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.


On July 28,  2013, Leslie and I hiked Mt. Rainier with her friend Hao from China. I was so exhausted from keeping up with them on that hike that I resolved to lose 30 pounds so that I could continue to hike the Cascades.  I lost that weight by changing my diet and have continued to lose weight, but a recent snowshoeing trip on Rainier convinced me that I’ve lost too much muscle and need to rebuild it, even if it means gaining some weight.  

We bought new snowshoes for Christmas and new all-weather tires for the RAV-4, and that has been enough to get us to snowshoe once a week for the last five weeks.  One of our first treks was from Narada Falls to Reflection Lake, well, if we had actually gotten to Reflection Lake.  

This was also our first snowshoes on Mt. Rainier several years ago, so I thought it would be doable, and with considerable huffing-and-puffing on my part, we did make it to the highway that serves as a snowshoe trail in the winter.

Unfortunately, the usual trail/highway was closed because of high avalanche danger.  We would have to add another mile and several hundred feet elevation gain to make it to the lake using the detour route.  I had to tell Leslie and Paul I wasn’t up to doing it and that it was time to turn back.  I had to settle for this shot of Mt. Rainier.

Not being able to make it to our intended destination really frustrated me.  I knew that I had lost a lot of muscle since we had quit going to the YMCA during the Covid 19 quarantine, but I didn’t realize how much it had affected me until this trip.  Luckily, we also rejoined the YMCA in January, so I started walking further and hitting the rowing machine and weight machines harder. The gate was closed at Longmire on our next trip, so we ended up doing a snowshoe at a lower altitude, and I didn’t have any problems on that trip.

On our fourth week we attempted the Narada Falls/Reflection Trek again.  This time I wore lighter boots and left my camera gear, except for my iPhone, home.  We realized that the road was open to the lake when we saw other skiers coming from the other side.

The view at the “lake” was a little disappointing because there was nothing but a big snowfield, but I was elated that I had actually made it there without feeling totally exhausted.  

This shot of Pinnacle Peak and The Castle across from the lake made the trip worthwhile,  

and this view of Rainier on our way back was the frosting on the cakes, so to speak.

If you need to train hard, I can’t imagine a better place to do it than around Mt. Rainier.  Once you’ve caught your breath and straightened back up, the surrounding beauty makes you forget the pain of overexertion.  

Crystal Mountain to Lake Henskin

For our last hike of the season near Mt. Rainier we moved north, starting from the Crystal Mountain ski area.  Our trip started a little rugged because we had trouble finding the beginning of the trail and ended up climbing straight uphill on a gravel road.  As it turned out, that was an indicator of what the hike was going to be like.  

The best part of the hike was that it was quite strenuous, providing a fitting challenge for an end-of-the-season hike.  I think Leslie and Paul liked it better than I did, but I was off-put by the clearings for ski trails that we had to cross and the sight of a scalped mountain across the valley.  Still, there was a couple of pleasant small streams crossing the trail.

Lake Henskin, where we ate lunch, was also quite peaceful.  It felt great to cool off after the steep climb up the trail.

Unfortunately, the silence was shattered by the sound of a helicopter flying overhead repeatedly.

At first, I speculated that it might be involved in fighting the fires that plagued the Pacific Northwest and most of the West Coast this summer, but once it flew directly overhead I knew that wasn’t why it was here.  It wasn’t until I got home and put the image up on the screen that it became obvious this was some sort of gun-ship practicing.  

I’m not up on the latest weapons since it has been 40+ years since I was in a military helicopter, but that is definitely a gunner with some sort of machine gun peering down on us, and there’s another machine gun on the back of the helicopter.  I suspect the opposite side was equally armed.

Luckily, the helicopter’s intrusion into the silence was soon forgotten as we descended back down the trail and immersed ourselves in the comforting protection of the old-growth forest.