Norse Peak (Jul 5, 2020)

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norse_pk_coverConditions: day hike
Gear: nothing special
Map: USGS Norse Peak
Area: Crystal Mtn, WA (Mt Rainier)
Reference: 100 Hikes in Washington's South Cascades & Olympics
Stats: 10.17mi, 3119' gain (round trip)

I was looking for an interesting trip. A friend posted some photos of Norse Peak...the flowers... That got me interested. I had only been up Norse Peak once before...with the top being a snow scramble. Things had really chanced in those 20 years. There was a re-reroute of portions of the lower trail to maintain the habitat's integrity...what does that mean? Possibly the trail in the abandoned sections was through steep terrain and the newer trail was less prone to erosion??? A bit higher up the area was swept by a wildfire in 2017. So while my memories of that trip 20 years ago are of a forested's now open. You don't have to wait til you are nearly at the top to get the views. Better yet...the burned area has opened the area up to a spectacular wildflower show.

The trail starts at a parking area off Hwy 410. From here, you walk up Gold Hill Road 0.25mi to get to the trailhead (4033'). The lower section of the trail is forested offering lots of shade. I was on the lookout for saprophytes on the way up. It's the right place and right time of year. luck.

I reached the start of the burn area at about 2.15mi from the car (5399'). That's where the real show started. It was absolutely amazing. Tons and tons of lupine and beargrass. The trail climbs pretty steady the whole way. Not super steep...just relentless. I found lots of places to stop along the way and just take in the views. This was my first real long trip since my foot surgery and the foot seemed to be doing great.

From the maps it appears there is a lower trail to reach the peak (junction being at about 6400', 3.89mi from the car). I found it, there was a large tree down over the trail and higher up I could see a snow patch with boot prints over it but the trail seemed less used. So I figured it couldn't hurt to just stay on the wider trail. Lots of switchbacks through open meadows...lots of flowers.

Eventually the trail gets close to the ridgeline.  There were a couple of narrow sections of trail, some with looser gravel...not exactly the kind of place you'd want to slip. They were short, I managed my way though them. Eventually I found myself at the summit and took a sit spot at a protected camp site (6856', 5.07mi from the car). I had the summit to myself for a short time...then several other groups showed up but everyone was pretty good about keeping good social distances. I stopped only long enough for a quick lunch and a few photos and then it was time to head back down.

I took my time on the way down. The knees don't handle downhill the best anymore. Taking a slower pace meant I could really enjoy the colorful burn area the second time through it.

I was on the lookout for saprophytes again on the way down. I was feeling a bit defeated that I hadn't spotted anything. Then, at the last junction before the trailhead (junction with the Halfcamp trail) I spotted a bit of bright yellow. It seemed unusual so I stopped to take a look. Just a few feet down the Halfcamp trail I spotted what looked like spotted coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata). Problem was it was bright yellow and that had me confused. I got home, looked it up, and sure enough...that's one of the colors for spotted coralroot.

This trip is going into the early summer quiver. It's definitely worth a return trip.
Norse Peak Slideshow

(click on map to view a larger version)

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Copyright Janet M. Putz
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