It took us a few days to get up here. We stopped for 2 days near Yakima to cover chores and write and upload, and as a way to break-up the drive. It’s another 160 miles to Winthrop, which is about 40 miles outside the National Park. There didn’t seem to be a lot of choices for camping near town – and we wanted to for a couple of days while we waited out the busy weekend. I was lucky to find a space available at Pine Near RV Park, just off the main road through town. We’d stayed here in 2016 a couple weeks later than we are here now. Big difference. Back then the town was nearly deserted. Now it is still in full autumn tourist mode. The RV park is pretty nice as these places go. We were placed in a 62’ back-in site on the end of a little bluff so that we looked out over a green lawn where deer regularly grazed each morning and night.
We had a few chores left over to do while here, and definitely needed to do more research on the trails we want to hike while in the park. There will be no cell/internet once we leave town, so we need to download everything we might want before we leave.
There are several forest service campgrounds much closer to the areas we want to hike. We can cut off a big chunk of travel time, pay a lot less ($6 instead of $44), and enjoy a more rustic scene – if they are not filled up. We wanted to ride up on Saturday in the RAV to check them out, and maybe do a short walk or two, and move to one on Sunday.We set out late morning to scope out Klipchuck and Lone Fir campgrounds. Kilpchuck is lower in elevation at 2,900’ than Lone Fir at 3,500’, but Lone Fir is another 6 miles closer to our hikes. Nights are getting quite cool at even 2000’, so we chose Klipchuck. Both camps had plenty of larger spaces we could fit in, and both had some sites quite open so that our solar panels would be of help. The other deciding factor was that as one goes deeper into to the valley and mountains, it gets wetter and wetter. Often, when it is sunny and hot in Winthrop, it is raining in the mountains. Where we camped is decidedly sunnier and warmer. Neither camp was full on Saturday, so we were set for Sunday.
That left the rest of the day to get a sense of how autumn color was progressing. We first drove up through Washington Pass to an incredible Viewpoint overlooking Liberty Bell Mountain and the entire area. There is a nice little overlook hike that follows along a precipitous ledge for a time, before bending back through a lovely forested area.I could see from here that the autumn color had only affected the lower growing shrubs and some trees. We were told the Larch trees were beginning to change at the higher elevations, but here there was little evidence of it having started. I did see some changing in other areas though.Looking back down the canyon back toward Winthrop. These clouds hung over the mountains and showered all day. Back in Winthrop, it is sunny and very warm. Here, cold and wet.
We lingered all along the path as the light over the scene was constantly changing. An occasional shower would roll through the canyon, sometimes sprinkling us. When a larger squall came through, we retreated to the car and resorted to lunch and coffee. It was just so nice and frosty out on this final day of spring that we didn’t want to end our day yet. We drove on to the Maple Pass trailhead that we will be attempting on Monday. Instead of hiking the 7 plus mile, 2000’ elevation gain loop trail to the pass, we would do the Rainy Lake stroll of about 2 miles round trip that leaves from the same trailhead.This paved walk is flat and easy. It winds through typical rain forest vegetation, but I found some really nice compositions of moss on trees and ferns just starting to change color.Rainy Lake was living up to its name this day. As we reached the end of the trail is a pretty nice view of the lake in a steep bowl surrounding it on 3 sides. Up there in the clouds on the ridge is where we will be hiking on Monday.The light was really flat because of the heavy overcast at the viewpoint. I was hoping we would get a sun break, but it got darker as more clouds moved in. Looking down instead I found a really cool effect of the raindrop ripples in the crystal clear shoreline. I may like this image best of all so far. The showers were turning to steady rain as we left the parking lot, headed back to camp in Winthrop. As we got out of the mountains, the sunglasses came out and we were in shorts minutes after arriving in camp.
Next post will be about our Maple Pass Hike.