We signed our fourth grader up for his free National Park Pass as soon as he was eligible, and we’ve already put it to use! Last weekend we headed to Mt. Rainier for a hike up Dege Peak.
The trip almost didn’t happen though. There was a lot of smoke in the area from wildfires burning east of the Cascades, but based on the webcams at Rainier and Crystal, I thought we’d be mostly above the smoke. Then there was the wind. I was not expecting it to be so windy down there, but when we hit Enumclaw, we were greeted by ~30mph winds. And finally, anytime I visit Rainier on a weekend, I wonder what the crowds will be like. We hit the tool booth on the way up to Sunrise at 9:21 and only waited 7 minutes to get through.
As I had hoped, the smoke was thinning as we pulled into a parking spot at the visitor center. We hit the bathrooms, applied sunscreen (which was very eager to come out of the bottle with the elevation pressure change!), and set out on the hike to Dege Peak.
The trail itself isn’t anything to write home about. There’s a bit of elevation gain at the beginning and the end, but otherwise it’s a straight dusty trail along a ridge. The incredible views are what make it a winner. Heading to the peak, Rainier is at your back, but there are still magnificent views to both sides, and it would have been even better without the smoke. Coming back, Rainier is always in your face. I had to consciously pay attention to the trail because walking while staring at the mountain is a combo built for tripping.
We didn’t stay on the peak very long because the wind was so intense. Elijah was nervous he was going to get blown off, and while that’s an exaggeration, we were all holding onto our hats, and we had our snack somewhere else. There’s not a lot of room up there, but the high winds kept people from loitering too long and we got our fill of the unobstructed view.
There are so many other hikes that I’d love to do down at Rainier. It’s a wonderful gift to have that national park within a two-hour drive of our house!