Mt. Rainier

Seattle, WA

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.

File:Volcano evacuation route sign.jpg

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.

Nisqually Entrance

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.

Broadleaf Lupine and Magenta Paintbrush in Paradise Valley

The hiking team surveys their challenge for the day . . .

. . . and show they are up to the challenge!

Once we reached the Visitors Center, we began our hike up the Skyline Trail with a stop to view Myrtle Falls.

Myrtle Falls

Two Sherpa guides begin the ascent

Sherpa hikers rest along the trail

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.

The Nisqually Icefall

A closer look

Cast members from The Sound of Music enjoy a brief rest  during filming

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.

The views of the mountain are constantly changing as you hike up the trail and as clouds move by.  One minute the mountain is clearly visible, then clouds cover parts of it, then . . .

. . . 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 . . .

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3 Responses to Mt. Rainier

  1. Marsha says:

    The Park sounds exactly like I would picture it. Sooooo awesome.
    That Mt. is just about overwhelming. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the photos. I feel like I am there with you three.

    That BLUE sky backdrop made the photos of you three FABULOUS! What a thrilled to be there.
    What a hoot to be hiking through the snow. WONDERFUL.

    The Nisqually Icefall is something else. Never heard of it. Another treat.
    I actually like the back side of the Mt. better. So strong and dominating.

    What a thrilled it must have been to meet the cast from the Sound of Music. They look like very nice people…cute too.

  2. Erin says:

    When we visited the park back in 1982, we weren’t into hiking and such; looking forward to going back to explore on foot.

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