Back to Reflection Lake with Mira

With so many great hikes around Mt. Rainier, we seldom repeat the same hike, but we did hike the Reflection Lake trail just two weeks after our first hike there because Paul couldn’t hike and Mira wanted to join us for the first time and we felt it was a good introductory hike. 

Besides, after two weeks of unusually warm temperatures the hike was quite different than it had been before.  For one thing, there wasn’t a single Avalanche Lily in sight but they had been replaced with lots of new flowers.

Meadow Flowers

The view of Pinnacle Peak from the top of the trail was quite different, too.  It wasn’t shrouded in clouds as it had been two weeks before, and the snow fields had virtually disappeared.

Pinnacle Peak

For better or worse, we didn’t see any bears on this trip. 

I managed to catch up with Leslie and Mira long enough to get this shot of the two of them at The Overlook.

Mira and Leslie With Pinnacle Peak in the Background

It is always a pleasure to walk with kids or grandkids sharing your love of these special places — even while dispelling the notion that you’re still in good shape while trying to catch up with a teenager who spends most of the year playing softball.

Still, looking down at Louise Lake I could comfort myself knowing that I still covered quite a few miles and nearly a thousand feet of altitude simply by persisting and placing one foot in front of another  

Louise Lake

and, back at the car, we were rewarded with a beautiful view of Mt. Rainier with a near reflection, a view we hadn’t experienced two weeks earlier because it was shrouded in clouds.

Reflection Lake with Mt. Rainier in the background

Kylan has walked a lot with us the previous two years, but Mira hasn’t been able to join us because her softball practice and games have conflicted with our hikes.  She really seemed to enjoy this hike, though, and, hopefully, we will be able to find ways for her to hike with us next year.

We Spend Our Summers Hiking

I’ve reached the point where I find it hard to get aerobic exercise walking around the gym track and, unfortunately, my knees are not up to jogging anymore. Sometimes if I shuffle a lap I can get my heart rate up and keep it elevated for another few laps, but I’m lucky if I get 10 or 15 minutes of aerobic exercise in an hour-and-a-half workout.   On the other hand, my heart rate goes straight up whenever I hike in Mount Rainier National Park because there aren’t many hikes that don’t require uphill climbs.  I often earn two or three hours of aerobic exercise a day there.  

Though this is strenuous exercise, it never feels that way (at least until I start driving home or try to get up from the couch later in the evening).  The beautiful Avalanche Lilies lining the Mt. Rainier High Lakes Trail in July always make me forget that I am struggling to keep up with Leslie and Paul, and, perhaps more importantly, give me an excuse to stop and catch my breath.          

Avalanche Lily

Truthfully, fields of Avalanche Lilies early in the season would be enough to inspire me to walk around Reflection Lake early in the season, but Indian paintbrush, Bear Paw, and others soon convince me that my elevated heart rate is due to my love of these flowers —not a lack of oxygen.

Indian Paintbrush and more

Even though I may have prettier Indian Paintbrush growing in my backyard, I always brake for a closer look when I see them in the mountains, where they truly belong.  

Indian Paintbrush

If I get jaded with flowers, I can always look across the valley at Pinnacle Peak, a hike that awaited us later in the hiking season.

Pinnacle Peak

Although this is a regular hike for us, it’s the first time we have ever seen a bear on the trail.  Leslie spotted this young black bear just as we were sitting down for lunch.   Luckily, he wasn’t as close as my telephoto lens made him appear and only seemed interested in berries, not other sources of food.

Black Bear on High Lakes trail

Despite his total disinterest in us, we decided to forego lunch and continue our hike because he seemed to be traveling in the same direction we were. I didn’t want to meet him on the narrow trail back down to the car, especially since I had recently viewed a video of another hiker’s encounter with a bear which followed the hiker for a considerable distance before exiting the trail.  

Still, it was the highlight of our hike, and the adrenaline rush made it a quicker and easier hike than usual to get back to the car.

We try to plan our summer hikes so that we begin with the easiest hikes and end with the toughest ones.  Luckily, the hike around Reflection Lake is both one of the easiest hikes we do and a personal favorite so it’s a great way to kick off the hiking season.

Trying to Stay in Shape

Judging from the sheer number of posts, you might guess I spend most of my life on vacation and birding. As much as I’d like that to be accurate, it’s not.  Actually, we’ve spent far too little time vacationing for the last three years.  

I suspect I might have spent most of my time sitting on my exercise ball staring at the computer monitor, but, mercifully, I have no way of tracking that. 

I do, however, have a way of measuring the time I’ve spent exercising, thanks to my Apple Watch, my iPhone and an app.  I was pleasantly shocked at the results after installing “Fitness Stats” a few months ago.  If I’d been told at the beginning of the year that I would have to walk 817 miles, much less 1,749,187 steps, to stay in shape I would have thought that was an impossible goal and might have given up before I started.

Since I have loved walking as long as I can remember, the 10,940 miles of walking and (sort of) running don’t particularly surprise me (especially since it includes most of our hiking miles). It’s only recently that I discovered that Apple had added a “hiking” category so the numbers in that category are way too low.  

I don’t love exercise, per se, but I don’t absolutely hate it, and I’m willing to exercise regularly so that I can continue to hike and bird.   

The largest missing category, perhaps because this app was written before Apple added Tai Chi as a category, is Tai Chi.  Leslie helps lead a Tai Chi class M/W/F, and I also practice Qi Jong exercises at home semi-regularly. 

I regularly try to fit in either weight lifting or a half-hour walk while Leslie teaches Tai Chi Swords. When I was younger, stronger, and more flexible, I preferred Yoga to Tai Chi, and still fall back on it when my back is bothering me. Now I generally prefer Tai Chi’s gentler, more meditative approach to exercise.  So, a good part of those 320 exercise hours was probably devoted to Tai Chi.

I would like to believe some recent studies that indicate that “adults over 65 who did strength training two to six times per week lived longer than those who did less than two, according to study author Dr. Bryant Webber, an epidemiologist in the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” but, considering that I nearly died of throat cancer at 57 when I might have been in the best shape of my life, hiking up to 25 miles per day in the Columbia Gorge and The Cascades three days a week with Bill Wastradowski, I don’t have much faith that being in shape will ward off cancer or other ailments.

I have always tried to stay in shape, but now that I’m retired I spend more time exercising than I ever have before, except, perhaps, when I was in the army and played football, baseball, and even some basketball in addition to doing PT six days a week. 

I’m not totally unaware of the irony that despite all this exercise I’m probably half as strong as I used to be while exercising twice as much.  

I’d be tempted to say that my time might be better spent reading all the books I have sitting in my den if my mind didn’t seem half as sharp as it used to be.  

A Return Visit to Lake Ralphine/Spring Lake

On our second visit to Lake Ralphine/Spring Lake, I took a longer lens, hoping to get better shots of the Acorn Woodpeckers we had seen on our first visit.  I should have known that would jinx us because the flock of woodpeckers we had seen defending their larder days earlier were reduced to two woodpeckers standing guard.

Two Acorn Woodpeckers

All was not lost, though, as we saw a lot more birds on the second visit than we did on the first.  It’s been a couple of years since I’ve seen a juvenile Pied-Billed Grebe, but the fading black and white pattern on the neck indicates that’s what this was.

Juvenile Pied Grebe

I thought this bird was some kind of flycatcher, but I was a little surprised when Merlin identified it as a Black Phoebe since all the Black Phoebes I’ve ever seen have been much blacker, not brown.

Black Phoebe

I know this is a juvenile swallow, but Merlin wasn’t a lot of help identifying what kind of juvenile swallow it is — suggesting it is either a Tree Swallow, a Violet-Green Swallow, or a Northern Rough-winged Swallow.

Juvenile Swallow

We didn’t see the pair of Swans that nested at Lake Ralphine in previous years, but we did see a single Mute Swan on Spring Lake.

Mute Swan

The highlight of the day, though, was this close-up of a Black-crowned Night Heron from the back. I was amazed I could get this close without spooking it.

Black-Crowned Night Heron

I prefer the shot from this angle, but I am sure the heron would have flown away if the green foliage hadn’t been between us.  

Black-Crowned Night Heron