After the drive through Stevens Canyon we exited the park near Crystal Mountain and stayed at Alta Crystal Resort for the night, great little cabins in the woods, within striking distance of Crystal Mountain. We planned to meet two long-time friends who live in the area the next morning for one more short hike before heading home. Tom and Diane arrived at 10 a.m. and we drove to the Crystal Mountain ski area where we rode the gondola 2,500 vertical feet to the summit it was a spectacular ride! At the summit, with perfectly clear skies we had a 360 degree view and could see Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens, the Olympic Mountains to the west and Mt. Baker to the north it was awesome! Neither George nor I had ever been up here before, don’t know why we have missed this truly spectacular site – we will return. I was completely blown away by how gorgeous it was and these photos do not even come close to revealing the sense of awe that we felt.
On the left Mt. Adams in the distance (I need a better telephoto lens) and on the right Mt. Rainier and the White River
We ate lunch at the Summit House Restaurant, sitting outside in the sun, perched at 6,782 feet elevation with Mt. Rainier dominating the view, it was a gorgeous day. We ordered and waited, and waited, and waited; it took over an hour for the meal to arrive with many apologies from the waitress, and free pints of beer – elevation and alcohol makes for an interesting combination. George resisted the temptation as he had the long drive home ahead, what a trooper. Eventually we learned from the waitress, more apologies, that there was an electronic failure and the computer failed to send our order to the kitchen. When the food finally did arrive it was very good and we were rewarded with a nice discount on the bill having to wait so long. The extra time did give us the opportunity for a nice long time to visit and more time to soak in the beautiful scenery. My recommendation is, even if you don’t want to hike, try the gondola ride on a sunny summer day for awesome views and gorgeous wildflower meadows (we missed the flowers). It is pricey but still worth the trip at least once. I think we will return next summer to try an catch the wildflowers. Awesome!