Day 7 – Golden Lakes to Klapatche Park
2250 Feet Elevation Gain
1750 Feet Elevation Loss
Apparently, learning about a bear in our camp just before bed doesn’t make for a restful evening. I woke up several times during the night, absolutely convinced that a bear was outside pawing at my cookware. I had put all my food and garbage and toiletries in my bear bag so I felt reasonably certain that I had nothing smelly in camp. I’ve spilled food on my hiking skirt multiple times so I left it hanging outside on a bush. But still… Let’s just say I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep (although, in the light of morning, I decided those noises must have been the wind).
I was on the trail by 8:00 am, and heading through the alpine meadows of Sunset Park. After a couple of miles, the trail rounded a bend and there was Mt. Rainier. Wow.
Mt. Rainier as seen from Sunset Park in the Morning
Then I headed downhill for 3 miles to the N. Puyallup campsite for a snack and a break. The trail was wide and smooth and not too steep, and so I made good time. Which for me, these days, means just over 2 miles per hour.
The N. Puyallup River as it goes underneath the bridge is quite impressive! The water cascades through a deep gorge in the rocks and plunges to the depths below.
River under the N. Puyallup Bridge
I heard that there was no water at Klapatche Park Campgound, so I loaded up my hydration bladder and water bottle and headed up the hill. Whew! That is one steep-ass hill. Not a good hike for anyone who is afraid of heights, as there were times when it seemed that the path barely clung to the side of the hill.
I had actually read about this particular hill prior to my trip, and it is one of the reasons why I chose to go counter-clockwise. It was a difficult climb, but it would have been brutal on my joints going down. Given the choice, I’d rather save the steepest hills for ascents rather than descents.
One of the many switchbacks heading up to Klapatche
Once I got to the top it was all worth it however. Klapatche Park is stunning. It’s an alpine meadow with a view of the Western side of Mt Rainier located next to a stagnant pond which used to be a lake. I stayed in campsite #1, which had views of the mountain. The other 3 sites all had views off the back of the hill, facing west towards Puget Sound and the sunset.
View from Klapatche at Dusk
While camped at Klapatche, I got to know the neighbors and spent the evening in conversation with them which was a pleasant way to pass the time. They are a father-son duo from Spokane, Bill and Phil. Bill is hoping to hike some or all of the Appalachian Trail next year, and we had lengthy discussions about the merits of various gear. They were more experienced with encountering bears in the wild and helped to calm some of my anxiety. Other hikers reported seeing a mama bear and her two cubs near the Klapatche Campground the previous evening, but we had no bear sightings.
The moon was full last night, and I actually stayed up past 9:00 pm (gasp!) and watched the moon rise over Mt. Rainier. Another glorious evening.