Early when scheduling our trip, we had our pelagic out of Westport scheduled on our second day in Washington. However, when that outing was moved to Sunday, we were left with an extra day in our schedule. After quick review of driving times, we decided we could swing by Mount Rainier National Park. It was agreed that this would not count as our “Mount Rainier Trip” since it was only going to be about a day and a half but, that this would be a “bonus” park for our Olympic NP trip.
Busting out of Sea-Tac we made, Mount Rainier (National Park lifer #31) early in the afternoon. Rain pelted us the entire way to the visitor center. A short respite allowed us to pitch our tent and go for a short hike on a portion of the Wonderland Trail. This also gave us about 15 seconds of the 30 total we’d actually get to see Mount Rainier with out its cloud veil on. The trail was great and we made it back to our car right as the rain picked up. A bowl of soup and a pot roast later, we were in our tent.
Enjoying the time zone difference, we woke up early to get on the Skyline Trail. Once again, the visibility was pretty low but the fog created an interesting sense of closeness with landscape around you. Not more than 30 minutes on the trail, a group of 5 Sooty Grouse would establish their own sense of closeness. For a bird that has little natural defense other than its camouflage, these birds could not care in the least bit that hikers were walking 5 feet from them. True to the term, these cripplers froze Aly and I in place for at lease 15 minutes. With the sound muffled by the fog, we were able to hear their low hoots as they grazed on the mountain plants.
It’s a good thing those birds gave such great views because, in what became an unwelcome custom for this trip, birds were few and far between. However, the ones that were seen, were quite confiding.
We started looping back around for our return trip as we passed several large groups of hikers on their way to Camp Muir. I can only imagine the commotion there as no fewer than 40 backpackers, replete with rented ice axes, crampons, and $600 hiking books passed us as we lumbered around looking for rosy-finches. Although, Aly and I both admitted, jealously, that we had brought our mountaineering gear and were headed up the mountain. With lifers to stave off any disappointment, we returned to our car and our bonus time in Mount Rainier came to an end.
We drove the two hours to Westport which gave us plenty of daylight to snoop around the rocky spits for shorebirds. Feeling a bit premature, we found a few lifer alcids hanging around as well as a collection of cormorants. Getting ready to turn back, I spotted a few smaller birds hopping around the green mat of algae at the base of one of the rocks and picked up my last lifer for the day, a Black Turnstone. A quick dinner of halibut and cod on the dock and we were in bed, hoping to take advantage of the time zone difference one more time, so we’d be full of energy for the next day’s pelagic boat tour.