Wednesday, July 1, 2015

2015_07_01 Mount Fremont and Berkeley Park Hiking Report

Author:  Conor Collins

** This is a blog post that Conor Collins wrote for the Washington Trails Association Blog regarding a recent hike in the Sunrise area (Mt. Fremont and Berkeley Park).  Conor was kind enough to share his experience on our blog as well. **

Rolling out of bed around 5am with a plan to hike up around Sunrise is enough to stimulate one’s self; taking note of the complete absence of clouds in the sky, that’s enough to bring goose-bumps to the skin.

Arriving at Sunrise around 8:45am we had the better part of the best parking spots at our unrestricted selection. After gathering the gear we set off for a leisurely 6-mile hike, an out and back to the Mount Fremont Lookout. Shortly after commencing the hike we began to realize how arid most of the Sourdough Ridge truly was; the main, highway, of a path was dust covered, and the lack of trees only supported the sun’s unrelenting heat. The first section of the hike, to Frozen Lake, reminded me of the hikes I’ve done in Bishop, CA and the northern sections of the Mohave.

Once we reached the Frozen Lake junction we realized the plethora of opportunity to explore the Sunrise area. To the south we could’ve explored the Burroughs, to the southeast we could’ve trekked down to the White River Camp Ground, to the west, Berkeley and Grand Parks, and to the north, Mount Fremont. We went north. Soon the dusty trail turned to rock, and eventually shale that sounded like crackling glass with every step. Our foot placement was important, as we grew closer to the lookout and the trail’s pitch increased. Shale slides quite easily when loosely placed on top of other loose shale. To our delight the last 0.1 miles to the lookout the trail returned to its dirt pathway, with a small snow patch that arched over the Fremont lookout ledge. I decided to venture out on the snowfield for a better look of Grand park and Huckleberry Basin below.

Lookout tower on Mt. Fremont...

The view was beyond spectacular, with view of Glacier Peak and Mt. Baker in the distant horizon, even better was the lone Mountain Goat that jolted across the steep ridgeline. I attempted to get a photo of the goat after a quick change in camera lenses, but his agility and swiftness, while quickly maneuvering on the shale cliff, put him at least a third of a mile away in a matter of seconds. Even the 200mm lens required significant digital zoom to frame the goat as the subject of the photo.

We took a good break at the lookout, and after realizing how great of time we made on the ascent, we decided we would venture down the Berkeley Park trail. We would’ve spent more time admiring the vast beauty of the lookout’s vista, but the bugs and mosquitoes were pushing our limits.

A quick side note: before you decide to add a significant amount of miles to an initial determination of six, make sure to have plenty of water. It is always safe to carry much more than you anticipate using, but especially at Sunrise on a hot day. There are no water re-fill stations anywhere along the trial, so you could find yourself very dehydrated by the time you make it back to the visitor’s center. Always prepare for more than what you would expect.

After meandering back to the Frozen Lake junction we took a right turn and headed into the most luscious, green, blossoming valley I have seen in the park (even over that of the thriving Paradise meadows). Berkeley Park was incredible. Ribbons of vibrant pink and purple cascaded off of the higher ridgelines. Succulent smells of diverse wildflowers overwhelmed the air with even gentle blow of the wind. A small creek gurgled near the side of the trail with water that was as clear as the sky. I think it’s a fair judgment to say Berkeley Park is a physical example of nature’s heaven on Earth. For those of you who have read this far into my hiking review, you are deserving of the astonishing experience that is, Berkeley Park.

Berkeley Park Meadow...

Low on water, but high on spirit, we worked our way back to the Frozen lake junction with amazement of what we had witnessed in the valley below. The dryness of the Sourdough Ridge returned as we made our way back to the car under the beating light and heat of the sun. We took a detour from our initial course and wandered along the Wonderland Trail back to the parking lot junction. Very hot, but very worth the extra time we got to spend in the mountains and each other. The Sunrise snack bar was a great place to sit and relax before sending off on our journey home.

In all, the hike finished out at around eleven miles and 4,000 or so feet of climbing. Between the six Mountain Goats, two Marmots, a bunch of mountain Chipmunks, the almighty magnificence of the Berkeley Park meadows and luscious subalpine forest, and company that shows as much appreciation for nature’s beauty as I do, I find myself lacking in words to describe how great this hike was.

 I highly recommend it to anyone willing to go the distance.

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