Tolmie LO (Jul 4, 2015)

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tolmie_lo_coverConditions: Day hike
Gear: nothing special
Map: USGS Mowich Lake
Area: Mowich Lake, Mount Rainier NP
Reference: Day Hiking Mount Rainier
Stats: 6.49mi, 1643' gain (round trip)

This weather is getting just a little bit nuts. Warm and dry keeps getting warmer and drier. At some point, warm is just too warm for me. Today was another one of those trips. I'm not going to be doing much hiking until this hot and humid weather pattern breaks. Right now...I'd do my happy dance if it would just rain.

Knowing that temps were going to be really warm again I though Tolmie LO might be ideal. It's pretty short and there isn't a whole lot of gain. I knew parking on a major holiday weekend would be challenging so we got an early start, leaving town at 6am and getting to the Tolmie LO trailhead (right before Mowich Lk) about 8:15am. There were a few cars parked here already and I wondered out loud what it would look like when we returned in a few hours.

The trail drops down off the road and follows the west side of Mowich Lk for about .4mi before it veers left (NW) and heads slowly uphill in a nice shaded forest. Down along the lake it was nice to see the filtered sun lighting up the colors of the lake into various shades of turquoise, azure, and blue. There were occasional glimpses of the big mountain in breaks through the trees. When the trail starts uphill it is all in the trees, there were a few flowers out and I was surprised to see a pinesap in full bloom. After leaving the lake the trail continues uphill about .7 mile before reaching the trail junction right before Ipsut Pass. The Wonderland Trail, which we were on, continues to the pass and then drops down the Ipsut Creek drainage through what looked like (at least today) some open slopes with steep switchbacks. We headed up the pass for a short break and found it nice and breezy which was already welcome at 8:45am. We then headed back to the junction and continued on towards Eunice Lk. The trail drops, losing about 250' before heading back uphill to the Lake. Interesting that my GPS track from the lake to the pass and the pass to the bottom of the switchbacks does not match the trail on the USGS quad. I wonder if the trail was rerouted? Then maybe the map is wrong since I don't recall seeing a section where we passed old trail...

We popped out into the open, in meadows filled with wilted lupines, just before Eunice Lk. From the edge of the lake we could see the ridge that the lookout was on. To the right was the Tolmie Pike highpoint, in the middle the lookout, to the left...just a bump but we could see hikers on the trail ahead of us and it looked like that is where the trail gained the ridge.

We rounded the lake and then the trail does a couple of switchback, gains the ridge, and then darts in and out of the trees for a very short while before the LO pops into the open. This was my last lookout within the park boundaries that I hadn't visited yet, the others being Shriner Pike, Fremont LO, and Gobbler's Knob. We arrived and found that the LO was actually opened and manned by a volunteer! Wow! What a treat. We walked the boardwalk, peak spotted (it was a bit hazy but we could clearly see Baker, Glacier, Sloan, Stuart, the peaks of Snoqualmie Pass, and Mt St Helens). The LO volunteer even invited us inside for a look which really was the highlight of my day!!!

We stayed a while enjoying the views and then eventually decided it was time to head down to the lake and take advantage of the warm temps and soak our feet. My only complaint of the day was a group of three clueless hikers we encountered at the LO who didn't know how to keep their voices down and as we were sitting down by the lake we could hear them shouting the whole time they hiked down from the LO to the lake. When they passed us on the trail one had earbuds in and she was singing loudly so the whole basin could hear her. Strange...and rude. Some people are just clueless.

Eventually we put boots back on and hiked back out to the car....and the overflow parking from Mowich Lk had actually reach our trailhead and beyond. Incredible... There must have been a couple hundred cars. Our early arrival had paid off.

Interesting note (at least to me)...the beargrass is at least a month past bloom. There are lots and lots of dried out stalks from the blooms but the are from this year's bloom. The LO volunteer said the hillsides were in bloom quite some time ago. Lots of the columbia lily were already looking pretty withered and most of the lupine was starting to wilt. The lack of snow, the persistently hot temps, and the lack of rain recently really have taken their toll on the flower shows this year.

On drive back home, just outside Wilkeson, Dani was kind enough to pull off the road. With the heat and the windy road I wasn't feeling well. There as another car pulled off at the same spot loading three dogs into their truck. As they drove off Dani panicked when she noticed one of the dogs, a little Yorkie, had been left behind. We eventually found a shelter that was open and able to take the dog. Hopefully the little guy gets reunited with it's owner. The dog was obviously well cared for.
Tolmie LO Slideshow


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Copyright 2013 Janet M. Putz
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