Monday, October 13, 2008

A visit to Mt. Rainier

Driving to ParadiseFriday 10/10/08 I took off of work to spend a day at Mt. Rainier with Stac and Miles. The forecast was promising good weather and I was excited for the day. I dropped Kiah off at Seminary at 5:55 am and swung back around to pick up Stac and Sofi and Miles. We dropped Sofi off at the Rennies, who'd make sure she got to school and we left Issaquah at 6:30 am. Miles said he was hungry and we stopped for a quick bite at McDonalds in Renton. A few miles further down the road and Miles said : "I think I am going to throw up" and proceeded to barf into the McDonalds bag. Ugh. But after that he perked up and was fine the rest of the day. Must have been eating at such an early hour.

Rocky and FrostyWe arrived in Ashford around 8:30 am and entered the park. The forecast predicted a high of 35 degrees Fahrenheit for the day, I was glad I'd packed warm clothes for everyone, including shells, hats and gloves. As you enter the park your inundated with a dense forest that flourishes in all the rain that falls as Rainier catches moisture on its massive flanks as well as the huge snowfall that melts each year. We were headed for Paradise a huge meadow at 5500 feet above sea level that gets massive snow fall each year but is snow free for several months in the late summer and early fall. The least amount of snow they've ever recorded is 26 feet in one year and the most is 93 feet.

And the River FlowedAs our car climbed up the switch backs we came along the Nisqually River, and the trees opened up and we caught our first views of something besides forest. The trees were covered in frost and fog hung in the air. We stopped so Miles could use the bathroom and I wandered down to the river to take a few photos. Back in the car we arrived at Paradise parking lot around 9:45 am. There was a new visitor center opening today, the old one had closed last week, so there were a ton of rangers in the parking lot. While folks milled around the new building, we donned our winter layers and headed up the to the meadows above Paradise.

up, up and some more up750,000 people visit Paradise each year, so paving the the trails with asphalt is the only way to protect the meadow from permanent trampling. There was a light dusting of snow and the temperature was below freezing the previous night, so there were some slick spots on the trail. A party of four passed us and encountered ice on the trail ahead of us. As we approached it, maybe 30 feet away, Miles was running ahead and I said : "Miles there is ice, stop your going to fall". I repeated this at least 4 times, each time with more force. Of course at almost 5 he doesn't listen, so he goes tromping up the frost and hits the ice and falls and slides down (unhurt) on his belly. We had to resort to walking on the grass on the side of the trail to get traction and make it up.

On the way back down we passed this same location and a ranger was chipping the ice with a shovel and Miles this time took to the grass on the side. The ranger scolded him and told him to walk on the pavement and showed us a path through he'd cleared. I explained that we had had to walk on the grass on the way up due to the ice. The ranger said : "there are plenty of trails, better to go around than walk on the grass". Mind you we were 100 yards up the trail and going around wasn't really practical, geesh.

The Mountain and UsWe made our way up the trail and stopped for a break to have a snack and take a photo beneath the mountain summit which kept peeking in and out among the clouds. Upward we continued till a fork in the path. I wanted to trundle the short distance up to Glacier Vista so Miles and Stac took a break I ran up for a view. From the high point (6400 feet) as I looked back down on Stac and Miles they were lost in the snow covered meadows with the Tatoosh Range rearing behind them. Jogging back down we continued back toward Paradise, this time taking a easterly route past gorgeous red huckleberry covered slopes.

Skipping The Light Fantastic

New Visitor CenterWe took a tour through the new visitor center, and had a nice bowl of hot beef stew. The new center was nice but nothing "grand", given its setting. Its smaller than the old center, but built more in line with the huge amounts of snowfall, and has a nice open airy feel to it with the big beamed ceilings. We loaded back up in the car and headed east down huge switch backs towards the Stevens Canyon Entrance and the Grove of the Patriarchs.

Fathers of RainierThe Ohanapechosh River spreads wide and its bottom has spread fertile sandy and loamy soil. Trees flourish and some giants have grown, near the end of the trail you cross the river on a small suspension bridge and there iss a board walk that winds through a huge series of Douglas Fir and Cedar tower above the landscape. Miles and I ran around the boardwalk playing hide and go seek among the 1000 year old trees.

The White RiverBack in the car again, we were running dangerous low on gas and we drove a few miles south out of the park to get gas, then back up the road towards Sunrise. We were bummed to see that the facilities at Sunrise were closed but we'd paid our entrance fee once already and we drove on. We came to a place on the map that looked like we could walk down to the White River. We climbed over and under downed trees to the field of the river bed. The glacial rivers don't have well define river banks. They are generally wide and heavily sandy and rock strewn. Glaciers eat rocks in their foot and grind them to silt which fills the water and provides the milky white color. As the floods of spring swell the river, the river channel changes to mark the easiest path. We were there late in the afternoon as the last light was sinking below the ridge line. We caught a few glimmers and pictures as the day aged, and threw rocks in the water till our arms ached.

Sad to let go of a beautiful day we got back in the car for our final drive to Enumclaw where we stopped for dinner at a local Italian restaurant. Arriving back home at 7:30, we'd enjoyed a beautiful day. 13 hours and 200 miles and so many wonderful memories.
Set on


Blogger staceygriff said...

Miles and I had a great day, even if he threw up in the car and I had to hold the bag. It was peaceful and beautiful. I'm glad you took the day off with us. I see Rainier at times in the distance and think it's a lot farther than it is. It's so much more accessible than we think. We need to go there with the family more often.

8:09 AM  
Blogger thom said...

I've heard great things about that little Italian place in Enumclaw - I'll have to try it, just usually we end up stopping at Pizza Hut cos I grew up on Pizza Hut!

Glad you guys had an awesome day!

10:13 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Nice trip, Mark. It's an amazing place, Rainier is.

4:39 PM  

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