Seattle Park via Knapsack Pass (Sep 1-2, 2012)

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seattle_park_coverConditions: overnight backpack
Gear:
Map: USGS Mowich Lake
Area: Mt Rainier
Reference:
Stats: 10.91mi, 3192' gain (for the 2-day loop trip)


The trip also became known as the trip by the park, near the park, to the park, near the park, through the park in the park.

Knapsack Pass to Spray Park has become sort of an annual pilgrimage. This year Gwen joined me and we did a version of the trip that had us continue on from Spray Park down toward Mist Park and over to Seattle Park with a plan to spend the night.

First stop was at the Carbon River Ranger Station where we hoped to get lucky and get a backcountry permit. This is required to do the camping. Gwen mentioned she saw that there are only two permits each allowed for Spray Park, Mist Park and Seattle Park so we got lucky getting a permit on a holiday weekend. It may have helped that we were the first to show up as the ranger station opened on Sunday.

After getting our permit we backtracked our way out Glacier Rd to the junction with Mowich Lk Road which we then took all the way to the TH (elevation ~4951'). We were one of the last to be able to pull into the parking area, the lot being full at just before 8am. It was evident from the cars parked along the road as we drove in that there was quite a bit of overflow the previous day. We did a final check of our packs and then we hiked through the Mowich Lk CG (empty?) and over to the ranger cabin where we found the sign to the old trail marked "End of Maintained Trail". The trail up to Knapsack is really easy to follow. Though not maintained any longer it's in better shape that some maintained trails I've been on. The first part is steep, a couple of minor trees to make our way around, and then at a little over a mile up and 5400', the trail opens up. The trail makes a direct route up to the pass. The basin is gorgeous. Fall color starting. No sign of the goats I've seen before. The lenticular cloud over mountain's summit made sense as we were briefly pelted by hail on our way to the pass.

I love arriving at Knapsack Pass (2.1mi, 6177'). You get there and start to round the corner and Rainier just looms in front of you.  We had a short trip into Seattle Park so we took a chance at the pass to take a short break and enjoy the views. Then it was time to head down and traverse over around the back side of Mt Pleasant. The snow this year seems less than last year so finding the boot path on the back side was pretty easy. We headed down to the rock plateau below the pass and decided it would be a good place to have lunch (2.5mi, 6000', about 1/2 mile from the pass). The back side of the pass is usually pretty deserted. While we did see a couple of day hikers out doing the loop, it was still very quiet considering how close we still were to both Mowich Lk and Spray Park.

After lunch we followed the boot patch the goes over the east ridge of Mt Pleasant and then followed it until it joins up with the Wonderland Trail in Spray Park (3.7mi, 6156'). The we continued on the trail down towards Mist Park and then it was a short bit of off trail travel over to Spray Park. We nestled into a nice quiet campsite for a surprisingly cool and bug free evening. We made a short trip up a knoll to get a better view of the mountain and then it was time for dinner. The moon was close to a full moon. I was tempted to holler over to Gwen to turn off the porch light as some point during the night.

In the morning it was night to be able to sleep in some. The dew from the previous night had frozen on the tents. We took our time eating and packing given the sun time to rise and dry off the tents. We pack up and then retraced our track back to the upper reaches of Spray Park. We were there early, around 11am and the place was nearly deserted. I'd never been the SP when it was so quiet. Lots of flowers still around and we took our time enjoying the views and taking photos. Since we were doing the loop we headed down through Spray Park and out the bottom end, skirting Spray Falls and then eventually back at the car.

Flowers were still going but on the down side. Snow - some snow on the back side of Knapsack Pass, also some sown once we left Spray Park and headed down towards Mist Park. Nothing too worrisome. All were pretty short stretches of snow. Bugs - a few skeeters but nothing bad. Crowds - I counted about 150 hikers between the lower and of Spray Park and the TH...all were headed up. Yikes. There were also 178 cars parked in the TH lot and down along the side of the road about 3/4 of a mile. Double yikes. Rangers were out checking permits.
 
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