This is the last in this year's "7Up Hikes" series. My goal of hikes around Rainier taking advantage of off trail segments and touching points above 7000 feet certainly delivered a unique and different experience of the park beyond the Wonderland. That said, this last hike (September 10th) I ended up scaling back quite a bit as the original included another high point on a cleaver and 41 miles of hiking and biking, probably too much for this old man. This one was juuust right, doable in 12 hours: Stats: 25 miles (8 miles biking)/5300' elevation gain and loss.
I had serious incentive to be done and at the Cougar Rock campground by 6:30 PM as some friends were staying there and steak and wine were on the menu. The Tokaloo time map annotates position reports sent from my InReach on this clockwise loop.
I started at the road parking outside the closed area on the West Side Road at 6:06 AM and biked to Round Pass where I stashed the bike. Then it was on trail taking the Round Pass trail to the South Puyallup River trail and on the road for 3 miles until I arrived at the St. Andrews Creek trail. The morning was clear and nice and the going was good up to Klapatche Park, only getting a little damp on the legs and feet from the wet brush. I lingered at Klapatche for a while looking at the maturing froglings in the dwindling Aurora Lake and then it was off for St. Andrews Lake, where I would start the off trail segment. Unbeknownst to me it would take me four and a half hours to do the round trip to Tokaloo Rock.
The off trail segment is not as bad as the photos might suggest with trail hints most of the way, at least off and on. Basically I headed up to a saddle from St. Andrews Lake and skirted the south side of the ridge that takes you to Tokaloo Spire and Tokaloo Rock. The spire is quite impressive as you get closer and so are the views south to Emerald Ridge and the Tahoma Glacier. I also saw a different goat herd on this side from my usual pets around Panhandle Gap. I ended up too far right at Tokaloo rock (east) and back tracked to pass on the west side where access to the summit is an easy scramble. Views from these vistas are amazing, looking down and all around at the world of rock and ice. Simply stunning, and private. Few people venture off trail (percentage wise of the hikers in the park) and my 4 7Up hikes have rewarded me/us nicely this year. However, I didn't linger too long there as the clouds were moving up the mountain and the bluebird day disappeared on the descent. With visibility sometimes down to 200 feet I had to be very diligent about not dropping too low on my way back. A couple of checks of the GPS to make sure I wasn't going astray (I do not use tracking or back track features) had me arriving at a socked in St. Andrews Lake at 3 PM.
Happy to be back on trail and on schedule, I trotted the "Wonderful Trail" down to the South Puyallup River camp as the clouds slowly parted for me. Some photo ops delayed me there but I regained my trusty steed at Round Pass and pedaled maybe 6 strokes all the way back to my vehicle. I did stop to photo the boulders that cratered the parking lot and closed it, pretty impressive. I found it interesting that my end position report was at 6:06 PM, exactly 12 hours after I started, and I made it to Cougar Rock campground at 6:33:40 PM, only 3 minutes and 40 seconds late. After being chastised for my tardiness I cleaned up and was treated to one of the best steak dinners you could have sitting at a picnic table, a fine day indeed!