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Van Trump Park, MRNP,  November 20, 2005

With a week-long pressure inversion lying over the lowlands like a fat kitty in a basket, I hooked up with the Euros, Michael and Fabien,  for a breath of fresh mountain air at Rainier. The drive up was uneventful save for the guy who had hit the brakes on an icy stretch just inside the park entrance and ended up high-centering his rig on the rockery bordering a parking strip - lucky he didn't flip the car!

Though the plan was to go in past Catherine Falls and head up toward Van Trump Park, the snow cover at 3,650 looked pretty sketchy, the possibility of skinning right from the car at Paradise was minutes away, they had bathrooms with toilet paper there, we'd see a lot of friends,  . . . etc. etc. - in other words, we almost bagged it and went up the road with the hoardes.

We were the lone car parked in the trailhead mini-lot as a number of Turns-All-Year regulars passed by, some waving and laughing. After hemming and hawing for about ten minutes, we found enough toilet paper for at least two of us in my pack, and decided to bypass the crowds on the Muir Snowfield and go for Van Trump.

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We hiked in trail runners through a nice forest for about 700 vertical feet, then switched to skis and skins. Unfortunately there were a few small stream crossings that required booting, but nothing too demanding. A high point of the forest trek was the sight of Comet Falls pouring down from above with a bluebird sky framing it (above row, far left).  Breaking into the clear after an hour or so of uphill, we noticed a nicely laid skin track from the day before which we followed up and through Van Trump Park to about the 9,200 foot level.

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The perfect weather called for several leisurely food stops, and quite a few photos of the unique smoke plume emanating from St. Helens, which veered sharply east and ran perfectly horizontally for at least fifty miles (top row, far right).

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Savoring the late afternoon sun on the mountain, we procrastinated for some time before preparing to ski down, finally beginning the descent at around 3:45 PM. We reasoned that the skiing should take far less time than the skinning, but didn't totally factor in the extra vertical down to the car (relative to Muir) plus the less-than-convenient stream crossings and switchbacks. Thanks to the wonder of headlamps, we hit the parking lot about an hour after dark and headed directly to the famed Puerto Vallarta in Eatonville . . .

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