousands of migrants were hungry for in- formation, and thus became—with the possible exception of Lewis and Clark — the most acclaimed traveler of the nineteenth century in the lands beyond the Missouri River. He married the daughter of a powerful western senator, Thomas Hart Benton, and added the advantages of family influence to his own store of ingenuity, endurance, and courage.”
  • And while we are at it, Mount Rainier’s current name honors the British naval officer Rear Admiral Peter Rainier (1741 – 1808).
  • Finally, the standout plant on this hike is surely Polygonum newberryi, Fleeceflower, Newberry’s Knotweed. It is a member of the the Buckwheat family. At this time of the year, it’s a brilliant red with pieces of it blowing around a little like tumbleweeds. We were startled by it several times as it rattled by propelled by a gust of wind. This plant’s specific epithet honors John Newberry (1822 – 1892), surgeon and naturalist.

Left: Fremont Lookout Trail; Center: Skyscraper Mountain; Right: Burroughs Mountain
Fremont Lookout TrailSkyscraper MountainBurroughs Mountain

Mount Rainier Tephra

On the walk on Burroughs Mountain we noticed the barren, rocky surface of the tundra. The pumice rocks reminded us of our previous hike through Spray Park and up towards Observation Rock, just west of Burroughs Mountain. After the hike, we started reading up on Mount Rainier’s post-glaciation volcanic past and realized that we were seeing the results of a past eruption of Mount Rainier. The story of the near-volcanic past of Mount Rainier is told in its tephra layers.

  • What is a tephra layer? – Tephra is a term that refers to fragments of rock and lava blasted into the air by volcanoes. Over time, tephra builds up into layer. Tephra material is classified by size. Ash is the smallest with particles less than 2 mm in diameter. Lapilli is material between 2 and 64 mm. Volcanic bombs or blocks characterizes material greater than 64 mm. You often also see the words scoria and pumice used to refer to volcanic rock. Scoria is denser (has less pore space) than pumice. Both scoria and pumice are not found very far from an eruption site, while ash can be carried by the wind far away from an eruption.
  • How many layers of tephra are there around Mount Rainier? – At least 22 in the last 10,000 years which is the approximate time since the last major glaciation.
  • How are the tephra layers named? – Mount Rainier tephra layers are named using alphabet letters chosen after a physical characteristic of the layer. For example, layer Y is a yellow layer of pumice, layer O is an orange layer of material originating from Mount Mazama, and layer C is a coarse brown pumice layer.
  • When was the last layer created? - Layer X was created about 190 years ago between 1820 and 1855.
  • What’s an exotic tephra layer? – An exotic tephra layer is one that originates from somewhere other than Mount Rainier. Volcanic ash from Mount St. Helens and Mount Mazama (Crater lake) in Oregon can also be found in the tephra layers of Mount Rainier.
  • What’s this have to do with Burroughs Mountain? – Burroughs Mountain is a lava flow known as andesite. Burroughs Mountain is similar to several ridges radiating out from the base of Mount Rainier like Mazama Ridge and Rampart Ridge. These ridges resisted erosion from rivers and glaciers. On top of this old lava flow, post-glaciation eruptions from Mount Rainier left their mark in today’s tephra layers. The thickest and most widespread layer is a pumice tephra layer called layer C, which is found throughout the eastern and northeastern parts of the park like Burroughs Mountain. Layer C forms a thick brown veneer on the surface of parts of Burroughs Mountain. Layer C was created approximately 2,200 years ago.

Sources:
1. Tephra Explorer: Living with a Volcano in Your Backyard from the National Park Service
2. Other Pyroclastic Deposits in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington by Donald R. Mullineau, Geological Survey Bulletin 1326 [1975].
3. Surficial Geology of Mount Rainier National Park Washington by Douglas R. Crandell, Geological Survey Bulletin 1288 [1969]
4. The Geologic Story of Mount Rainier by Douglas R. Crandell, Geological Survey Bulletin 1292 [1969, revised 1983]
5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scoria

Left: Pumice Landscape on Burroughs Mountain; Center: Hiking from Burroughs 2 to Burroughs 3; Right: View of Little Tahoma and Mountain Rainier from Burroughs Mountain
 Pumice Landscape on Burroughs MountainHiking from Burroughs 2 to Burroughs 3View of Little Tahoma and Mountain Rainier from Burroughs Mountain

Tephra Layers Description from Other Pyroclastic Deposits in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington by Donald R. Mullineau, Geological Survey Bulletin 1326 [1975]
Tephra Layers Description from Other Pyroclastic Deposits in Mount Rainier National ParkTephra Layers Description from Other Pyroclastic Deposits in Mount Rainier National ParkTephra Layers Description from Other Pyroclastic Deposits in Mount Rainier National Park

Hike Stats

Length: 19.8 miles round-trip.
Elevation Gain: 5,280 feet cumulative, by GPS. Highest point 7,820 feet.  Trailhead at 6,400 feet.
Duration: About 10 hours. Started at 9:15 am from trailhead in Sunrise parking lot. Returned to car at 7:30pm.  Lunch at the river (Granite Creek) at 1:30pm.
Location: Mt. Rainier -- NE - Sunrise / White River, Mount Rainier National Park
Farthest point reached on Burroughs Ridges (3):
N 46 degrees, 54.211 minutes  ->  46.90352
W 121 degrees, 42.815 minutes -> 121.71358
46.90352, -121.71358

Left: A Hiker Contemplates Steamboat Prow and Mount Rainier Glaciers; Right: Looking North onto Berkley Park
A Hiker Contemplates Steamboat Prow and Mount Rainier GlaciersLooking North onto Berkley Park

Left: Dasiphora fruticosa near Frozen Lake; Center: Juniperus on Fremont Lookout Trail; Right: Eriogonum pyrofolium – Pyrola-Leaved Eriogonum or Dirty Socks!
Dasiphora fruticosa near Frozen LakeJuniperus on Fremont Lookout TrailErigonum pyrofolium – Pyrola-Leaved Eriogonum or Dirty Socks

Polygonum newberryi, Fleeceflower, Newberry’s Knotweed
Polygonum newberryi, Fleeceflower, Newberry’s KnotweedPolygonum newberryi, Fleeceflower, Newberry’s KnotweedPolygonum newberryi, Fleeceflower, Newberry’s Knotweed

Left: Lagopus leucura – White-tailed Ptarmigan on Fremont Lookout; Right: Young Male with Start of Reddish Eyecomb
Lagopus leucura – White-tailed Ptarmigan on Fremont LookoutYoung Male with Start of Reddish Eyecomb

Left: View from Burroughs Mountain to Little Tahoma; Right: View of Burroughs Mountain from Skyscraper Mountain
View from Burroughs Mountain to Little TahomaView of Burroughs Mountain from Skyscraper Mountain

Left: Burroughs Mountain Raven; Right: Sarcodon imbricatus - Scaled Hedgehog – Near Granite Creek
Burroughs Mountain RavenSarcodon imbricatus - Scaled Hedgehog – Near Granite Creek

Left: View from Burroughs Mountain, Looking North Toward Skyscraper Mountain and Fremont Lookout; Center: Skyscraper Mountain from Burroughs Mountain – Looks Like a Mayan Temple; Right: Sunrise Lodge Close to Sunset
View from Burroughs Mountain, Looking North Toward Skyscraper Mountain and Fremont LookoutSkyscraper Mountain from Burroughs Mountain – Looks Like a Mayan TempleSunrise Lodge Close to Sunset

Left: Topology Map of Sunrise Hike; Center: Topology Map of All Four Hikes This Season Around Rainier; Right: Garmin Stats for this Hike
Topology Map of Sunrise HikeTopology Map of All Four Hikes This Season Around RainierGarmin Stats for this Hike

Panorama from Skyscraper Mountain Looking East Toward Fremont Lookout
Panorama from Skyscraper Mountain Looking East Toward Fremont Lookout

Left: View from Fremont Lookout to Echo Rock and Observation Rock; Right: View of Emmons and Winthrop Glaciers Above Steamboat Prow
View from Fremont Lookout to Echo Rock and Observation RockView of Emmons and Winthrop Glaciers Above Steamboat Prow

Left: View Over Winthrop Glacier From Burroughs Mountain; Right: View Over White River from Burroughs Mountain
View Over Winthrop Glacier From Burroughs MountainView Over White River from Burroughs Mountain

Left: View from Burroughs Mountain 3 (3rd Hump) to Winthrop Glacier; Right: Sign at the Point Where You Diverge from the Burroughs Mountain Trail to go to Burroughs Mountain 3.
View from Burroughs Mountain 3 (3rd Hump) to Winthrop GlacierSign at the Point Where You Diverge to Go To Burroughs Mountain 3

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Mount Rainier National Park – Spray Park Hike

Overview



We started at Mowich Lake, following the advice on the Mount Rainier Spray Park Trail page and the WTA’s Spray Park page. We intended to hike up to Spray Park and turn around, but we ended up wandering toward Observation Rock. We never made up to Observation Rock (8,364 ft); we turned around at 7,200 ft at the edge of Flett Glacier. The Spray Park hike puts at 75 total hiking miles this summer over 7 substantial hikes (minus the jaunt to Hidden Lake). Our annus mirabilis for hiking.
 

Flora and Fauna

In the first part of the hike, which is filled with trees with occasional sun, we saw the following:
  • Ochotona princeps - American Pika. Spotted around the Mowich Lake parking area.
  • Corydalis scouleri - Scouler's Fumewort Flowers. We are going to guess that this plant honors the Scottish naturalist, John Scouler (1904 – 1981) who visited the Northwest in 1825.
  • Lycopodium clavatum - Running Clubmoss with it’s handsome sporophylls.
  • Mycena strobilinoides – Scarlet Fairy Helmet found in needle beds and moss.
  • Cladonia sp. – Cladonia, a moss-like lichen with “tube-like” structures.
  • Pterospora andromedea – Pinedrops
After we arrived in the Spray Park meadow we saw:
  • Gentiana calycosa - Mountain Bog Gentian in the Spray Park meadows.
  • Potentilla flabellifolia - Fan-Leaved Cinquefoil
  • Tofielda glutinosa - Sticky False Asphodel with its reddish flower buds.
  • Amanita muscaria - Fly Agaric, the quintessential toadstool. What is agaric? From Wikipedia “An agaric is a type of fungal fruiting body characterized by the presence of a pileus (cap) that is clearly differentiated from the stipe (stalk), with lamellae (gills) on the underside of the pileus.” The specific epithet comes from the Latin musca for fly and is based on a history of its use as an insecticide when sprinkled in milk.
As we climbed higher into Spray park we saw:
 

Stats

Length: 12 miles roundtrip.
Duration: 10:07 left trailhead, arrived back at 5:35pm. About 7.5 hours.
Elevation: Started at 4,000 (Mowich Lake), turn around at 7,200 (estimated), near, but well below Observation Rock (8,364 ft) at Turn around point from Garmin: N 46°, 54.559", W 121° 48.424" or 46.9093, -121.8071.
Location: Mt. Rainier -- NW - Carbon River / Mowich, Mt. Rainier National park.

Left: Cladonia sp.; Right: Lycopodium clavatum - Running ClubmossCladoniaLycopodium clavatum - Running Clubmoss

Left: Mycena strobilinoides; Center: Pterospora andromedea – Pinedrops; Right: A handful of forest berries including Streptopus amplexifolius (left, red), Clintonia uniflora (middle, blue), and Rubus pedatus (right, red)
Mycena strobilinoidesPterospora andromedea – PinedropsA handful of forest berries including Streptopus amplexifolius (left, red), Clintonia uniflora (middle, blue), and Rubus pedatus (right, red)

Corydalis scouleri - Scouler's Fumewort Flowers
Corydalis scouleri - Scouler's Fumewort FlowersCorydalis scouleri - Scouler's Fumewort Leaves

Amanita muscaria - Fly Agaric
Amanita muscaria - Fly AgaricAmanita muscaria - Fly Agaric

Gentiana calycosa - Mountain Bog Gentian with Insects
Gentiana calycosa - Mountain Bog Gentian with InsectGentiana calycosa - Mountain Bog Gentian with InsectGentiana calycosa - Mountain Bog Gentian with Insect

Left: Tofielda glutinosa - Sticky False Asphodel; Center: Potentilla flabellifolia - Fan-Leaved Cinquefoil; Right: Aster alpigenus submerged in water
Tofielda glutinosa - Sticky False AsphodelPotentilla flabellifolia - Fan-Leaved CinquefoilAster alpigenus submerged in water

Pedicularis - Lousewort and Castilleja - Indian Paint Brush in Spray ParkPedicularis - Lousewort and Castilleja - Indian Paint Brush in Spray ParkPedicularis - Lousewort and Castilleja - Indian Paint Brush in Spray Park

Lagopus leucura – White-tailed Ptarmigan and Empetrum nigum – CrowberryLagopus leucura – White-tailed Ptarmigan and Empetrum nigum – CrowberryLagopus leucura – White-tailed Ptarmigan and Empetrum nigum – Crowberry

Cicindela depressula – Dispirited Tiger Beetle in Spray Park. Thanks to reader cicindela who pointed this out.
Cicindela depressula – Dispirited Tiger Beetle in Spray Park.Cicindela depressula – Dispirited Tiger Beetle in Spray Park.

Left: Lupinus lepidus var. lobbii – Dwarf lupine on pumice and scoria; Center: Melanoplus femurrubrum?; Right: Saxifraga tolmiei – Tolmie’s Saxifrage
Lupinus lepidus var. lobbii – Dwarf lupine on pumice and scoriaMelanoplus femurrubrumSaxifraga tolmiei – Tolmie’s Saxifrage

Left: Mount Rainier from Eagle's Cliff Lookout; View from Spray Park Looking North


Left: View Looking Up Flett Glacier Toward Mount Rainier with Echo Rock; Right: View Up Flett Glacier Looking Toward Mount Rainier with Observation RockView Looking Up Flett Glacier Toward Mount Rainier with Echo RockUp Flett Glacier Looking Toward Mount Rainier with Observation Rock

Left: View Toward Ptarmigan Ridge West and Tillicum Point; Right View Northwest from Spray Park
View Toward Ptarmigan Ridge West and Tillicum PointRight View Northwest from Spray Park

Left: View from Below Observation Rock, looking north over Spray Park; Right: Echo RockView from Below Observation RockEcho Rock

Left: Ochotona princeps - American Pika; Right: Topo map showing the start and finish of the Spray Park hike
Ochotona princeps - American PikaTopo map showing the start and finish of the Spray Park hike