Sunday, the first day of summer, is the longest day of the year, which inspires the question: “How much fun can you have with 15 hours, 56 minutes of daylight?”
To get a rough idea, we grabbed our boots, bikes, fishing poles, snow shoes, etc., and headed out June 8, the 26th longest day of the year with 15 hours, 50 minutes of daylight.
It should be noted that while we both love spending time in the outdoors, we do it differently.
Jeff communes with nature, finds his challenges at the business end of a hunting rifle or a fishing rod, and revels in the beauty of birds and flowers.
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Craig sees the outdoors as a massive playground meant for hiking fast, biking far and pushing himself until his knees give way.
In exchange for a day packed with fun, we both had to compromise.
5:54 A.M. – SPIRE ROCK
Our plan was to meet at 6 a.m. to walk Spanaway’s Bresemann Forest and look at birds. For me, this sounded like about as much fun as watching snow melt. So I arrived six minutes early to play on Spire Rock, a 33-year-old, 25-foot-tall rock and cement structure designed for climbing training.
While some modern climbers find the rock too easy, it remains a challenge for me and, as normal, I stuck to the easiest routes.
6:06 A.M. – BRESEMANN FOREST
I climbed down from the rock as Jeff pulled in. He grabbed a small pack that included a birding guide book and we entered the 70-acre forest. Tahoma Audubon Society members regularly visit the forest to watch and listen to birds.
I told Jeff the closest thing I heard to a bird was a Buick Skylark zipping by on nearby Military Road, but that wasn’t entirely true. We did see a robin and a mallard hen near Morey Creek.
The trail along Morey Creek is arguably the highlight of the forest now. A fish bypass around a small dam was installed in 2007, according to a sign in the park.
8:19 A.M. – SILVER LAKE
Our plans to rent a boat and fish for trout on Spanaway Lake were scuttled by the fact that the boathouse is closed on Mondays. So we headed for Silver Lake off Highway 7.
We chatted with co-owner George Henley, someone we only previously talked with on the phone doing fishing reports. He excitedly told us all about the large brown trout caught two days before, including a 7-pounder.
He also talked about the family’s long connection with Silver Lake Resort, which his parents owned since 1950. Two years ago the family sold out, but earlier this year they bought it back. It was obvious he’s happy to be back.
After rigging our fly rods with the flies George recommended, I deftly maneuvered the row boat from the dock and into the open lake. Then I proceeded to point us directly into a weed bed.
I was impressed with Craig’s casting, considering he had fly fished only once before. He had the best form for a 5-foot cast I’ve seen.
Slowly trolling our flies, we meandered around the lake to no avail.
Craig later joked he felt like we were on a date sitting in the boat. All we needed, I said, was the picnic basket lunch.
11:43 A.M. – PACK FOREST
I remembered the 1000 Road at Pack Forest being a flat, easy mountain bike ride to Mashell Falls. Jeff quickly pointed out that I was wrong.
The old dirt road actually climbs gradually for 1.8 miles to a trailhead where you can walk the rest of the way to falls. I also forgot about the short but steep climb right out of the parking lot to get to the dirt road.
The climbing sapped Jeff’s strength and he pushed his bike most of the way uphill. (I prefer to think of it as one fo those bike-hike adventure trips. – J.M.)
At the Falls Trail, I made the mistake of picking the wrong trail. I usually find the mazes of unmarked and unmapped trails to be part of Pack Forest’s charm. But this time my wrong turn kept us from getting to the best view of the falls.
As tough as the ride out was for Jeff, the downhill return was easy as we coasted the 1.8 miles back to the car.
Still, Jeff was clearly bummed about his performance on the bike.
“If you ever see me eating McDonalds at my desk again, you have my permission to slap me upside the head,” Jeff said. “I mean it.”
So what’s the first thing we did when we were done? Went for a burger.
1:37 P.M. – SCALEBURGERS
I was stunned to hear that for all his travels to Mount Rainier, Jeff had never indulged himself in an Overload Burger.
A stop at Elbe’s small green-and-white burger shack has been a tradition for Rainier regulars since Scaleburgers opened in 1985. Patrons eat outside at picnic tables, wash their hands with the hose on the side of building and, if nature calls, drive a mile down the road to use the nearest restroom.
“Best burgers I’ve ever had,” I said. What I didn’t tell him was that the last time I bought a hamburger, Bill Clinton was in his first term.
Despite my overhyped claims, Jeff admitted it was darn tasty.
3:13 P.M. – PARADISE
After stopping in Longmire to talk to some rangers about trail conditions (sorry folks, most trails still haven’t melted out), we headed to Paradise to make the 2.3-mile roundtrip hike to Glacier Vista.
Honestly, after our mountain bike outing I wasn’t quite sure we could make it, but Jeff was determined.
It took us 90 minutes to get to the sweeping view of the Nisqually Glacier.
I can usually be half way to Camp Muir in that amount of time, but I quickly found a different enjoyment from Jeff’s pace.
I was able to say more than “hi” to passing hikers. I was able to examine the beauty of Rainier (when it peeked out of the clouds) and the Tatoosh Range more closely. And because my hearing wasn’t impeded by my heavy breathing, we were able to enjoy what we guessed was the call of a grouse in the trees near Alta Vista.
When we arrived at Glacier Vista, we felt like we’d accomplished something.
At 6,336 feet above sea level, Jeff had hiked farther up Rainier than he ever had before. (We don’t count the times he drove to Sunrise at 6,400 feet.)
I was proud of him for pushing himself. Never mind that a month from now when the snow melts, thousands of people will stroll to this same spot on a paved trail.
7:17 P.M. – THE END OF WESTSIDE ROAD
I always enjoy the drive along this road, the small waterfalls flowing toward Fish and Tahoma creeks. I’ve seen a black bear along the road before.
This time, I was stunned at the woody debris that littered the creek bed. This was my first visit to the area since the November 2006 floods. There were downed trees everywhere. The valley at the end of the road was laced with side channels I had never seen before.
For wildflower fans, this is a good early season destination. There were lots of wild strawberry blossoms, as well as Western bluebells and Indian paintbrush.
Not one to let wildflowers slow him down, Craig bounded up the boulder field that had once crashed down the side of Mount Wow. Turns out, the boulders were part of the 37 million-year-old Ohanapecosh Formation. Steve Redman, an interpretive ranger, was out taking photos and told us about the ancient rocks. In comparison, he said, the mountain is only 500,000 years old.
7:51 P.M. – KAUTZ CREEK
On our way to the Westside Road, I glanced upstream as we crossed the bridge. The mountain glowed in the evening light. So, before leaving the park, we headed back to the bridge for some final photos. The fading sun slowly turned the snow orange and red. It was a good way to remember the mountain as we left the park.
8:51 P.M. – BRUNO’S FAMILY RESTAURANT
Thrice we failed to find an open eatery in Ashford and Elbe. Each time our hunger grew stronger.
But the search proved worthwhile as we pulled into the parking lot of Bruno’s in Eatonville. We got one last look at the mountain, towering over town, glowing red and purple in the last rays of the day.
Inside, we enjoyed the rewards for our aching knees, sore ankles and fatigue. Craig enjoyed the Portebello mushroom burger and I opted for a steak sandwich. How hungry was Craig? He enjoyed the French fries even as he tried to remember the last time he had some.
10:57 P.M. – HOME
As I made the turn onto my street, I glanced to the east. I glimpsed the moon as it rose through the clouds as a large orange orb. Hmm, is there a longest night version we could do?