My second visit to Mr. Rainier essentially mimicked the first, since we had a family friend visiting and a longer hike (I wanted to do Rampart Ridge) would have been difficult. The same hike, to Panorama Point, however turned out to be a totally different experience.
This time, we did the Skyline trail hike in July as opposed to September, which is when we did it the last time. We also had our five-year old daughter with us. Thus we not only had to gingerly walk across the ice packs we encountered on the trail (a slip would mean a slide down a ice-covered hill), but also make sure that our daughter could make the walk without problems or being scared (which she would have been if she had looked to the side).
We safely, albeit tensely, made it to Panorama Point at 730p but we were reluctant to go down back over the ice packs. So like last time, we tried to go down a different route to avoid walking on ice. This worked well for a while and then the "trail", as it were, got more and more rugged. Then it ran into a creek/waterfall that we had to scramble down and the trail started up again. Well and good so far. After a while, the trail just ended. We were in the middle of the base of Mt. Rainier far from the actual trail that we used to climb up, in the middle of meadows. We could see people hiking up the Skyline trail and so we made a direct path to it walking across meadows, snow packs (which were flat, not sloped), and rocks. We finally rejoined the Skyline trail, just as the clouds started moving in, and made it back to the parking lot safely.
We were blessed with good weather and we were lucky no one sprained an ankle, or hurt themselves in any other way. Had the clouds come in slightly earlier, we'd have been totally without direction. What's life without a semi-life-threatening adventure?