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Naches Peak Loop Trail

August 24, 2009

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Saturday I roused myself, beyond all reasonable expectations for my knees and ankles, to the tempo of the day, which was perfect for hiking. My husband and I have not hiked up Little Mt. Si in four years, and this was the day of all promised days that we would do it again. But then we decided instead to seek new scenery, and selected Greenwater Lakes from our book of hiking trails in the Seattle area.

We always enjoy the drive through Auburn and Enumclaw, with its contrasting horse farms and casinos. Just past Greenwater, we took FR 70 8.6 miles, turned up FR 7033, and discovered that we lived in an America where permits are required to enter such places as the trailhead to Greenwater Lakes, and such permits had to be procured in Greenwater, miles behind us. Miffed, we decided go on to beautiful Lake Tipsoo, where we recalled a free parking lot and no requirement of any permit. Happily, these qualities of mercy have not been strained since our last visit about four years ago.

Placidly nestled beneath Naches Peak, between Chinook Pass and Cayuse Pass, Lake Tipsoo is within the bounds of Mt. Rainier National Park. Miraculously, it remains a fee-free site. Even more miraculously, the restrooms are fairly clean. Lake Tipsoo is a sweet, shallow tarn, and a fairly even, arthritis-friendly path circumscribes it. But it’s only about half a mile around the Lake, and the park sign said the Naches Peak Loop Trail, which we had not explored on our previous trip, was about 3.5 miles, and I knew I could make it. My secret plan, should I become tired or sore of hip, knee, ankle, or foot, was to make sure that such an unseemly occurrence did not occur until we were more than halfway in, so that it would be more practical to complete our hike than to turn back.

The Naches Peak Loop Trail is a section of the Pacific Crest Trail. Part of the loop lies within the boundaries of Mt. Rainier National Park, and part is situated within the William O. Douglas Wilderness Area. The highest point on the trail is about 5800 feet. I found the trail very easy, and I never needed to implement my secret plan, but simply tramped along the entire loop, stopping only to gasp at the incredible beauty of Dewey Lake and the craggy peaks around it, and some small tarns along the way.

Marguerites festooned the meadows, and some strange plants my husband termed “hobbit-heads” were prolific. The rugged, craggy alpine scenery was spectacular, especially for such a mild hike. We completed the hike in under two hours, including our perambulation around Lake Tipsoo and the walk up to the Naches Peak Loop trail head. Very uncharacteristically, I was too entranced to think of taking many photos, and somehow managed not to think of taking any of Lake Tipsoo.

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The day was perfect, warm, and clear, and I walked more easily on the varied terrain of the trail than I do on my own kitchen floor. Something about using my joints and muscles with less repetitive regularity has always been extremely helpful.

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Your hungry hikers capped off a fine day with dinner at the 410 CafĂ© in Buckley, where the cooking “is just like your mother used to make.” I will vouch for the truth of this without further comment. I had a steak and french fries, which I am not supposed to eat, and felt perfectly wonderful. (We have never tried Big Daddy’s in Auburn, but it’s more photogenic than the 410.)

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