Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Comet Falls - Mount Rainier National Park

The warning signs were provided in the Mount Rainier National Park paperwork. Avalanche. Volcanic activity. Bears. Cougars. Rock slides. Tree hazards. I especially like the advice of "fighting aggressively and aiming for the eyes" when learning how to fight off an attacking cougar. Though reading the park map and scouting out our hike was serious business, my wife and I couldn't help but chuckle at the thought of all of these issues combining to wreak havoc on our nature time. We also reminded ourselves that we didn't have to be faster than the bear, just faster than someone else.
Final inspection of the hiking options for the day plus a little insight from a park ranger led us to Comet Falls. We were certainly not disappointed, though our quadriceps and ankles might tell you differently. The park ranger did mention parts of the trail were moderate to strenuous. Next time I take a trip to the mountains, remind me that moderate on a mountain trail is different than moderate on a Wisconsin trail.
My wife and I began our trek on the rocky terrain, avoiding a rainbow of rocks and spiderwebs of thick, gnarly roots on our gradual and meandering ascent to the falls. As my wife mentioned, "climbing is worse than walking." Still, besides the exhausting exercise, our hearts were pounding because of the amazing views and a few unexpected treats
Now your definition of treats and my definition of treats may differ. You may think chocolate or adult beverage. My wife and I think animal encounter. Well, at least when we are hiking. Don't worry, it wasn't the predatory kind. As we approached a few other stalled hikers, we noticed why they were taking a break. Across from the ridge was a sole mountain goat. He seemed quite content on his ledge, which this picture gives little justice. One slip and bye bye goat. Did I mention those hikers were also from the Badger state? This is our second trip to a national park in the mountains. Both times our first hike took us to a waterfall. Both times we met fellow Wisconsinites on the hike. 
Before we left for the hike, we were given a tip from the ranger. She mentioned that on the Comet Falls trail, there was a misleading sign that led to many missing out on a wonderful waterfall. There was a sign that read Comet Falls with an arrow and the words 200 feet. Interestingly enough, the arrow pointed right to a log bridge. On that log bridge, I snapped the first picture below. Nice waterfall, right? It was a nice waterfall, but it wasn't Comet Falls. Not even close! The ranger noted that many people interpret this sign as pointing to the falls when in fact it points to the bridge, which is supposed to take you across to the connecting trail. The trail that takes you to Comet Falls. When she said it was misleading, she wasn't joking. We crossed the bridge and noticed the trail seemed to vanish. It seemed most people took those falls as THE Comet Falls and turned around from there. Luckily, I was listening. As my wife and I used our trail eyes to find the real falls, we were blown away by the much more magnificent view shown in the second picture below. The ranger stated these falls fell nearly 360 feet from the ledge above.
Fake Comet Falls
The REAL Deal
The trip to Comet Falls was an amazing and at times painful introduction to Mount Rainier National Park. 

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