I was debating whether or not to explore to the north of Highway 706 out of Ashford, Washington or to the south into Lewis County along Skate Creek (Forest Road 52). Not knowing what the outcome of the afternoon’s weather would be, I headed down FR52, hoping to get a few landscape photographs of Mount Rainier and if not, some nice nature photos of the forest along Skate Creek.
The morning started out with a heavy overcast and by the time I was driving along the Nisqually River, the clouds had cleared and Mount Rainier was visible just outside the National Park. Unknowing to me, that wouldn’t last long.
In an effort to obtain a better vantage point to photograph Mount Rainier, I decided to take a chance and explore up FR5230. FR5230 steadily climbs as it leaves the Nisqually River valley below. Although rutted in sections, the road is in good shape. It was still a little early for autumn colors, with only the vine maples changing colors at about the 3600-foot elevation.
Along the way, I noticed a small lake along the road where I parked and hiked down on a fisherman’s trail in an attempt to capture a few photographs of the lake. I was unable to find the actual name of the lake on the various maps I had on hand.
After the stop at the lake, I continued on to the roads end, around Lookout Mountain (which apparently never had an actual lookout on it), past a large un-named bluff to where the road ends at an old log landing. From the old landing, there were nice views of the valley below, and potential views of Mount Rainier on a clear day, but that wasn’t happening today.
I drove a few spur roads in the area. There may be more potential views if I had climbed to the ridgeline from where I turned around. Because clouds obscured Mount Rainier, I took advantage of the abundant ripe huckleberries (there were multiple camps of berry pickers in the area).
After the drive along FR5230, I continued south on FR52 towards Packwood, Washington. As I was driving, I could see a large meadow coming up on my GPS. I was hoping to be able to see the meadow from the road, and sure enough, FR52 briefly skirts one portion of Bear Prairie.
I found a parking spot and located a trail that led down through the bushes and out into the prairie. There was a well-used trail crossing the large meadow, and staying on the trail, not to cause further damage to the boggy ecology, I was able to capture a few photos looking to the northwest towards what appears to be Tumtum Mountain.
After the stop at Bear Prairie, I stopped at various vantage points along Skate Creek and captured photographs of the flowing creek surrounded by early autumn colors (actually very late summer), courtesy of the vine maples.
By the time I got to Packwood, I had about an hour or so of daylight left. After fueling up, I made a little side trip up FR45 to roads end to the Soda Springs Campground.
By the time I was back to Highway 12, it was completely dark. I made my way back through Mount Rainier National Park over Cayuse Pass and down State route 410 towards the Puget Sound lowlands, completing an awesome day of exploring and capturing photos.