Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Mount Rainier National Park's Summerland Trail is the Real Deal

Imagine walking alone in the forest on this trail . . . .

. . . and you're looking down, watching your steps over the roots and rocks on the trail, because you've stumbled a time or two. 

     And you happen to look up and not more than 20 feet ahead on the trail, between those two trees on either side of the trail (see photo above), a black bear is walking toward YOU!

     I couldn't believe it, nor was I expecting to see a bear on the trail. Maybe I'd see a bear or elk in the distance, but not on the trail, walking nonchalantly toward me! There was a fallen tree trunk parallel to the trail (almost as big as the one on the trail in photo above). Since the bear wasn't moving off the trail (still walking toward me!) I climbed and stood up on the three-foot high tree trunk. Got my bear spray, put a nervous shaky finger on the trigger valve, and watched that bear walk right by me! About 12 or less feet away! 

I was on Mount Rainier National Park's Summerland Trail.

     The bear sniffed the air as it walked by me. Did it see me? Did it smell Chef Renauld's craisin/flaxseed/oatmeal cookies in my backpack? I didn't notice any direct eye contact from the bear (that I could see), so I just froze and didn't make loud noises like they tell you to. It lumbered off the trail when it passed me, and soon disappeared behind other nearby big trees.  I just froze on top of that big tree trunk for another two minutes! Would it come back for Chef Renauld's cookies? Were baby bears not far behind on the trail?  I thought about getting my camera out (it's within immediate reach) but opening that velcro tab makes alot of noise! I was afraid I'd scare and upset the bear into an attack mode, if I opened that loud velcro tab.

     A most exciting hike! But even if I hadn't seen a bear, this hike was the best hike I've ever done in a national park (and so far that includes Canada, Peru and New Zealand). Wonderful scenery . . .

The last quarter mile of the trail was slushy snow; I opted out.

      One of the hikers I met briefly on the trail explained that because the snow melts slowly, the vehicle road to the trailhead parking lot opens late in the year (usually July) and it closes the beginning of October. That's only three months or less time when hikers have access to this trail. She said that's why this trail is so pristine.

Giant trees, probably 500 or more years old.

Tiny pine cones.

Unique little foot bridges.

Each bridge was different.

A lovely constant sound of waterfalls and trickling streams.

The sporadic company of other hikers was fun, too.

The flowers were pretty.

The plants were loving the rare sun.

And the views were outstanding. Little Tahoma Peak (below).

And the big one, Mount Rainier, in the distance.


  1. No way could this have happened to YOU !! By golly, your bravery to hike these woods is just unbelieveable !!!! DO DO DO take care.

  2. I falsely believed that if more than a handful of folks were on a trail at any given time, bears would scatter and disappear just by their nature to avoid humans (like deer and other wild animals). But that theory is now tossed out the window!

  3. Same thing happened to me back in 2011, except it was a mama with her two cubs. On my way back down from Summerland, came around a little bend, and there they were walking right toward me 20 feet away. Remained calm, raised my poles, and talked in a loud deep voice. They didn’t stop, but she wasn’t acting aggressively, so I stepped off the trail and, at nearly the exact same time, so did they, except to the other side and up the mountain. One of the most intense, amazing things I’ve ever experienced.

    1. Your experience mirrors my experience exactly! except there were no cubs. I'll probably replay that whole 10 minute experience in my mind for the rest of my life, including her ownership of the trail and her nose sniffing the air as it walked by me while I stood on top of that downed tree trunk. Agree, an intense amazing experience!