Faraway Rock

Showtime at Mazama

Mazama Ridge is in prime wildflower conditions. I had loftier goals for this day but the weather forecast didn’t come close to materializing. Though dry, the mountain was wrapped in clouds the entire day with only two brief windows of visibility. On my way to Mazama Ridge, I made a quick stop at Silver Falls along the Ohanapecosh River:

Silver Falls along the Ohanapecosh River
Ohanapecosh River before the plunge off of Silver Falls
I arrived at the Reflection Lakes area and geared up. A bit of a breeze made conditions feel more like fall than summertime and the clouds were persistent at about 5,300 feet. The damaged log footbridge at the base of the climb up to Faraway Rock washed downstream so it’s actually safer to cross now. Flowers were mostly spent around the Reflection Lakes and up to Faraway Rock.

North of the rock, the wildflowers come into prime. As many people have predicted & discussed, the wildflowers this year are “normal” at best and nowhere near the show or density of last year. Still, I was pleasantly surprised at what I discovered. Flowers along the ridge were at peak conditions and hadn’t begun to degrade. In fact, the upper third of the ridge still had some flowers coming up. This is definitely the week to visit & experience.

First meadow - Mazama Ridge
Lupine in bloom - Mazama Ridge
Indian Paintbrush framed by False Hellebore leaves
Lupine and False Hellebore
Path to upper meadows - Mazama Ridge
Foggy meadow - Mazama Ridge
Fog and flowers - Mazama Ridge
More elevation, more flowers - Mazama Ridge
I did make the brief side trip down to the junction with the Skyline Trail and the creek that flows from Sluiskin Falls. The flowers here are also glorious with a lot of valerian in bloom. Along the creek, pink monkeyflower can be found in pockets.

Pink Monkeyflower near the Skyline Trail
Pink Monkeyflower near the Skyline Trail
Streamside Indian Paintbrush
On my way back to Reflection Lakes, I hoped that the clouds might clear out but they did not. I did come across a black bear working the margins of one of the meadows.

Late Afternoon and the Tatoosh Range
Black bear - Mazama Ridge
False Hellebore - Mazama Ridge

After that, I was a bit more vocal on my solo hike out. I stopped once again at Faraway Rock since sunset was only minutes away. There was no direct sunset light but it was being reflected off of the various clouds which made for some interest. The full moon had also risen a fair amount into the sky which created some photo opportunities with the east end of the Tatoosh Range.

Clouds drifting through the Tatoosh Range
Full moon rising above Stevens Peak and the Tatoosh Range
Full moon over the summit of Stevens Peak
Unbelievably, as I got ready and packed up my camera for the final hike out, a red fox came trotting up the trail right next to me and proceeded to examine the area around me. I was stunned to see this and thought about dragging out my DSLR for a second. I figured it would be gone by the time I was ready to shoot so I grabbed my point & shoot instead. I only snapped a few quick stills before I switched to shooting video which I have also posted below. I’d recommend watching the video. So much cooler than the photo!

Red fox at Faraway Rock

Red Fox – Mount Rainier National Park from Steve Cole on Vimeo.

The day wasn’t what I had hoped for but was still filled with several memorable moments!

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