Four weeks had gone by since I started my new job and I hadn't done a big hike yet. I had thought about doing one each weekend. It was prime hiking season after all. But something always came up. The weather would be perfect during the week and then switch to "afternoon thunderstorms" for the weekend. Now that I was a working man, I was reluctant to make the effort to get up super early and invest an entire day for a hike when the weather might be good.
Another problems was that with so much snow this past winter trails were still buried well into July. One place I thought about going back to was Mt. Rainier Nationaly Park. Although we had good weather during our trip in July we were severely limited because few trails were open. But even in August most of the high trails were still snow covered. A good example is Shriner Peak, a hike that Sandy and I had done on my birthday (July 1) a few years ago. This year it was still snow covered the second week of August. And to be honest, starting my new job took a lot of energy so by the time the weekend came around sleeping in sounded pretty good. Putting it all together, I hadn't done a big hike yet. Even when Sandy took a two week trip to Asia and I was on my own, I stayed home the first weekend that she was gone. For the last weekend before she came back the forecast was iffy. But I finally decided to go do something on Sunday. Since we have a big trip planned in September there wouldn't be much hiking after this weekend. It was now or never.
I got a very early start to try to beat the afternoon thunderstorms and drove up to Stanley. As it started to get light as I was driving to Stanley I could see that the weather was uncertain. It wasn't solid overcast but there was quite a bit of cloud. There was nothing for it but to keep going and see if the during the day the clouds would dissipate or get worse. Because of the uncertain weather I decided to do one of my old favorite hikes, Sawtooth Lake. I also couldn't take too long since Laney was by herself in the house. With at least five hours of driving for the round trip, plus hiking time, Laney would be trapped in the house for ten hours or more. I figured that by the time I got home she would have cramps from having her legs crossed for so long. So Sawtooth Lake was a good choice. I have probably done this hike twenty times. I knew exactly how long it would take and wouldn't expect any surprises.
The weather was clearing as I hiked up the trail and after an hour I started to get some good views of Alpine Peak. It looked like the weather would be at least ok. Usually I am really fussy about the weather. I am not just worried about getting rained on. I like blue skies and bright sunshine so that the mountains look their best and I get lots of good photos. But I have done this hike so many times that I have a fairly complete set of pictures from past trips. So the few pictures that I did take were of more unusual views.
There was one other potential problem besides the weather. Because of the heavy snowmelt, rivers were running high. There is one creek that needs to be crossed below the last hill to Alpine Lake. It had been tricky to cross on a previous trip in 2008. This year could be worse because of high stream flows. But when I reached the creek I found that the Forest Service had cut some logs and made a really nice bridge. No problemo.
There was one good thing about the late snowmelt - the wildflowers were really in bloom. For the second half of August I would say the wildflowers were equivalent to their peak in the first week of July or so. They put on quite a colorful show. Unfortunately Sandy wasn't along. She is the family expert on flora. So I could only identify obvious ones like Indian Paintbrush and Lupine. But there was quite a variety. Monet would have loved this hike.
It was clouding up when I reached Sawtooth Lake so I didn't stay long. I got a few pictures and then was losing the light. I decided to hurry back since I knew Laney would be anxious for me to get home. I hadn't eaten all day so lunch in Stanley before heading home sounded really good. But with a strong sense of duty I decided to wait until I got home. I was just hoping Laney would appreciate my sacrifice. Unfortunately on the drive home there was a pickup pulling a huge trailer that broke down right on a tight curve on Highway 55 just south of Banks. It took me an hour and a half to go three miles. So much for all my hurry. When I got home though Laney didn't seem too worried. She was more anxious to get her dinner than to go out for a doggie bathroom break. I guess I was projecting. Ten hours would be tough for an old guy like me.