Palisades Lakes — Thursday, Jul. 14, 2016
Mount Rainier Area
I took my 9 year old daughter on her first backpacking trip this past weekend. We stayed two nights at Upper Palisade Lake. It was my first time visiting this part of Mt Rainier National Park. I selected this rout for backpacking because the mileage and gain were just at the boundary of my child's ability and experience; I wanted the experience to be a challenge, but not a hardship. Also, we wanted to use her free National Park Pass, which all 4th graders can obtain through Every Kid in a Park. Last, the parking area near the trail head is simple to access and secure. On our first day I was relieved to get a permit for both nights upon our arrival at the White River Wilderness Information Center. We at lunch at the Sunrise Point parking lot prior to setting out on the trail. Our hike in was glorious with mostly clear skies plenty of flowers, streams, forests, and lakes to enjoy. Our trek was leisurely with my daughter setting the pace and choosing when to have breaks and snacks. The blowdowns reported by previous hikers had been cleared and all that remained were small piles of sawdust left by trail crews. What tree/snow obstacles we did encounter were quite simple to navigate. We eventually arrived at Upper Palisade Lake, set up camp at site 1, and spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the nearby talus fields and the lake's perimeter. The two well-kept sites available at the lake had easy access to water, a pit toilet, and a bear-pole which made camping incredibly simple, especially as a parent facilitating a first two-night wilderness experience for a child. The next day we packed our lunch and watercolor supplies into a daypack and returned up the trail to hike up to Brown's Peak (the big hill near the lake). The path to Brown's Peak is an obvious trail that branches off of the main trail right before descending down to the lake. It takes about 12-15 minutes to get from the trail to views of Rainier and the Cascades. It is a steep and fun scramble up a well marked path and along a small ridge. We saw the massive-looking base of Rainier, and glimpses of glaciers, but the upper portion of Rainier was in clouds. On clear day, the view would be amazing. The path continues on toward another nearby peak (Sliders Peak?) and there must also be a way down the next basin (Bear Park) as we chatted with two hikers heading that way. We didn't continue on, but if you had more time it looked fun to explore. We spent a long leisurely afternoon on Brown's Peak, eating and painting. After returning down to the lake and camp, we revisited the talus fields near camp and the path toward Lower Palisade Lake. The next morning we slowly made our way back to the parking lot at Sunrise Point. During our two and half days we saw an abundance of evidence of elk, but no actual elk. We saw deer, frogs (at a pool above Upper Palisade Lake), a marmot, pikas, hummingbirds, chipmunks, squirrels, and a small rodent we later learned was likely a heather vole. There were many flowers in bloom, particularly glacier lily, scarlet paintbrush, heather, and huckleberry buds (no fruit yet). There were also tons of lupin leaves, so sometime in the next couple of weeks I imagine there will be lupin blossoms everywhere! There were mosquitos at times along the way, especially around Dick's Lake (just past half way). At Upper Palisade Lake a breeze helped decrease their numbers, but we still opted for insect repellent in the evenings. Overall I was very pleased with this hike location and selection for both myself and for my daughter's first backpacking trip. We both had a wonderful time and I hope to revisit on a perfectly clear day. This is a great day hike for anyone, especially if you have time to explore around the lake and up Brown's Peak. It is also a fabulous location for a straight-forward overnight or two. If your goal is to visit Mt Rainier National Park, it might not be the best option as Mt Rainier itself is hardly the centerpiece of this rout, but if you've already explored more highlighted pockets of the park and Cascade region, it is a fabulous option for beauty, adventure, solitude, and simplicity.