These posts will cover all the areas I'm visiting in the confines of Mt. Rainier National Park in celebration of 35 years exploring here, including new places with a smattering of old.
One can find solitude in the Park....you just have to work for it. I got an early start (6:45) to bike the length of the West Side Road (9 miles) to visit a few isolated areas at this time of year. I really didn't expect to see anyone as Wonderland early season hikers have had mixed success on the trail, with many turning back due to snow levels. However, I ran across a dad/daughter couple leaving the North Puyallup River Camp and ended up hiking with them to Golden Lakes, a very nice time indeed. Despite weighty packs they were booking...I stuck with them but had I been alone I would have scaled back a bit due to the length of the day. But hey, good training! We hung out at Golden Lakes for a bit, eating and taking pix; then they were on their way to Mowich Lake for the night, which shouldn't have been too bad because the road isn't open yet.
The trail to Silver Forest was snow free but once in the woods there was still quite a bit of snow to the Sunset Patrol Cabin. However, nothing to impede navigation. George and Molly told me they bypassed Klapatche Park because of reports of the snow between So. Puyallup and No. Puyallup, descending to the West Side Road. Can't blame them as they described a miserable day on snow in the rain their day before; they were diggin' the blue skies and great weather for sure.
I back tracked to Silver Forest on the Wonderland and proceeded cross country to the ridge that leads to the Colonnade. Flowers were just peeking out from recent clearing of snow melt, with miniature avalanche lilies embracing their short bloom cycle. The ridge was clear of snow until a steep section at 5800 feet, and I didn't have the desire, time or legs to scramble up the south side for a few hundred feet of elevation gain with essentially the same view. So I got my drink and snack on and beat feet down to the Wonderland, as I still had some distance to go. I figured I could regain my bike by 7 and be back at my vehicle before dark, which worked out perfectly. This was a long day for me at 38 miles (18 biking, 20 hiking) with 7,000' of elevation gain, but all in all a wonderful day in perfect weather, with a little socializing and lots of solitude.