Washington Hikes: Kautz Creek

The weather has been rainy and windy lately, but we decided we’d hit the trail this weekend anyway. If we wait for nice weather at this time of year, we’ll never get outdoors!

We pulled ourselves out of bed and set out for Mt. Rainier on Saturday morning in the pouring rain. We kept telling ourselves rain at our house meant snow on the mountain and – spoiler alert! – we were right!

We arrived at Longmire a little after 9:30 a.m., having been told at the park entrance that the gate to Paradise should be open by 10 a.m. We wanted to do some snowy hikes around the Paradise Visitor Center so we hung out in the car – me drinking my coffee and reading my book and Brian playing free cell.

As 10:15 a.m. approached, I pulled up my hood and walked over to the ranger station to see if they had any update on the road. One of the rangers showed me his screen with multiple camera views of the road covered in piles and piles of snow. He said the plows were still going non-stop but it was looking more like 11 a.m. for the gate to open.

We were ready to get outside so we decided to go with plan B and headed away from Longmire and back to Kautz Creek to take the trail toward Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground for as long as we were having a good time.

It was rainy and cold but we had the forest to ourselves. The trail was in great condition and we were surrounded by fall foliage as we made our way through some newer forest and boulder-filled creek beds.

Not too far in we started to climb. As we gained elevation, we also watched the rain turn to snow.

It was a lovely, peaceful hike with big, soft, quiet snow steadily falling between the tree branches. We stopped on a couple of occasions to just look up and watch the big flakes coming down. About half-way through our hike we came to a snowy bridge with views of some small waterfalls. I loved how bright and neon green the moss looked in contrast to the quickly accumulating snow.

I was glad we had our trekking poles but we never ended up pulling on the ice trekkers we packed – our regular trail shoes were fine as far as we went.

We ended up hiking in 3 miles before turning around at a particularly snowy river crossing and making our way back to our car. Our hike ended up clocking in at 6.1 miles with 1,865 feet of gain, and it took us 3 hours and 18 mins, with 8 minutes of stopping time.

After drying off and turning up the seat warmers, we drove to nearby Copper Creek Inn to warm up with a late lunch. Known for their homemade blackberry pie, this spot has been on our list for quite some time. We enjoyed burgers, great service, a warm and friendly atmosphere – and took our pie to go!

It wasn’t the hike or day we originally had planned, but I’m so glad we braved the weather and had some wonderful new experiences!

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