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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.