St Andrews Park, MRNP (Aug 31, 2013)

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st_andrews_pk_coverConditions: Day hike & bike ride
Gear: nothing special
Map: USGS Mount Wow, USGS Mt Rainier West
Area: Mount Rainier, Longmire
Reference: Backpacking Washington
Stats: 22
mi, 5610' gain (round trip) (includes almost 9 miles on a bike)

I was part way up West Side Road a few weeks ago when I hiked up Gobbler's Knob. Today the goal was to bike up the road just a bit further, about a 1.3mi down the other side of Round Pass and then day hike up to St Andrews and Klapatche Parks. I knew it was going to be a long and tiring day...

It's just under 4 miles of road walking to Round Pass. I hate walking roads. Hate it. So, since bikes are allowed, that was the plan. It's really the only feasible way of making this trip a day trip. I could have walked 22 miles but why? Much more fun biking...especially the downhill part!

I got a bit of a late start. I was at the TH a bit before 9am and by 9am...I was pushing my mountain bike around the gate and starting my ride up the road. Its about 3.9mi to Round Pass on the road (1162' gain). The pass and the Marine Memorial just beyond was a nice place for a short break. Then the short, all downhill, ride from the pass to the South Puyallup TH (elev 3558').

The trail starts out mossy, dark, full of big trees and lined with giant mushrooms. The sound of the South Puyallup River to the left of me was loud. I was wondering what the condition of the trails was after the big rainstorm two days ago. There was one other bike secured near the TH but I never saw the other hiker. Just before the campground, about 1.5mi in, I ran into Bonnie, a volunteer ranger with the park. We chatted a bit. She let me know that the log over N. Mowich (on the Wonderland) north of Klapatche was out due to the rain. Sounds like they had a crew in there working to put a new foot log in place quickly. As a result of the missing foot log, traffic coming from the north (counter clockwise) was light. Seems like crossing the creek without the log was not only challenging, but hikers who did it got soaked. Hopefully by now the foot log is replaced.

I reached the junction with the Wonderland about 1.6 miles in. I headed left, north and crossed a nice bridge over the South Puyallup River. The river was chocolate colored from the recent rains. From here, the trail starts a steady climb up the ridge gaining 1360' in about 1.75mi. The trail here is a bit overgrown in spots but overall in great shape.

One on the ridge, the in your face views of Rainier start. It's a much less seen perspective of the mountain and from this side the two summits (Liberty Cap and Columbia Crest) are both very distinct.

The trail continues to climb a bit as it heads easterly on the ridge top before is starts to drop as it heads north into St Andrews Park. You are pretty much out of the trees at this point and the views up to Tookaloo Spire and Tookaloo Rock and the looming pass of Mt Rainier are pretty much in your face. I stopped for a bit at St Andrews Lake and it was here that I saw the first other hikers on the trail. Time to eat a bit, check my map and check the time. I has set a hard 2:30pm turn around time. I had a long trip out and didn't want to be riding downhill on my bike in the dark. It was just after 1pm when I got to St Andrews Lake.

Klapatche Park was another 3/4mi from St Andrews. I had some time so I headed off. Just below Aurora Peak there is a nice viewpoint to the head of N Puyallup River and up the exposed western flanks of the mountain. I'd never seen this perspective of the mountain. It was hard to take my eyes off it. I continued on towards Klapatche Park. I hit the highpoint on the southern edge of the park but chose not to continue to drop down to the park itself. It was 1:15pm and was starting to get late. My legs were already tired. I didn't know how I'd manage to bike back up to Round Pass from the TH. I lingered a bit, then decided to head back to St Andrews Lake for a proper lunch. I had the place to myself for a bit before another hiker appears. Nice guy...it was his bike I saw secured at the TH. He had locked it there, walked the rest of West Side Road and then the North Puyallup Motor Nature Trail to it's end then picked up the Wonderland Trail there to hike up (south) down into Klapatche Park. He was making a big loop for an extended weekend. I was interested in his trip but can't imagine walking nearly 6.7 miles of road. Ouch. We traded taking photos of each other at the lake and then it was time for me to start my trek out.

On the hike out I did pass 3 other hikers headed for Klapatche Park for the night. The trip down was quiet. This side of the park really sees a fraction of the visitation of the other sides. The road closure does have an impact on the visitation. In no time I was back down to the bridge, the South Puyallup River looking muddier/browner than it had in the morning. Then the last 1.6 miles of trail out to the TH and my waiting bike.

I was back at the TH just after 4pm and I quickly tried to sort my gear out trading boots for tennis shoes, strapping trekking poles to my day pack, tying my boots to my bike rack... Then I got on the bike and tried biking uphill. It was only 1.3 miles I said to myself and it's only about 360' gain. I was tired. I managed to bike about 2/10 of a mile and then called it quits and walked the bike the rest of the way to the pass. I knew from my previous trip to the area that the nearly 4 miles bike ridge from Round Pass to the gate and my waiting car would go quickly...about 25 minutes so at the pass...I was on my bike and feet up...coasting downhill. There were just a few short stretches where the road levels out and I had to peddle a bit.

I was glad to see Dirty Gertie waiting for me on the other side of the pass...she needs a bath tomorrow I said to myself...

Notes: Fall color is starting (the gentians are out). Some bugs out, mostly horse/deer flies.
 
St Andrews Park Slideshow

st_andrews_pk_map
(click on map to view a larger version)

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Copyright Janet M. Putz
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