I headed out to Washington State for the North Cascades and Mount Rainier. People warned me about the weather but I was going in mid July so I'll thought I'll be fine. Turns out living in Georgia has kind of spoiled me.
The weather hasn't been bad per say, it's just been killing me exactly at sunset, sunrise and in the night.
One minute I have clear skies and then wham, clouds everywhere, and not the good kind of clouds either, where're talking about thick heavy clouds that the sun has no hope of shining through.
First there was my easy trips to Artist Point and Table Mountain on the Mount Baker highway. I knew going in, there was going to be a lot of clouds but who cares, my trip just started and it wasn't like it was a long hike.The clouds mostly covered the peak, which is not what I wanted and I got a pretty lame picture.
Then came the skyline divide trail, which gets nice and close to Mount Baker. I wanted to get sunset, the night and then sunrise all while solo camping up there.
While hiking up there things were what I would call partially cloudy. Once I got camp setup, on I think the fifth knoll of the trail, things got decidedly worse. A huge amount of clouds swept in for sunset. Oh well, I thought it should clear up some at 2 am, like the weather report said, so I went to sleep with the alarm set to 2 am. Nope, it turns out the weather on top of mountains is unpredictable - who would have thought? I did manage a decent picture of the clouds sweeping over Grant Peak, along the east ridge of Baker though.
Well that was that, hopefully Rainier would turn out better. I headed out to Sunrise at the north entrance, hoping to get some Milky Way shots overlooking Rainier. The weather forecast was for clear skies and when I got there, clear and blue it sure was.
My plan was to hike to a half mile shy of Burroughs Mountain and take a shot on the trail with the almost sheer cliffs overlooking the volcano. I set up both cameras; one for stills and one for a time-lapse with a good 2 hours before sunset. Then I saw the first clouds about half way up the top of Rainier. No big deal, I thought…...
Looking back towards the Sunrise visitors center, a big wave of misty clouds looked to be rolling in. The weather report was for partial cloudy skies at sunset and clear skies at around 1 am, so I was still holding out hope that they would just pass. You can see what the visibility actually looked like on the right.
The weather report for clear skies at around 1 am held water though and I got some pretty good moonlit, milky way and sunrise shots.
That seemed like the only good weather I got for the whole week. For the next sunset I planned on going to Mount St Helens. Reports were for a partial cloudy sky which would clear up later in the night.
Driving up there I saw a pretty clear St Helens with some clouds. A big bank of clouds rolled in at what seemed like on cue at sunset. I got some OK shots looking at the other direction from the volcano but at that point I was feeling really frustrated and didn’t stick around for the night.
The final place I planned on going; Paradise, on the south entrance of Mount Rainier National Park, turned out to be the biggest bust. Driving up there I could again see the peak clearly but as you can guess, once I got there it was completely under cloud cover. I waited one hour after sunset to see if would dissipate but once it didn’t, I hiked back down to the trail head parking lot and thought I would wait it out in the car.
As 1 am rolled around, the visibility was even worse. Then 3 am ticked by and still no luck. I decided to pack it in and just drive back at that point, as I doubted sunrise would be clear (I did double check the visitor center webcam to check I made the correct decision - I did - big whoop).
So that was the trip, mostly bad, but that’s looking at it right after the Paradise let down. The skyline divide trail, along the ridge line towards Mount Baker was still very cool, even though there were clouds covering most of the peaks. On top of that, I had a very nice night at Sunrise at Mount Rainier, looking at the stars. I guess that’s the pacific northwest; lots of gloomy clouds but amazing once you get lucky enough to peak past them.