Mildred Point

Finally we were looking at a sunny weekend. Gary and I chose to hike on the slopes of Mt. Rainier. Gary had been to Mildred Point via the trail to Comet Falls but it was some 20 years ago. I had not done any trails out of Longmire. We met at Gary's home in Kent at 6:30 am, well before sunrise. By 8:20 we were at Longmire. It was sunny but not much above freezing as we headed up the trail. From Longmire the trail quickly meets the Wonderland Trail and in only .30 miles crosses the road. There is another parking lot here. We brought snowshoes but chose to leave them in the car and take our chances.

Paradise at 5400' had gone from 33" to 14" of snow in the previous week. Mildred Point is at about 5900'. The trail is typically smooth as are most trails in the park. As we climbed the temperature rose very fast. Just getting out of the valley bottom added 10 degrees. The trail is never steep as it headed over to Rampart Ridge. At the ridge we left the Wonderland Trail and headed up Rampart Ridge. The intersection is well marked.

Switchbacks gave way to straight trail as we reached the top of the ridge. It was all in forest with no real views out. A few berries and the remnants of beargrass were about the only signs of earlier flowers. Higher on the ridge we had a few small patches of snow but really none on the trail. Not too far before the intersection with the trail from Van Trump Park we hit some snow.

Here we came out of the thick forest and the opening allowed some snow to accumulate. I carried gaiters but did not put them on all day.  When the snow began we could see that there were no fresh footprints. We did see one big bear print however. From the intersection it is only a half mile to Mildred Point with some 500' of elevation gain. It was mostly on snow. There was some ice and some postholing though the snow was never more than about 8 inches deep. The last quarter mile steepened and with the slick snow it was nice to have poles for added traction.

We reached one final snow covered meadow and the point was just above. From Mildred Point there is one heck of a view of Mt. Rainier. It is right in your face. The drop from the point is also very impressive. A few thousand feet straight down. We turned right and ascended through some forest a short ways then dropped down to a rock point along the ridge. It is a little lower but has much better views to the right and left as well as a better look back to the Tatoosh Range.

Down below us in the moraine was a very large waterfall. it was in the shade but the sun was close to shining on it. We heard a number of loud avalanches/rock falls. It took quite some time before we were able to see that most all of them were coming from the same place. High atop the right wall of the moraine is a flat spot with many large boulders. As the ground thawed out in the sun these boulders were crashing down the slope. They were landing right at the bottom of the waterfall. We saw one house sized boulder that must have weighed many tons.

We were in no hurry and spent well over an hour at the point. A few years back we hiked to the top of Pyramid Peak. Now we could clearly see the other side of the peak not far away. Eventually, it was time to get moving again. We went a little farther down the ridge to a point just above Van Trump Park. We debated dropping down to the park then finding our way back to the interaction and the Rampart Ridge Trail. The whole park was under a layer of white.

The slope down had a thin cover of snow over grass and it was very slick. We chose to return the way we came. Up we climbed to Mildred Point then down we climbed. Rather than follow our tracks on the steepest section we chose to drop in forest then continue just left of the trail. The footing was much better. Shortly we were back on the summer route. We almost made it back to the intersection before we met the first hikers of the day. They had come up via the Comet Falls Trail.

The temperature was very comfortable at the 5900' point. Down at the intersection it was down right warm. We shed clothing here. I went to short sleeves and shorts. Very nice conditions for near the end of October. A little farther down the trail Gary suddenly stopped. A quick look ahead showed a deer near a switchback in the trail. Gary had packed away his camera but mine was ready. I was afraid the sound of the velcro closure would spook the deer. Far from it. It did not budge.

I took a few photos and then Gary set about getting his camera out of his pack. Through all this commotion the deer did not move. It was all of maybe 30' from us. We then saw another deer walk up. We kept shooting and they kept eating and ignoring us. I guess with no hunting in the park and so many people near Longmire these deer have lost all fear of humans. We finally headed on down and they did not budge.

We did see a few other groups, especially as we neared the trailhead. It was amazingly uncrowded for a major trail at the only park entrance still open this late in the season. Soon we were back at the road and then back at Longmire. High clouds had begun to flow in and it was cold once again in the parking lot. Up high we were warm but down low it was not a warm day.

The statistics for the day were 10+ miles with about 3600' of gain with ups and down. The trail was so smooth that it did not seem as difficult as the numbers suggest. We had complete solitude all the way up and not much less on the way down. Mildred Point is a fantastic viewpoint. It is a different view of the mountain than seen from Paradise and Sunrise. It is also right in your face. This would also be a fun snowshoe trip in the winter. Most of the way is in forest with few areas of avalanche danger, at least lower down.

It was fun to do a section of trail that neither Gary nor I had been on. In fact, I had not been on any of it. Snowshoe trips are right around the corner but it was great to leave them behind one more time and hike through easy snow to a high viewpoint. This is a trail I'll be returning to again.

Paw Print
Rainier View
Snowy Trail
Mildred Ahead
Gary At Point
Rainier Summit
Cushman Crest
Rock Walls
Pyramid Close Up
The Point
Crest Close Up
Gary & Rainier
Van Trump Park
Tatoosh Range
Deer 2
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2007