We had our best hike yet - perfect weather, and an encounter with a fox, a bear, and mountain goats!
At 9am on Monday (Labor Day) we arrived at the Sunrise parking lot. It was about 95% full but there were still a few spaces left on the side furthest from the lodge. The sky was so thick with cloud that the trailhead itself was barely visible, and it was quite cold so we layered up.
We hit the trail, following Sourdough Ridge, and the cloud gradually began to lift. The trail is well signposted, and there were multiple volunteers on the way who helped confirm our route. By the time we neared Frozen Lake the mist had gone, so our extra layers came off, but Mt. Rainer was still obscured by cloud.
It was at this point we saw a Cascade red fox dart out the bushes, run along the trail, and head towards the small damn on the east side of Frozen Lake. We watched from the U-bend in the trail as the fox stalked its prey in the shrubs, then pounced and caught a pika. The fox buried its kill, then ran back onto the trail before vanishing off through the scenic viewpoint (a dead-end for hikers).
At the five-way junction, we took the rightmost fork heading for Fremont Lookout. The trail was a gentle ascent which then crosses some talus fields, but is very well maintained. The clouds above had lifted, but there was still a blanket of cloud below us. Taking our time, we reached the Fire Lookout around 11:15am. We stayed there for lunch, by which point all the clouds had completely gone.
While the lookout was a popular destination, it was also quiet enough at times that we had the place almost to ourselves (aside from the numerous chipmunks and ground squirrels). Looking to the south west, we could see a herd of mountain goats about a mile away, on the trail leading to Skyscraper Mountain, so we decided to get a closer view.
We headed back to the five-way junction, turned right onto the Wonderland Trail, and encountered another volunteer. We had a chat to confirm the location of the goats, but he also let us know about a bear sighting.
After watching the bear from a safe distance, we carried on towards Skyscraper Mountain. There were about twenty mountain goats, moving around frequently as they grazed the eastern slopes.
Eventually we called it a day, following the trail back to the five-way junction, along the Sourdough Ridge Trail, reaching the Sunrise parking lot at 4pm.
All-in-all, about 10 miles of hiking (due to our detours), 2000ft ascent (due to lots of down and up again), and some wonderful memories!