Camp 5: Sunrise
Thursday, Day 5: Mystic Lake to Sunrise Camp
Among the things on tomorrow night’s Dude Night agenda is to get our application and itinerary finalized for submission, and among the only “controversial” decisions remaining is the Sunrise vs. White River cagematch for cache #2 supremacy. Actually, I think Ploss may have killed any further debate with the words “beer” and “burger” yesterday. There are however several variables I’ll discuss that could make this the most fluid destination point of our hike, perhaps even a game time decision day-of. We can discuss further tomorrow but for our purposes today I’m assuming that Sunrise will be the primary camp targeted for Day 5. If there’s a Franken sighting tomorrow I’m sure he’ll add his own unique opinion on the subject.
Ploss’ earlier post suggests a 9 mile trip from Mystic Camp to Sunrise Camp, but by my math (mathmagician that I am) it works out to 10.6 miles: 5.5 to Granite Creek; 3.3 to Berkeley Park trail; 0.7 to Mt. Fremont Lookout trail; and 1.1 to Sunrise Camp. See map below.
Going to Sunrise itself on the afternoon of Day 5 will add a little more than another mile to this day bringing the day’s total to ~11.8 miles and raising our trip total to 95.6 miles. More on that later.
We start this day heading for Granite Creek. Along the way (and past) we’ll apparently have distant views north of Skyscraper Peak with visions of cheeseburgers dancing in our heads:
About a mile up from Granite Creek is Skyscraper Pass and peak of the same name.
We dropped our packs and went to the top……WOW….nice view!
Later at Sunrise we had greaseburgers and fries and picked up our second food drop……mo’ booze!
From Sunrise it was about four more to White River Camp where we camped among……CAR CAMPERS!!! Eye-eeeeeeee!
This brings up an interesting distinction regarding this leg of the trip, as Sunrise itself – home to cache location #2 and a restaurant, so I’ve been told – is yet another .5 miles off the WLT as Sunrise Camp and Sunrise itself are of course separated by at least a half mile. Why is this relevant? Stay on task, McLovin! Well, it’s important from the perspective of picking up cache #2.
Caches are stored at both the Sunrise and White River Ranger Stations, and may be dropped off or picked up during normal business hours. The Sunrise Ranger Station is near the Wonderland Trail; however, Sunrise has a short season. Sunrise Ranger Station normally opens around July 1st and closes around September 30th. Early and late season hikers should use the White River Ranger Station for their cache. Call ahead to check with the staff about operation schedule.
More on White River later. If as suggested our aim is to pick up our cache – and possibly enjoy a hot meal – in the afternoon of Day 5, we’ll want to reach Sunrise by 4pm likely (closes at 6pm Thursday – Saturday) in order to get our business done and stake out a campsite at popular Sunrise Camp. These guys had similar thoughts, arriving counterclockwise from the south:
We wanted to get to Sunrise ranger station with plenty of time to pick up our food cache and eat a burger at the restaurant, so we were out of camp by 9:00 and hustled through the woods to White River Campground. Still, I tried to pay attention to the sounds and smells of the woods while I moved along. That’s two things I’ve l neglected to mention so far—sounds and smells. You could be here with eyes closed and still feel the life around you—trees, flowers, birds, water. I think that is the one quality that I will take home with me the most.
Sunrise is the last area of the forest to open and the first to close, and as y’all know feature both the Visitor Center, from which we’ll procure cache #2, and the Sunrise Day Lodge, from which we’ll procure a hot meal from someone who presumably will say “um, yes…the Smartwool you’re wearing…still…really um does help mask body odor. As far as you know.”
The gory details:
At an elevation of 6,400 feet, Sunrise is the highest point that can be reached by vehicle at Mount Rainier National Park. In summer, mountain meadows abound with wildflowers. On clear days, Sunrise provides breathtaking views of Mount Rainier, Emmons glacier, and many other volcanoes in the Cascade Range. These views and an excellent trail system make Sunrise the second most visited location in the park.
Sunrise is located 60 miles northeast of the Nisqually Entrance and 14 miles northwest of the Sunrise/White River turnoff on highway 410.
Services at Sunrise include:
The Sunrise Visitor Center is open daily from early July to early October and closed in winter. Here visitors will find exhibits, guided interpretive programs, book sales, and a picnic area.
The Sunrise Day Lodge, open only from early July to late September, offers food service, and a gift shop. There is no overnight lodging at the Sunrise Day Lodge.
The White River Campground and picnic area is located 12 miles from Sunrise Visitor Center.
The Sunrise Road usually opens in late June or early July and closes in late September to early October. Check the road status before setting out.
And there you have it – 12 miles?!? Either this page is wrong or the map is wrong (showing WR to be 2.6 miles from Sunrise) but either way as long as Sunrise is open, we can probably forego further discussion about hitting White River on Day 5 and revisit that possibility only if there’s so much snow that Sunrise is closed which, likely, will affect more than just picking up cache #2. Put that 12 mile quote on my “i” tab er Ranger callback tab.
The video below not only offers a glimpse of Sunrise itself, but a virtual interpretation of driving to Sunrise with Franken.
Sunrise Camp is located at a pounding 6245′ and will mark the high point of our journey, and is apparently a popular choice for day hikers and through hikers alike that plan to enjoy Sunrise, like this dude:
The trail to Sunrise laid ahead of us: straight up, dry and airless. It was a long hike up but we made it. The view of Rainier was gorgeous as we crested up. We walked into Sunrise to get our food caches and meet up with everyone who had come out to see us. We had a big late lunch at the cafeteria. And walked out into spitting rain to make camp at Sunrise Camp. Not fun. By the time we reached there my feet that had been killing me were literally beyond pain. I took my trail runners off to find I had blisters on blisters. Some had shredded – my toes looked like hamburger.
So whether it’s 9 miles or close to 12, Day 5 should provide several key milestones: we’ll pick up our last cache of food that will sustain us for the nearly one third (30 miles) of the trail remaining that we’ll fastpack in 2 days; we’ll enjoy a real table and someplace to sit while eating junk and having a brew; and we’ll say goodbye to the high country, more or less. It’s mostly downhill from here. Mostly.
Elevation gain to camp: 2095′
Elevation loss to camp: 1420′
Distance from previous camp (Camp 2: Mystic Camp): 10.6 miles (11.8 with side trip to Sunrise)
Near side camp: likely Berkeley Park Camp. 10.0 miles from Mystic camp; 3.0 miles short of Mystic Camp
Far side camp: White River Campground. Presumably 13.0 miles from Mystic Camp; 2.1 miles past Sunrise Camp according to map, 12 miles past Sunrise according to some hopefully wack NPS interwebs page.
Next up: Friday, Day 6 camp at Indian Bar