The higher elevations in the Sunrise area of Mount Rainier got a light dusting of snow on the morning of my last day there but it melted when the sun rose. After hiking a bit on the Sourdough Ridge Trail early in the day hoping to see marmots, pikas, or grouse (and not seeing any), I went a little lower in elevation to the trailhead of the Summerland Trail. The trail is an uphill march mostly through a forest before you pop out into a mountain meadow at the very end of the trail, I chose it since there was a chance of seeing hoary marmots and elk in the meadow (the mountain views from the meadow are also spectacular and make up for the lack of views in the forest).
I didn’t see any elk but I did see a few marmots when I first entered the talus field. The afternoon sun didn’t make for good light for pictures but this marmot was shadowed by rocks where the snow hadn’t melted. I followed the trail through the rocks and saw more and more marmots until I realized just how large the colony is at the end of the trail, this was by far the largest marmot colony of any species I’ve come across.
I spent the rest of the afternoon watching the marmots as at least one was usually close to the trail, taking advantage of every passing cloud to improve the light. I had thoughts about staying until sunset but I still had a long hike back down and while I had my headlamp, I was hiking alone and didn’t want to risk it. When the marmots that had been near the trail were no longer around, I took that as my cue and headed back down the trail.