Being Autumnal equinox, I couldn't possibly go to work, not with a weather forecast of sun and warm temps. I told my boss as much, took a day of annual leave, and drove up to the White River CG for a hike along the Burroughs Loop, including 3B, to which I'd never been. I know, right?
It was a lovely, early fall day - the kind of day where summer is definitely on the wane, but winter is still a long, long way off. A touch of crimson to the meadows, a mild intermittent breeze, a fat Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel sunning on rocks, belly full and worries empty, and still a measure of warmth to the now much-lower angled sun. A perfect day to be in the alpine.
I started as I often start, at the climbers parking lot, and followed the Wonderland up toward Sunrise, stopping regularly to say hello to my favorite creeks and waterfalls. The large waterfall just below the top is much drier this time of year, and only a small trickle threads its way down the rocks. It is still deliciously refreshing, and while its song may be a little quieter, it is also just a little sweeter.
The meadows surrounding Shadow Lake were beginning to color up, and brighter displays could be seen on the higher slopes. As I worked my way up the SW flank of Burroughs Mtn, I encountered a fat little golden-mantled Ground Squirrel (Spermophilum saturatus) who just couldn't be bothered to move away from her trail-side sunning rock. I walked past her, and when she didn't flee, I stopped, turned about and began taking pics. She let me get within inches of her and sat there, still as a stone, the whole time. The reason why was obvious with one glance in any direction - stalks of all sorts of meadow plants lay scattered all about. She'd been gorging herself for hours, and now that the sun was out, she needed to digest.
As I continued further up Burroughs Mtn., the fog began to gather, and before I made it to the top, I found it best to layer all the way up. It was getting cold! Large patches of fog would sweep by, punctuated by stray shafts of sun making its way through occasional stray gaps. By the time I had summited 2B, however, there were no more gaps, and the entire area was quite banked in. I did not linger at the top of 2B, as some were, but decided to head right down to the way trail up to 3B.
Down on the saddle where the Burroughs loop heads down into the Interfork drainage and the 3B trail heads up, there was sun, and oh, it felt so good! With the trail bounding up the mountain ahead of me, I felt confident taking off a layer or two. Only the climbing kept me warm, however, as the fog immediately socked back in. I could occasionally make out small moving figures along the ridge ahead of me, but couldn't see more than silhouettes, and only through the rare drifting gaps in the fog.
The view remained hidden as I reached the summit. The two ladies already seated finished up their snack, bemoaned the fog, and started down. I had really hoped to take some magnificent shots, as I'm told the vista is magnificent. Instead, I got one smeared shot of a Townsend chipmunk racing across my boot. He was a cheeky fellow, and knew exactly where my pocket was, and had a pretty good idea of what I might be keeping in it. Once he saw my baggie of trail mix in hand, however, he had nothing more to do with getting into my pocket, and focused instead on antics to get me to feed him. I was thoroughly entertained, but I proved to be a stingy customer, as he only got one raisin that leaped away from me into the gravel.
I only stayed up top for about 15 minutes, what with the wind and blowing fog and lack of view. What a fun walk down, tho! While the boot track is narrow, and there is yet a small snowfield to cross, it's a quick and scenic trot down. I love how the landscape is so softly shaped, with gentle curves to the summits and easy saddles in between. When you look closer, tho, everything is shattered, the landscape dominated by gravel and sharp-edged boulders. Unlike the forest floor below, or even the lower alpine, bare spaces dominate, and plants seem to thrive only in the more protected area. The NPS is not kidding when they compare this area to the tundra. It's rather alien.
The trip down from the saddle to the campground was uneventful, punctuated, at the end, only by a group of worried hikers, Europeans of some sort. Apparently, a group of five had been expected down quite some time before me, and I had made it out about an hour prior to sunset. I hope they made it. I enjoy walking that trail in the dark, with lights, but if they weren't prepared, they'd be in for a bad time.
12.8 miles and climbed 4,164', reaching a max elevation of 7,824', at an average speed of 2.3 mph over 5.5 hours of hiking. Not bad, if I say so myself.
Images taken on a day hike to Third Burroughs Mountain, Mount Rainier National Park, September 22, 2016.