Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Our Great Northwest Adventure- Day 14-16, Mt Rainier

Our Great Northwest Adventure- Mount Rainier- Day 14-16

This is days 14 thru 16, of my family's Great Adventure. If you are just starting this "read", start with Day 1.

Day 14-
   Today's goal is Paradise, in Mt Rainier National Park. We had reservations at the Inn.
   When we were planning this trip, our plan was to stay at Paradise this night, at 5000+ ft elevation, to acclimate, then to backpack with David and Barb, up to 8000 ft and sleep on the Muir Snowfield, to acclimate, and then hike up to Camp Muir and back down to Paradise the next day. There are only 32 people allowed to overnight in that area of the park, so you have to enter a lottery for a a spot. We did NOT get a permit. We were VERY disappointed, but made the best of it with additional plans.
   So, this morning we woke in Kalaloch, packed up camp, and started driving. A side trip up to the Ranger Station at Lake Quinault got us another Passport stamp for Melody, and a pretty view of the Lake.

Next stop, finding someplace to resupply along the way. We found a grocery store, and also stopped and got some greasy fattening unhealthy fast food. It was delicious.
   Finally after several hours of driving, we got to the town of Ashford, and stopped for a stamp. You could see Rainier long before you got there. It is such a picturesque mountain. We cruised around a shop for souveneirs. The upstairs was the Guide company that my nephew Lance works for. They (he) guide climbing trips to the summit of Rainier. What an adventure that would be. They had a small kids climbing wall outside, and both the boys got to "summit" it.

   Now we were entering the Park

Next stop, the Longmire Museum, for a book stamp, and pick up Junior Ranger books. It was an interesting place to look around.
   Then we were off to Christine Falls.

We thoroughly explored the falls area, then down the road to Narada Falls. It was gorgeous also.

In fact, everything about this park was gorgeous. There is not one square inch there that doesn't make you want to stop for a long look. Driving along the twisting turning switchbacking road, up up up, and pulling out for more views and more views.

It was just incredible. I could have spent 2 weeks in this park. The mountains are unbelievable.

   After a bunch of stops, we made it up to Paradise. Fortunately, it was LATE in the day, so there were parking spots. This lot fills fast earlier. There were cars parked on the road shoulder lined up a mile or more away. We were so lucky not to have to do that. There were still tons of people there, and it was easy to see why. There are no words to describe the scenery.

We walked around the visitors center, got a quick dinner, and checked into our rooms. The lodge is very old, but very well preserved and beautiful inside, but the rooms are small, and the bathrooms and showers are down the hall, shared by all.

We got our luggage to our rooms, and then Larry and I chose to go on a hike up the paved scenic trail. The late evening light was lovely, and there were wildflowers everywhere in all colors of the rainbow.

We hiked around to a small waterfall on the mountain, and then back down.

The air was clear and fresh, and the views were never ending. The sun was setting around the mountain as we returned to our room.

We got some showers, and turned into bed. It was about 10:30 maybe, and there was still tons of people being loud in the parking lot and in the giant lobby area downstairs. The walls are thin, and we had the window open to get the mountain air. Finally we fell asleep. (Might I mention that getting up to pee during the night and having to walk all the way down the hall....it sucked a little)

Day 15-
   We had a great start for the morning. We already had a much sought after parking spot at the Visitors Center at Paradise.We checked out of the Inn and had some breakfast, and packed a lunch.

Today we would be hiking up the mountain onto the Muir Snowfield. Our hike started on the paved, well used Panorama Point trail, along with a whole lot of tourist type people in sandles. The views were non stop wonderful, and the wild flowers were incredibly abundant and so colorful.

I finally got to see Mountain Heather in real life.

The hike up to Panorama Point is steep, but very enjoyable, despite the hoards of people. We mingled from time to time with people headed up to, or down from, the summit.

You could tell the "cool" people, because they carried ice axes and ropes and other necessary gear for glacier climbing. We were a little envious, wondering what it would be like to stand on the top of that mountain. It looked like the top was an easy walk from there. It's actually one of the most difficult climbs in the lower 48 states. No climbing for us.

Once we reached Panorama Point and drank in the views, we continued upwards, up along Pebble Creek, and up onto the snow field.

We hike some further on the on-and-off snow, and then scrambled up a rocky outcrop and got out lunch. We could see tiny specs of people up high, on their way to Camp Muir. They were the lucky ones that got permits.

We had a nice lunch perched on what felt like the top of the world. We were at 8000 ft approx. The mountain is well over 14,000 ft. We were actually no where near the top.

From our view point you could see Mt Adams,

Mt St Helens,

and Mt Hood all the way in Oregon.
   Then it was time to head down. We had heard about glissading, and watched some people do it (slide down the mountain on your butt), so when we came to a short but well used glissade chute, we gave it a try. It was a ton of fun, despite it being slushy and getting wet butts. Smart people carrier a kitchen trash bag to sit on. We weren't smart, but it was a blast.

We hiked back down the snowfield and back onto the trail, then followed the trail back to Paradise, still soaking in the splendor around us.

There are no words in the english language to describe what the scenery was like. We finally made our way back to the parking lot, and headed out for the next part of our Rainier adventure.

   We drove east some more on Steven's Canyon Road, and pulled off at Box canyon. A small stream has eroded thru a crack in the rock and over the eons has worn a very deep slot thru the rock layers. It is a narrow, very deep canyon, with a strong swift swirling river current below.

We walked the trail that followed it up some, crossed on a bridge, and came back down. It was really cool looking. Then back in the cars to check out more pull-outs and views. We had not been able to get reservations to camp in the park that night, but had gotten reservations in the National Forest campground, just a few miles outside the south east entrance, near Ohanapecosh. We had hoped to do another short hike, but it was getting late, so we drove out and set up camp at La Wis Wis. It is on a remote river in the forest. It was really pretty, but there are almost NO emenities.

There was one bathroom that had 2 flush toilets and one sink. There were 4 camping loops. The other loops had pit toilets. There was NO electricity for lights in the bathrooms, but at least there WAS running drinking water. We got the tents set up and made some dinner and relaxed some, and of course we explored the river area. It was glacial blue, like so many rivers in the area. We loved it. A nice campfire to end the evening, and it was bedtime.

Day 16-
This day we had a rare treat. We did not have to break down camp and pack. Our travels would bring us back to this camp. That only happened twice the whole trip.
   We had a leisurely breakfast, and then started our day by driving into the Ohanapecosh Visitors Center for a Ranger program for the kid's Junior Ranger books.

The Ranger took us on a short hike to learn about things in the forest that can be used to help us if we are lost. She was great with the kids and really seemed to enjoy what she does. Once we were done there, we started driving north, toward "Sunrise visitor's center".

On the way, we stopped at Tipsoo lake for a nice hike around the lake and up onto the Pacific Crest Trail, which we wanted to hike along to say we'd hiked it. The lake gave us a wonderful reflection of Mt Rainier. This is a popular place so there were Rangers walking around keeping an eye on people. It's sad that people who enjoy being out in nature can't be trusted not to do stupid stuff.

   Satisfied with our PCT hike, we drove more north, enjoying all the incredible views. From the time we entered that south east corner of the park, till be got to the Sunrise Visitors Center, we were driving UP hill. Much of the up up up was flanking a cliff side. I was sure glad I wasn't driving. We got to the entrance gate for that area, and there were SO many people up at the VC that they were only letting in 10 people every 15 minutes or so. We waited in the line of cars for our turn. They don't have the luxury in this area to park cars all down the hill on the shoulder, so they have to limit who gets in. Once we made it up to the gate, they let Melody's car in, and stopped us. I explained that we were together, and he let us go ahead. We drove the rest of the way up to Sunrise and got a parking spot.

We looked around in the visitors center at the exhibits, and then went for a hike for more views of Mt Rainier. Now we were on the northern side of the mountain, which gets little sun, and it is MUCH more glaciated and snowy. It looked like a totally different mountain to me. The summit CAN be reached from this side, but most climb from the south side, thru Camp Muir.
   The hike took us along a ridge side to some wonderful views of the mountain and the valley that separated it from us, complete with a little gem of a lake below us.

It was a nice hike, but the wild flowers weren't as abundant on this side.

After our hike, the kid's got their Junior Ranger books signed and got their badges, and we treated ourselves to ice cream in the cafe.

There were plenty of people in there that were hiking the Wonderland Trail. That trail makes a complete circle around the base of the mountain. The trail is almost 100 miles of up and down and up and down. You have to get a permit wayyyyy in advance to hike it, and many people do not get one. You send in multiple itineraries to try to get a spot, but thousands of people apply also. Maybe you'll be lucky, and maybe not. The people in the cafe were dining on big juicy cheeseburgers which I imagined were the tastiest things they'd eaten in a long time.
   It was getting later in the day, so it was time to go. We had one more hike to do. We got back in our cars, and drove down, down, down, down for what seemed like 50 miles. It was probably 10 miles.

Next stop, Grove of the Patriarchs Trail. This easy, well traveled trail winds thru an old growth forest and highlights some HUGE trees. It also follows a quiet glacial stream part of the way.

The trees were amazing. It's hard to imagine any tree growing that big.

Then it was time to head back to camp. I was really sad to be leaving Mt Rainier. It is incredible, and I would have loved to stay a few more days. We drove back out to La Wis Wis campground and made dinner and got a little relaxing in, along with a campfire. Yup, we had a campfire every night. Then time for bed. Tomorrow we would leave for Mt St Helens.

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