The next day dawned clear and sunny, which meant our hiking decision was easy: the Rim Trail. This trail is the highlight of the park, and although it would have been good to hike it with Victor and Jennifer, we decided that it was too good an opportunity to miss. We set off back up towards Glacier Lake, which looked absolutely gorgeous nestled in its cliff-lined cirque and edged with larches. It would have been a perfectly good use of our time to spend the day here doing nothing…
We pushed on upwards past the lake and retraced our steps back up the headwall to the high ground. I managed to find some snow to play in, keeping up my goal of getting into snow in every month of 2007. Further up, just as the trail levelled off, we encountered a small gathering of mountain goats. Remarkably they weren’t bothered by our presence and we stopped for quite a while to get some nice photos.
Once on the Rim Trail, we were able to stop and admire the view that we’d scurried away from yesterday. To the west lay the distant mountains of the Cascades and we could just about make out a few peaks in Manning Park. Big sky views! We wandered on, stopping frequently to take photos and take in our wide-open surroundings. The trail climbed offering us unlimited views over the rest of Cathedral park to the east. Ladyslipper Lake came in to view, looking as inviting as Glacier Lake. Within a short time we reached the first of the day’s geological features: the Devil’s Postpile, a series of vertically-oriented columnar basalts. The best views required getting quite close to the edge, which was a bit nerve-racking on the loose rocky ground.
Moving on, the trail began to change from the broken rocky terrain to a sandier surface. It wasn’t actually sand, it was small granite particles, and all around us were rounded granite boulders and worn, layered formations, much like the tors of the Cornish moors. This was Stone City, the second geological feature of the day. We found a sheltered spot out of the breeze, and decided it was time for lunch.
From the centre of Stone City we continued along the Rim Trail towards the next two geological features. First up was Smokey the Bear, a rock formation which, in profile, looks uncannily like the North American fire-prevention mascot. What we weren’t expecting were the sheer cliffs all around it. We took turns crawling on our bellies to take a stomach-clenching look over the cliff edge. At one point, I was stood on one cliff, Merewyn and Maria on another and we took it in turns to yell “Don’t get any closer to the edge!” at each other. Then we swapped places to see what we had been warned about. Scary stuff for those who don’t like heights!
We regained the trail on safer ground and moved on. The trail thinned to a narrow track through the granite-sand, and we had to clamber over a rock-pile and scramble carefully down to get to the next slope. We followed this slope steeply up over loose granite-sand to reach the next feature: the Giant Cleft, a vertical gap between two rock masses. It looks like the rock as cracked and separated but apparently there used to be a softer layer of rock, which has since been worn away. Getting a good photograph is difficult due to the narrow and tall opening, but there was a place where Maria and Merewyn were able to scramble up to a little ledge with a good view down (!), and provided the opportunity to include some photographic scale.
This was the end of the trail for us, and we opted to retrace our steps back to Stone City. It is possible to go further, but apparently it quickly gets into some hairy scrambling. Not for me. We stopped again at Smokey the Bear, as the sun was now shining on it. A falcon flew by and landed on Smokey’s head. We carried on back to Stone City and took the right fork in the trail to begin our descent from the rim. More gravelly downhill followed and soon we were down looking back up at Smokey the Bear and the Giant Cleft, now difficult to spot in the massive cliffs of Denture Ridge.
The trail meandered down the hill, returning us to the tree line populated with larches. Here and there pikas squeaked, though spotting them was hard as they were a little less comfortable with our presence than the ones of yesterday. Before long we reached Ladyslipper Lake, whereupon Merewyn went for her usual swim. As she crawled out, the sun began to dip below the higher peaks of the ridge and suddenly it felt cold. We followed the trail around the lake and climbed again to get one last look at the lake and the mountains behind it before descending steeply back to Pyramid Lake. Here and there we had tantalizing glimpses of the lake, but no clear views.
Back at camp we cooked dinner to warm ourselves up. Just as we had finished cleaning up and were settling down with a cup of hot chocolate, Jennifer and Victor arrived. They had arrived earlier and been out for a short walk. They joined us and cooked their dinner. We chatted, drank more tea, and finished off the evening with a fine view of the moonrise over the lake.
Distance: 12 km
Elevation gain: 830 m