Outdoors

Shriner Peak is bear grass heaven with remarkable Mount Rainier views – sometimes

Dressing for Northwest hiking success

The U.S. Forest Service offers tips for dressing for successful hiking in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Northwest Washington state.
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The U.S. Forest Service offers tips for dressing for successful hiking in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Northwest Washington state.

It’s not too late to see some spectacular wildflowers. But it’s a bit of a challenge.

The Shriner Peak Trailhead in the southeast corner of Mt. Rainier National Park is about two hours and 45 minutes from Tri-Cities.

This amazing trail is not for the faint of heart. It’s a moderately difficult hike, 8 miles round trip, with a 3,400-foot gain and loss.

That’s almost 1,000 feet of elevation per mile, nonstop with a few steeper sections. That’s like going up and down four Badger Mountain Canyon Trails in one day.

It is a noteworthy experience very much worth the effort.

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Clouds and mist obscure the view on Shriner Peak. Courtesy of Paul Krupin

This hike starts in some younger old growth forest just above Ohanapecosh, with some trees that are several feet in diameter, and then rises steadily to the heights.

The trail is lush and there are birds singing and the smell is heavenly. It rises and rises and finally leaves the forest, entering steeper slopes with a variety of rocks and interesting geology.

The upper section is bear grass heaven, with red paintbrush and blue and pink penstemons.

When you get to the top, there is a real operating fire lookout that is a listed historic landmark, with a 360-degree view of the mountains. The wildflowers are incredible.

On the way up we heard a mysterious, low thrumming sounds several times. We found out what it was on the ridge top when we got lucky and encountered a female blue grouse with four baby chicks.

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Bear Grass covers the upper exposed slope of Shriner Peak. Courtesy of Paul Krupin

And it is astounding some of the people you might meet along the way.

We ran into Langdon Cook and his son from Seattle. He is one of the Pacific Northwest’s’ premier expert authors on edible plants and wildlife, author of “The Mushroom Hunters” and the new book out titled “Upstream: Searching for Wild Salmon, from River to Table”.

Beautiful valley views

On a clear day you get to sit down to rest on the ridge and have lunch, and gaze down the green glacial valleys toward Ohanapecosh.

The ridge line south offers layers and layers of mountain ranges as it stretches toward the Goat Rocks and Mt. Adams to the south.

To the west you have a head-on view directly at Mount Rainier from this unique and remarkable perch on the east side of Mt. Rainier National Park.

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View of Mt. Rainier on a clear, blue sky day from Shriner Peak. Courtesy of Paul Krupin

But it’s really important to check the weather forecast and prepare for the likely conditions you are going to experience before you leave town.

We left Tri-Cities on a clear morning without a cloud in the sky and were thinking this is going to be a warm, glorious day with blue skies.

Beware of the elements

But then, when we got over White Pass, Mother Nature reminded us, “Oh, this is the Pacific Northwest and we are up high in the mountains.”

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Fire lookout in the clouds on Shriner Peak. Courtesy of Paul Krupin

And the mountains were shrouded in mist and hidden by a thick blanket of clouds. No views today.

Lesson learned — be prepared and bring everything you need: gloves, hats, jackets, and clothes for rain and even snow are advised. The elevation at the top of Shriner Peak is 5,834 feet above sea level and, yes, it can even snow in July.

If you go, dress for the conditions, wear good hiking shoes, bring hiking poles and fill your pack with food, water and clothes. Remember to bring the ten essentials.

This is also one of those places where cars have been broken into. It is recommended that you don’t leave anything valuable in your car. Take everything important with you in your pack, even your car registration and insurance cards.

You might even leave a handwritten note on the dashboard that says “Smile, you’re on candid hidden camera.”

If you leave at 6 a.m., head west on I-82, make one rest stop in Yakima or Naches, and then follow Highway 12 up and over White Pass, make a right turn and go 8 miles on Highway 123, with a little luck, you can probably beat the crowds and get a parking spot at the trailhead at 9:30 a.m.

There’s more parking 200 feet up the road if you don’t get one of the three trailhead spots.

Paul Krupin is an avid local outdoor enthusiast and a member of the Intermountain Alpine Club www.imacnw.org . He can be reached at pjkrupin@gmail.com.
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