I’ve never been drawn to Mount Rainier like I’m drawn to the North Cascades. I never really knew why, but I think I finally figured it out. I’ve never been there in late summer or fall, my favorite time of year. Turns out, like the North Cascades, Mount Rainier also has many of my favorite things this time of year.
Tolmie Peak Lookout has been on my list to tackle for a while now and I thought it would be a good hike to take Evie on. This time I was right. By now I’ve figured out that all Evie’s problems can simply be solved with a second breakfast. So we fueled up at the trailhead with a mid morning meal and happily set off on the trail.
The way starts out along Mowich Lake with peekaboo views of Mount Rainier. Evie babbled enthusiastically as we stopped to feel the texture of a fern, cedar, and some huckleberry bushes. I spotted a doe through the trees and pointed and whispered look to Evie.
It was quiet. The air was cool, even with the sun shining. The bugs that would have clouded the trail just weeks before have gone into hiding. Baby pink spirea dotted the trail as we reached Eunice Lake. Here we took a nice long break for a snack and a diaper change and chatted with other hikers.
After leaving the lake it was slow going as we stopped frequently for blueberry snacks. I mushed some up with my fingers and fed them to Evie, her first taste of wild mountain blueberries. She squealed with joy and I gave her more. Purple juice dripped down her chin.
I found some blue gentian, my most favorite wildflower, in the meadows by the lake and got down close to show Evie the royal spotted blue. As we climbed the switchbacks toward the lookout I showed her another favorite, fireweed, as the views of Mount Rainier and Lake Eunice became more and more stunning. For the first time in a long time I couldn’t stop taking photos. It was nice to be in a new place with some old favorites.
I have to admit I also enjoyed the accolades I got while hauling my infant to the top of the mountain. I was called brave, strong, impressive. One guy told me he thought he was badass until he saw me carrying up my baby. Another told me I deserve a medal. While I don’t necessarily agree (the mileage, elevation gain, and weight are not all that significant), and I think dad’s deserve the same credit, it did make me feel really good.
I took Evie up onto the deck around the lookout and sat for some lunch with one of the most spectacular views in Mount Rainier National Park. I thought about my first summit hike to Mount Pilchuck and how it was much more like this hike than my hike with Evie to Pilchuck. It felt so fresh and new.
As a parent there are so many things I think I’m in control of, but I know that it is not the case. I wanted so badly for Evie’s first summit to be the same as my own, and for her special places to be the same as mine. But ultimately she will have her own favorite things and places. Maybe her special place will be Mount Rainier. I mean, technically, this is her first true summit hike since we didn’t go up to the lookout on Pilchuck. So which do I tell her was first? Maybe when she is older I will let her decide.
Up by Patricia Ellis Herr
When Herr discovers that her five year old daughter, Alex, enjoys hiking and has the energy to take on big mountains, they decide to climb all forty-eight of New Hampshire’s tallest mountains (dubbed the four thousand footers). Each chapter of the book highlights a lesson learned like: Some Things Will Always Be Beyond Your Control, Some Risks Are Worth Taking, and Enjoy The Journey While It Lasts. This story warmed my heart and gave me inspiration to bring Evie along for all my journeys and learn some lessons on the trail.