The jist: Kim and I left Seattle around 8am and headed south for the Nisqually entrance in the southwest corner of the park. About 2 hours later we picked up our back country permits, backtracked on the park road, and arrived at the westside road trailhead. Of course, rain was the “special of the day”. I would say that 95% of the time we go camping it rains so this was no surprise. It started off as a gentle, periodic drizzle. About 2 miles up it turned to stinging hail and started dumping. Eventually it tapered off and returned to being episodic – you could see the next small rain front move in between the brief reprieves. We arrived at Lake George a few hours later and mostly wet.
We had brought rain gear and we were now wearing it, but the intensity of the earlier downpour had caught us off guard. We picked a spot to set up the tent, got some food going, and then settled in for a nap. Around 5pm we woke and decided to try hiking up to Gobbler’s Knob. It’s about a 1.5 mile and 1450′ of climbing – in other words, sort of steep. What made it particularly hard was the snow cover. The NPS had report 100% snow cover on the trail, but it was actually only about 10%. That 10% was enough to make finding the trail at times difficult and crossing it a bit more arduous. We got 2/3rds of the way up and the snow cover seemed to be increasing. It was getting later and the rain was letting up – so we decided to bag it and try again the next day. Hopefully with better weather since this day’s wouldn’t yield much in the way of views.
As you can see from the pix – it was a good choice. The next two days the weather was perfect. Cool, sunny, and blue-bird skies. It was in the high 30s in the morning and 60s during mid-day. We got up to Gobbler’s Knob and along the way had great views, but at the top had a 360 panoramic shot. The old fire tower was destroyed. At first glance it looked fine, then when I climbed up and went to the front of the deck I saw the devastation.
My guess is the record snow fall they had crushed the roof and blew out the front and side wall leaving only the back wall and the side wall facing north. This record snow fall also caused major flooding in the park and monumental destruction. The pics below show what’s left of the road we hiked up for a couple miles. We were diverted onto new trails and through the new flood plain. It was amazing to witness the power the floods possessed and the amount of damage it had done.
Later that day we hiked down from Lake George and off to our next site along the South Payallup River. The hike was through lush temperate forest as we headed up stream towards the Tahoma Glacier. My pix suck because my digi camera gets saturated by high intensity light, but suffice it to say the view was amazing.
The next morning we took 3 hours to hike back to the car and then headed for the closest breakfast joint – a small motel/cabin/restaurant joint just outside the park. 2 waffles, 2 french toast, 2 sausage, 1 egg, and coffee – well deserved.