Forum Index > Trip Reports > Skyscraper Mountain and Lake Eleanor - Oct. 21
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Sadie's Driver
Sadie's Driver



Joined: 24 Apr 2006
Posts: 1716 | TRs
Location: Welcome Pass
Sadie's Driver
Sadie's Driver
PostSun Oct 22, 2006 3:30 pm 
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Shhhhh!
No dogs with humans
No dogs with humans
National Park Boundary about 50' off of road
National Park Boundary about 50' off of road

Sadie doesn’t know about this hike – nor the fact that she couldn’t go anyway.  She was still at cousin Clover’s place in Sequim.  So, the driver, Trail Pair and Jim K took the opportunity to head south to the big R.  Weather reports said Saturday was to be a spectacular Fall day – and they didn’t disappoint.  Jim K was on the doorstep promptly at 6:00 a.m. for a 6:20 a.m. meeting with Trail Pair at the S.E. 8th Park and Ride.  It was very dark at this hour!  Our destination today would be the Lake Eleanor trailhead on FS 73 just outside of Mt. Rainier National Park.  It took us about 1:45 to reach the trailhead and by then, it was daylight.  Not another car in the vicinity.
Jim heading toward start of trail early on a brisk morning
Jim heading toward start of trail early on a brisk morning

Since the NP was now closed for the season, J was sure we wouldn’t see another soul all day.  It’s a short hike – maybe a mile – from the road into Lake Eleanor – starting elevation: 4520’ – barely legible on this sign that appears to have been target practice for some accomplished marksman.
The wiley 8-point trail sign
The wiley 8-point trail sign

It was very brisk at this hour in the morning and in the shade was downright cold!
Frost covered leaves
Frost covered leaves
Hucklesicle
Hucklesicle

This route actually doesn’t appear on the Green Trails map – but it most definitely is well-traveled.
Trailhead sign for Lake Eleanor
Trailhead sign for Lake Eleanor

Very accessible and moderate – probably heavily used during the summer.  The only way I have ever accessed Eleanor is via Grand Park (the loooong way).
Lake Eleanor campsite
Lake Eleanor campsite

We were at Eleanor in about 20 minutes – stopped for some gorgeous reflection shots.
Reflection at Lake Eleanor
Reflection at Lake Eleanor

For some reason, the metal food hangers at the campground had been dismantled and were lying on the ground – not quite sure why.  Out of Eleanor, we headed S/SE on the trail that would drop us down to the lower meadow (down is the operative word here – since it would mean “up” on the way out) and on to Grand Park and beyond.  From Eleanor to the lower meadow, it’s all in 2nd growth forest and then you break out into this vast meadowland.
Breaking out of forest into lower meadow
Breaking out of forest into lower meadow
Lower Meadow - frost on the field
Lower Meadow - frost on the field

The sun was just beginning to hit spots of the meadow, but for the most part, the tall grass was lightly frosted – lovely.
Delicate, frosted grass
Delicate, frosted grass

No, this isn’t a paegan ritual upon the first sighting of Mt. Rainier, my three companions decided they needed ground-level close-up shots of frost-covered amber waves of grain.
Strange paegan rite upon mountain sighting
Strange paegan rite upon mountain sighting

After a brief stop, on we marched – reaching another forested area that had us climbing up a ridge as we headed to Grand Park.
K and B heading up trail toward Grand Park
K and B heading up trail toward Grand Park

In about a mile, the forest opened up to the spectacular Grand Park expanse.
Fremont in the distance across Grand Park
Fremont in the distance across Grand Park
Our destination - Skyscraper Mountain - in the foreground across Grand Park
Our destination - Skyscraper Mountain - in the foreground across Grand Park

The National Park is missing a revenue opportunity here – probably could be a world-class golf course – complete with corporate naming rights (ok folks, this was a joke!).  In any case, the magnitude of this area is almost overwhelming.  It’s rimmed with these silvery snags and occasional pines.
Silvery snags in Grand Park
Silvery snags in Grand Park

J told us that his friend Gary had done an overnight winter cross-country ski trip here a while back and had the good fortune of a full moon and was able to ski the vastness of the area in broad moonlight with the Big R as back-drop.  Pretty cool.  We could see today’s destination ahead of us –Skyscraper Mountain.
Zoom on Skyscraper with R, Little Tahoma and Burrows as backdrop
Zoom on Skyscraper with R, Little Tahoma and Burrows as backdrop

We continued on through Grand Park to the southwest corner where the trail intersects the Northern Loop trail.  We continued (more-or-less) south heading toward Berkeley Park and the campground.  Off in the distance was Fremont Lookout sitting on a ridge that in this lighting and fall color reminded me of the back of a sorrel gelding ridden many summers ago.
Fremont
Fremont

From Grand Park, you drop down about 4 – 500’ to Lodi creek and almost immediately look for a spot to cross.
Lodi Creek - little water fall visible at  the top of the picture
Lodi Creek - little water fall visible at  the top of the picture

Upstream, you’ll see a small waterfall – stay about 75’ downstream – at this point, you’re about a ½ mile north of Berkeley Park campground.  Now, understand this hike was a “faith” hike.  Jim had done this route before – even has a lovely trip report (www.kuresman.com) from 2003 that describes our hike – although he sent the link to the driver and Trail Pair, he allows as how he hadn’t actually read it before we left!  Well, that’s ok – J’s an expert on these things – the Rick Steves of the trail.  So, we get across the creek and then the fun begins.
K J and B at the start of the eastern slope up to Skyscraper (in upper left corner or pic)
K J and B at the start of the eastern slope up to Skyscraper (in upper left corner or pic)
Heading up slope through brush
Heading up slope through brush

We found the first meadow in a quick 100’ climb or so up an obvious game trail and then headed west towards the east slope of Skyscraper.  Up we head through some brush – it was a debate whether we should be hugging the rock wall to the south of us, or angling more towards the rock outcropping to the northwest.  We picked a midway route and followed a game trail for a while, but as we were about two-thirds of the way up the east slope, J feels that we are too far north, so we do a fair amount of side-hilling on sometimes pumice-like stuff and sometimes juniper.
Looking back down on meadow and Fremont in the background
Looking back down on meadow and Fremont in the background
Looking down about 1/2 way up the slope
Looking down about 1/2 way up the slope
Sidehilling - looking north
Sidehilling - looking north

As we turned to look behind us to the north and the east, we had spectacular views of the Stuart Range, Glacier Peak and Mt. Baker – it was a crystal clear day.
Looking north across to Grand Park and beyond
Looking north across to Grand Park and beyond

Across to the east, the “pagoda” on Mt. Fremont was becoming more “level” to us.  We finally reach an open slope and things become more familiar to Jim.  We angle a little south and west to reach the ridge and finally the summit of Skyscraper.
Sidehilling - heading south
Sidehilling - heading south
Looking up to ridge we have to reach on our way to the summit
Looking up to ridge we have to reach on our way to the summit

Reaching a high ridge, we crest it to see Rainier front and center – awesome.
Jim in upper left corner as we scrabble some boulders towards summit
Jim in upper left corner as we scrabble some boulders towards summit

We are now in a boulder field that requires some hopping.  J realizes that this is not the same location where he and Gary had been three years earlier.  Boulder King J decides to bound ahead – as Kolleen, Bob and I reach a col-like area we can see J scampering ahead of us and up through a notch only to disappear out of sight.
Bob in col just before the last push to the summit
Bob in col just before the last push to the summit

We could hear him yelling at us, but had no idea what he was saying.  As we got closer, J urged us on and showed us the way to angle up (a little exposure at this point – up until then, the scramble had been quite moderate) and once up this 10’ (with the wind blowing at gusts of about 40 mph – J’s hat went flying, but he was able to retrieve) and viola – there we were on the summit.
Burrows and the R from summit of Skyscraper
Burrows and the R from summit of Skyscraper
The summit
The summit

Dropping down just a few feet below the summit and we were out of the wind.  But first, the pictures.  Ahh yes, the majesty of it all!
J & K on summit
J & K on summit
K and driver on summit
K and driver on summit
Burrows, Tahoma, Rainier and trail in lower left corner
Burrows, Tahoma, Rainier and trail in lower left corner

As we settled down for a little lunch (about a 4 hour trek to this point – 7080’ and about 6.5 miles) the driver noticed down below us what at first looked like it might be mountain goats, but no, those goats were on two legs and had backpacks.  Sure enough, we weren’t alone this day.  But where did they come from?  Since we didn’t see any cars at the trailhead and it would be a very long walk in from the closed off park entrance their appearance was a mystery.  They were coming up the trail (yes, Virginia, there IS an actual walk-up trail to the summit of Skyscraper that comes up the south slope – but oh no, that’s too easy!).  We finished our lunch and started down the trail because K and the driver were getting chilled.
B and J still on summit of Skyscraper
B and J still on summit of Skyscraper

On our way down the very moderate trail, we ran into the couple headed up Skyscraper.  They had been dropped off at the Lake Eleanor trailhead on Friday and had camped at Berkeley campground.  That’s why we hadn’t seen them.  They were on a 4-day trip that would take them out at Ipsut.  They also wondered how we got to the summit of Skyscraper without running into us previously and marveled that we had taken the eastern slope (well, actually, they probably questioned our sanity).
Looking up to summit - from the TRAIL - up the south slope of Skyscraper
Looking up to summit - from the TRAIL - up the south slope of Skyscraper

So, we dropped down to Skyscraper Pass and re-joined the trail heading north to Berkeley campground.
Mountain goats in slope below Skyscraper
Mountain goats in slope below Skyscraper

From here, we retraced our path towards Grand Park – with the 400’+ of up-hill to get back to Grand and then another 100’ or so back to Lake Eleanor.
Route back from Grand Park at the Northern Loop intersection
Route back from Grand Park at the Northern Loop intersection
Rest stop at Northern Loop intersection
Rest stop at Northern Loop intersection

Our goal was to get back to the car in daylight and we easily did that – returning right around 4:30 p.m.  A long 8-hour day with about 16 miles and 3500’ of gain for the day.  Similar to our trip last weekend (Melakwa/Tuscohatchie/Pratt loop) – a little shorter, but somehow, it seemed like more elevation gain.  Perhaps the difference is reaching a true summit.  Sadie would have loved this hike, so I won’t let her go online to check this week’s trip reports.  She had another view coming back home from Sequim.
Blue Herons on pilings at Kingston dock
Blue Herons on pilings at Kingston dock

Sadie's resting comfortably and will be ready for next weekend's adventure!   lol.gif  up.gif

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Four-paw buddy lets me tag along!
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Dayhike Mike
Bad MFKer



Joined: 02 Mar 2003
Posts: 10979 | TRs
Location: Going to Tukwila
Dayhike Mike
Bad MFKer
PostSun Oct 22, 2006 6:53 pm 
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Sadie's Driver wrote:
No dogs on leashes.
No dogs on leashes.

One note: You're looking at that sign in a human-centric fashion.

It's not prohibiting dogs in this area as the red slash isn't through the four-legged friend. It's actually prohibiting LEASHES on your canine companion.

If they'd intended you to hike the trail alone, they'd have had a sign WITHOUT a dog in the picture. Don't you think? agree.gif

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"There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." -P.J. O'Rourke
"Ignorance is natural. Stupidity takes commitment." -Solomon Short
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Sadie's Driver
Sadie's Driver



Joined: 24 Apr 2006
Posts: 1716 | TRs
Location: Welcome Pass
Sadie's Driver
Sadie's Driver
PostSun Oct 22, 2006 7:13 pm 
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Quote:
One note: You're looking at that sign in a human-centric fashion.

By jove, you're correct.  Sadie would have read that sign much differently.  She probably would have left me at the car!   agree.gif    s.d.

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Four-paw buddy lets me tag along!
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > Skyscraper Mountain and Lake Eleanor - Oct. 21
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