Featured Hike: Bench Lake to Snow Lake

by Three Bears Lodge on June 17, 2010 Category: Hikes

View of Mt. Rainier from Bench Lake
Bench Lake to Snow Lake Hike Map - Click for Larger Map

Click for Larger Map

Hike: Bench Lake to Snow Lake
Distance: Approx. 2.5 Miles Round-Trip
Difficulty: Easy to Medium
Elevation Gain: Approx. 700 feet
Time: About 1 Hour
Season: Mid-June to October

We received some great comments from last month’s Rampart Ridge Hike, and several requests that we include some hikes near the Paradise area of Mt. Rainier. This week we thought we’d feature the hike to Bench Lake and Snow Lake, an easier and family-friendly trail that has lots of great scenery everyone can enjoy. This 2.5 mile hike offers rolling meadows, beautiful lakes and an amazing uninterrupted view of Mount Rainier.

Though these lakes are located just off the road a few minutes past the Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise, you’ll feel like you’re miles from everyone after dropping into the basin surrounding the lakes.

The parking area is on the right side of Stevens Canyon Road, about 2 miles from Paradise. The trailhead will lead you South from the parking area and  you’ll wind your way through the meadow area known as The Bench. As you approach Bench Lake, approximately ¾ of a mile into your hike, you’ll get an uninterrupted view of Mt. Rainier and its reflection upon the lake.

As you continue your hike you’ll follow the trail another ½ mile to reach Snow Lake. Snow Lake is formed by Unicorn Creek, which in turn is formed by ice and melting snow from Unicorn Peak just above the lake. The lake sits surrounded on the East, South, and West by a tall ridge, blocking most sunlight and leaving the lake almost as cold as the ice and snow above it. You can usually find blocks of ice floating in the lake throughout the year, leaving no doubt as to how the lake earned its name.

The trail features rolling hills and a relatively short distance, so this hike is recommended for families with children and those looking for a quick day hike and some amazing photo opportunities in the National Park.  This hike is a great addition to a stop at Ohanapecosh in the Southeast end of the park to hike the Grove of the Patriarchs path featuring old-growth forest and some of the largest trees in the region.

View of Bench Lake from the Trail

View of Bench Lake from the Trail

Photo Credits: View of Mt. Rainier from Bench Lake & View of Bench Lake from the Trail.


Poison Ivy vs. Poison Oak: How To Spot These (Ob)noxious Weeds

by Three Bears Lodge on May 27, 2010 Category: Did You Know?

Do You Know What These Rhymes Have In Common?

“Leaves of three, let it be”
“Berries white, run in fright”
“Hairy vine, no friend of mine”

They remind us how to spot Poison Ivy and Poison Oak! All of these are useful rhymes which have certainly helped many a hiker escape painful exposure. Itchy red rashes, swelling, even blistering- an innocent hike in the forest can have very uncomfortable consequences if you don’t know what to avoid.

Here are some characteristics shared by Poison Ivy and Poison Oak:

  • Found in nearly every State in the United States

    Poison Ivy Leaflets

    Poison Ivy Leaflets

  • Grows at altitudes below 5,000ft
  • Deciduous
  • Grows as a bush or vine
  • Stems do not have thorns
  • Usually grow clusters of three ‘leaflets’
  • Leaflets can range in size from the length of your thumb to the length of your hand
  • Middle leaflet has a notably longer stem than the two side leaflets, though more obvious in Poison Ivy than Poison Oak
  • Depending on the season, leaf color can range from green to orange and even a dark purplish-red
  • Inconspicuous white spring flowers which usually produce clusters of small white blueberry-sized berries that turn red in late summer
  • Produce a rash-inducing oil called Urushiol
  • Toxic to humans but harmless to animals
  • All parts of the plant contain the toxins (leaflets, stems, and roots)
Poison Ivy Vine

"Hairy" Poison Ivy Vine

The most tell-tale characteristics of poison ivy are:

  • “Hairy” vines
  • Though Poison Ivy is not really an ivy, it’s often viney growth pattern can resemble ivy
  • Smooth or subtly toothed almond shaped leaflets that are sometimes irregularly lobed
Poison Oak Leaflets

Poison Oak Leaflets

The most tell-tale characteristics of Poison Oak are:

  • Leaf shape resembles an oak leaf, but it’s not a member of the oak family
  • Leaflets are duller green and usually more distinctly lobed or toothed than poison ivy
  • Mature leaflets are typically duller green than young ones
  • Leaflets have hairs on both sides, unlike poison ivy

Even a slight brush against theses plants can result in a skin reaction. The toxin is easily transferred from one surface to another and will remain potent for years if not thoroughly cleaned (imagine your exposed dog running through your house!). Also, symptoms can take 24-48 hours or even up to a week to show up, particularly if its your first exposure!  We recommend that you keep an eye out for these tell-tale signs to avoid contact!

Poison Oak Coloration

Poison Oak Coloration

Urushiol: Poison Ivy and Poison Oak’s Oily Toxin

Poison ivy and poison oak have one very essential thing in common: urushiol. This sinister substance is an oil secreted from the leaves, vines, stems, and roots of both plants. Upon contact with your body, urushiol immediately forms a chemical bond to the skin and causes an almost unstoppable allergic reaction. A fraction of the populace is unresponsive to the irritating resin, but don’t count on it: even an initial natural resistance to urushiol will eventually break down after repeated exposure from too many careless treks off the beaten path.  Caution: Smoke inhalation from burning Poison Ivy or Poison Oak can send you straight to the emergency room, avoid burning these plants at all costs!

Poison Oak Leaflets Showing Coloration

Poison Oak Leaflets Showing Coloration

To The Rescue: How to Treat Exposure

If you come into contact with either plant, the sooner you take care of it, the better. As the chemicals rub off your clothes onto other surfaces you run the risk of exposing yourself and spreading the oil. Urushiol is not water-soluble, so if you can, use rubbing alcohol or strong soap to cleanse the area of contact within the first ten minutes, then rinse off with cold water. As urushiol can remain active for years, you’ll want to wash any clothes, items, or furniture that may have come into contact with the invisible oily residue.

If you don’t catch the exposure immediately, your only choice is to treat the resulting itchy rash and blisters as best you can. While there are countless home remedies to relieve itching and pain, standard treatment options include oatmeal baths, baking soda pastes, calamine lotion, aloe vera, and a number of commercial products designed specifically for Poison Ivy and Oak. Of course, the best remedy is always prevention, so if you’re able to recognize and avoid poison ivy and poison oak, your experience in the mountains will feel the benefit!

Still not afraid of Poison Ivy and Poison Oak?
Click the links below to see just how bad these rashes and blisters can be…. (Warning! These graphic images are pretty disgusting!)

Leg Rash

Calf Rash

And if those two photos weren’t enough: Poison Ivy Rash Gallery

Poison Ivy Vine with Young Leaflets

Poison Ivy Vine with Young Leaflets


Featured Hike: Rampart Ridge Trail

by Three Bears Lodge on May 26, 2010 Category: Hikes

Rampart Ridge Trail at Mount Rainier National Park

Rampart Ridge Map

Click for Large Map

Distance: Approximately 5 miles
Difficulty: Medium
Elevation Gain: Approximately 1400 feet
Time: About 2.5 Hours
Season: Mid-June to October
Dogs Allowed: No

As the snow in Mount Rainier National Park begins to melt in early summer, more and more great hiking opportunities present themselves. One trail that becomes hikeable in mid-June is the Rampart Ridge Trail. Created by ancient lava flow from Mount Rainier, Rampart Ridge is located near Longmire, just a few minutes inside the Southwest Ashford entrance to the park. You’ll find the trail just across the street from the National Park Inn. The nearly 5 mile loop offers beautiful scenery and a short but challenging climb to the top of Rampart Ridge.

View of Mt Rainier from Rampart Ridge

View of Mt Rainier from Rampart Ridge

For the best views of Mt. Rainier you should take the loop clockwise. To reach the Rampart Ridge Trail, start out along the 0.75 mile Trail of the Shadows, a quick loop and good day hike alternative for families with small children. At the back of the Trail of Shadows you’ll find the trailhead for Rampart Ridge. Once you begin the hike you’ll quickly ascend nearly 1400 feet. Switchbacks will lead you up and through douglas firs to reach the top of the ridge, where the path quickly levels off. The hike up is steep, but the payoff is quick once you reach the top of the ridge, since hikers are rewarded with gorgeous uninterrupted views of Mt. Rainier. Follow the ridge until you meet up with the Wonderland Trail to take you back down to Longmire, about 2 miles further.

The hike should take approximately 2.5 hours for the average hiker. Be sure to bring your camera for the wildlife and scenic views. Keep in mind that the trail may still have snow until late June, so come prepared for a little mud or cold wind at the top of the ridge.

For an awesome day trip through Mt. Rainier National Park try pairing this hike with a stop at Paradise to see the Henry Jackson Visitor Center, a quick 2.5 mile hike from Bench Lake to Snow Lake, and a short drive to Ohanapecosh to hike through Grove of the Patriarchs.

Rampart Ridge Hike Map

Click for larger map of Rampart Ridge Trail


Bringing Your Dog to Mount Rainier

by Three Bears Lodge on May 25, 2010 Category: Pets

Dog friendly cabins and trails at Mt. Rainier

It’s something every dog owner can agree upon: our canine comrades make a career out of making us happy – and sometimes that can be a full-time job. Next time the family needs a refreshing escape from the city, why not give your pup a vacation, too?

From a spacious fenced enclosure nestled beneath the cedars, to a cozy washable dog bed, to a fully-stocked “doggie basket” complete with treats and personalized cabin ID tags, our Little Bears Cabin and our Three Bears Lodge cabin have been outfitted with thoughtful amenities to make Fido’s stay at the mountain as wonderful as your own. The Nisqually River is just a hop, skip, and a springing leap away from our Three Bears Lodge cabin, where you can walk along the levy for miles.

Although dogs aren’t permitted on the trails inside the National Park, the one exception is the Pacific Crest Trail that runs along the eastern border of the park. Hikers find themselves strolling through sub-alpine forests, passing lovely lakes and ponds, waterfalls and meadows filled with summer flowers. This hike offers spectacular views of Mount Rainier and other distant peaks.

Outside the National Park there are a multitude of trails in the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest and leashed dogs are welcome. One of our favorites is High Rock Lookout, which offers incredible views of the Sawtooth Ridge, Mount Rainier and the surrounding peaks. The trail head is just 10 minutes from our dog friendly cabins.

There’s no shortage of outdoor adventures to explore and enjoy with the whole family!

We guarantee a tail wagging good time!