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A hike on Mt. Rainier

Story by Jesse Morrow January 30th, 2015
A few years ago, I met Jade Ehlers. I had just started to use a camera and found myself rigged up, directing and shooting a music video. Jade was on set taking still photos. Our interaction was brief, and shortly after he moved to Los Angeles. From time to time, we would say hello via Facebook or Instagram, but hadn’t crossed paths until his recent visit to the Emerald City. I was eager to get out and shoot with Jade because his work is incredible and I consider him an inspiration. Last night, we decided on hiking a part of Rainier National Park called the Burroughs Mountain Loop.

As I took off this morning, I thought about how I knew very little of where we were going since I’ve only hiked in the Rainier park two or three times. Hoping we’d find our way easily, I met Jade south of Seattle and we headed for the mountain. The drive from Seattle is roughly two hours and we had set our sights on the “Sunrise” side of the mountain, which is the highest point one can reach by vehicle on Mt. Rainier. By the time we get to the parking lot, our elevation will already be 6,400 feet!


The drive is long but we have plenty of catching up to do. Jade and I have both worked with bands, so we went on for a while about loose connections we had with each other. Conversation bounced back and forth between gear to family heritage and back to gear. I remember when I first met Jade, one thing that struck me was his curiosity and pride in taking photos. His enthusiasm for the craft is something I took note of and tried to incorporate in my own world.

We came to the parking lot and saw our first glimpses of the surrounding valleys, Mt. Rainier and other peaks in the Cascade Range. Glimpses of the Emmons Glacier surrounded by wildflower meadows can be seen as well. The view is overwhelming and stunning, and our conditions are superb.

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The full (Three) Burroughs Mountain hike is 9 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 2600ft. The name credits naturalist and nature essayist John Burroughs — a well-bearded man and avid fly fisherman whose body of work includes dozens of writings on not only nature but religion and philosophy as well.

In the first portion of our journey, we climb uphill pretty steadily—400 feet in .5 miles. Following the Burroughs Mountain trail we make our way to Frozen Lake, all the while being blasted by dust from every angle. The trail opens up and I start to imagine just how beat up this tundra must get year after year, each winter bringing harsh conditions. At the top of first Burroughs we take a break, although it isn’t the most pleasant as the dust continues to take us by storm and the wind sends a bit of a chill through us.

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Second Burroughs

Our climb continues toward Second Burroughs adding a steeper elevation gain and growing mileage. The face of Rainier stands strong and is so massive. I feel like I could reach out and touch it! From time to time while driving through Seattle I can see Mt. Rainier standing proud in the distance, but to be as close as I am now is a humbling experience. Incredible just to think that I’m still miles away from peak!
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From the top of Second Burroughs, we find a spot to sit and enjoy our view. Below us lies a massive glacier basin and up above, the ridges of Rainier. The expansive view is 360 degrees of eye candy.


We’re certainly tired and after talking to a few fellow day hikers, we learn that most people turn around here and head back to the Sunrise parking lot. We also hear that continuing on to Third Burroughs brings a view that is better than anything we’ve seen yet. Already being immersed, we decide to continue on, drawn by the temptation of Third Burroughs.

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Third Burroughs

If the climb to the top of Second Burroughs was extra effort, we’re on our way to exhaustion. The trail drops downhill first before the climb of around 800ft in elevation begins. My mind is kept occupied by simply lifting my head and trying to grasp the enormity of the peak in front of me.

Jade and I reach the top of jagged rocks and find a spot to reenergize and enjoy our view. Not wanting to climb down just yet, we take the opportunity for a few dozen more photos and rehydration. Admittedly, as far as water, I’m now on empty and Jade has very little. The hike in total was a little longer than we were expecting. It’s hard to say goodbye to a place as fantastic as this, but the sun is setting and it’s time to start our return.

On the way back down, in part to keep my mind off my lack of water, I litter Jade’s brain with questions about his photography. He graciously gives me a lot of advice and insight on his experience in the industry. I find this sort of mentorship invaluable as a learning photographer. It makes me feel a little less lost in a seemingly Wild West sort of industry.

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On the way home, we stop for burgers to replenish any calories we lost earlier — the jalapeño bacon combo with tater tots was simply irresistible. We sat and looked gratefully at a few images from earlier in the day, still trying to settle into the beauty we had just experienced.
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Footnote: Edited and improved by Rachel Meter. Thanks for the good hang, Jade.
Burroughs Mountain Trail, Ashford, WA, United States