By Carol Traulsen
In my quest to fill my life with new experiences, my husband and decided to hike the trail to Myrtle Falls at Mount Rainier. We’ve hiked the trail before in summer and in fall and even when there was a little snow. But this trip was different. Even though it was the end of March there was a lot of snow, more snow than any other time we’ve hiked it. My husband hatched the plan when we were looking for a way to celebrate the 26th anniversary of our first date. He checked the weather and realized it would be the perfect day to hike to the falls and get some wonderful pictures of the snow. We could leave early, have some breakfast, make the hike, then go out to dinner later. That would be my reward for going.
I agreed. I was excited. The next morning we loaded up the car with our snow pants, hiking boots, gloves and parkas. We had water bottles and snacks and my husband found a pair of ski poles to use as walking sticks. We ate a hearty breakfast a local restaurant and drove toward “The Mountain.”
The entrance to the park is below the snow line. As we drove along the twisty road up the mountain more and more snow appeared. The snowy walls grew higher and thicker the farther up the mountain we climbed. The sun shone brightly. Everywhere we looked it was white, wintry and wonderful. We arrived at the parking lot. Time for a restroom break and to put on our snow gear. The wind picked and pulled my hood up to protect my ears from the cold. The hike is only a half mile in each direction, and we have done it before on several occasions. This time there was a lot of snow and we didn’t have snow shoes. We proceeded along the trail, staying on the tracks made by the Sno-Cat. The snow in the tracks was packed down enough to walk on it without sinking in. Too many steps away from the tracks and we would sink ankle-deep.
The first part of the hike was uneventful. We hiked along slowly taking pictures enjoying the snow and the incredible view. It was like something out of a story book the pictures here prove it. Words don’t do it justice.
The trail to Myrtle Falls may only be a half mile in either direction but there are places where the grade is twenty-two percent! The closer you get the steeper the climb. I was grateful for the ski pole to use as a walking stick and something to lean on. We met other outdoor enthusiasts along way; hikers, sledders and even a couple of guys snow-shoeing. They had serious backcountry gear and glided past us and disappeared into the trees. I would be lucky to make it to the falls, which were by the way covered in snow. This time of year there isn’t any water just lots of snow, but that was our predetermined stopping point.
Unexpectedly, my breathing became heavy and my right hip flexor began to hurt. I paused to rest a bit while my husband took pictures. I put one boot carefully in front of the other but my pace was slowing. Between the altitude and the steepness of the grade I was finding the climb a challenge. It made me feel old. I pushed the negative thoughts out of my mind and tried to ignore the pain in my hip. I was so close to the falls! I focused on my husband’s boots and the sound we made crunching through the snow. The cold wind swirled around us and we were enveloped in a world of icy, wintry beauty. I was revitalized and renewed.
At last we’d made it! What a view! Hub stopped to take more pictures. I tromped over and gave him a squeeze.” Thanks honey, what a great idea. It’s so beautiful!” I told him.
The trip down was easier than the hike up to the falls. My breathing was easier and the pain in my hip had subsided. The weather was warm and every view more glorious than the last. In another hour we were home and we changed for dinner. We chatted over appetizers and drinks. It was the perfect day, a celebration, a challenge and an adventure. The first of many I hope.