On Sunday the skies were clear, so we headed about 60 miles south to do some hiking on Mt. Rainier. At 14,411 feet, Mt. Rainier is the highest mountain in the Cascade Range and is considered one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes. It last erupted in the 1880s but there is no evidence that another eruption is imminent. But it is a little disconcerting seeing volcano evacuation route signs.
The mountain is located in Mount Rainier National Park, established in 1899 as the fifth national park in the United States. The park encompasses 236,381 acres, including all of Mount Rainier. The mountain rises abruptly from the surrounding land with elevations in the park ranging from 1,600 feet to over 14,000 feet. Around it are valleys, waterfalls, subalpine wildflower meadows, old growth forest and more than 25 glaciers. The volcano is often shrouded in clouds that dump enormous amounts of rain and snow on the peak every year and hide it from view most days. That’s why, when we saw the weather prediction for clear skies, we headed for the mountain.
After entering the park, you drive about ten miles through the forest when, suddenly, the mountain appears to your left.
We continued to drive the road up the side of the mountain 19 miles to Paradise Visitors Center. Paradise is located at 5,400 feet and is famous for its beautiful views and wildflower meadows. When early Rainier explorer James Longmire’s daughter-in-law, Martha, first saw this site, she exclaimed, “Oh, what a paradise!” The Paradise area is very crowded in the summer and is also the prime winter-use area in the park, receiving on average 641 inches of snow a year. Winter activities include snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and tubing. When we arrived, the parking lot was full, so we had to continue about a mile down the road to find a place to park, then hike back up the road to the Visitors Center.
Once we reached the Visitors Center, we began our hike up the Skyline Trail with a stop to view Myrtle Falls.
The paved path turns to dirt and snow above Myrtle Falls. Seems a bit weird to be hiking through snow in short sleeves.
In the picture below you can just see a bank of snow on the right side of the mountain. That is the Nisqually Glacier. The flowing snow below it is the Nisqually Icefall.
The icefall is a jumble of truck-sized ice blocks poised in a slow-motion tumble down the glacier, sometimes moving as much as three feet in one day.
As we looked up at the mountain it appeared that some dots in the snow were moving.
Zooming in a bit, it was clear that hikers were climbing the snow bank and sliding back down.
. . . clouds completely cover it. Wait a few more minutes and it might just be back in view.
After hiking back down to the car, we drove around the other side of the park and were treated to some different views of the mountain.
After a long, but exciting day we headed back to the motorhome, stopping in the small town of Snoqualmie for dinner. Tomorrow we head back into Seattle for a specialty tour that will be enjoyed by two of us. More on that later . . .