Everybody is feeling a lot better after a good night's sleep. We wake early enough to see pink morning sunlight kiss the snow on top of Mt Rainier. A beautiful sight but also a sign that there is smoke in the air from forest fires in Canada.
We pack up and have breakfast as quickly as we can so that we can have an earlyish start for the ~9 miles (ca. 14 km) to Mystic Camp, our camp for the night.
🌅 Sunrise Trailhead
With the packed backpacks in our car and the rest of our gear shoved in the trunk, we drive up 2,000 ft (ca. 610 m) to park the car in the overnight section of the parking lot at the Sunrise Trailhead. Some last minute adjustments, a pit stop at a proper restroom, and we're off.
The Sourdough Ridge Trail is pretty with fabulous views of Mt Rainier. Plenty of day hikers too. After a short climb, the trail levels out, and we're all cruising.
The first 3.5 miles (5.63 km) to the saddle below Skyscraper Mtn are fairly level. Casper surprises us by going ahead on his own to the saddle. He is crushing it!
⛰ Skyscraper Mountain Saddle
As we descent towards Granite Creek Camp for a lunch stop, we're leaving the alpine meadows behind and enter a lush green forest with plenty of blueberries.
We boil some noodles for lunch at Granite Creek Camp halfway down the descent to the West Fork of the White River while listening to the last book in the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series: The Long-Lost Home. We started this series on the John Muir Trail to make hiking more appealing to Casper. Finishing the series on another long hike links these hikes in yet another way. We're already reverting to wolfish speech. 🐺
💧West Fork of the White River
The 2,150 ft (ca. 655 m) drop in elevation over the 3 mile (ca. 5 km) descent to West Fork of the White River from the saddle is hard on our legs. We have yet to find our hiking form. It is especially hard on Casper. To help him out, I strapped his backpack to mine. Without a load on his back, he is a different person. From dragging behind he turns into the front-runner.
The river marks the lowest point for the day. From here on we climb to Mystic Camp. At the end of our loop, we have to cross the West Fork of the White River again, lower down where there may or may not be a bridge. We have been warned about that crossing by the rangers. A hiker drowned there a month earlier when he tried to cross without a bridge in place. There should be a crew out building a new bridge, but whether they will complete the bridge before we come through is unknown.