Mt. Rainier

Such a quiet and peaceful night; it was really cold but we were warm and toasty in the van. Morning brought blue skies, bright sunshine and the knowledge that the mountain would be demanding our attention but it was time to go home.

As we drove out of the campground there she was in all of her glory, we had to stop for a couple of parting shots, we just had to, neither one of us can get enough of Mt. Rainier.

From Longmire Inn

From Longmire Inn

From Eatonville

From Eatonville

I LOVE Mt. Rainier!

Paradise

A long (12 hours) night of restful sleep and I feel human once again! To make things easy we ate breakfast at the hotel and again the food was delicious. George had a salmon sweet potato hash and I a chorizo scramble served with perfect hash brown, crispy on the outside and not greasy YUM!

Rather than head home and get mired in Sunday traffic we diverted to Mt. Rainier for our last visit of the season, this time the Paradise side of the mountain. We turned onto Highway 12 toward Morton and the Trump signs began to appear, lots of them it was a little scary just how many there were.

When we left the little town of Ashford it was a little disconcerting to see signs warning of a 1 hour wait at the entrance to the park – road work. It is Sunday so we hoped they were not working today and we could pass easily into the park. We did.

After securing a campsite at Cougar Rock Campground we drove up to Paradise for a late afternoon hike. This is the most beautiful place, no matter the weather and today there were low clouds hiding the mountain but breaking now and again to allow the sun to spotlight the surrounding peaks.

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We hiked to Myrtle Falls and then headed east on the skyline trail. This place always renews my spirit even when the top of the mountain does not reveal itself; we know it’s there and I find myself focusing on things that I might otherwise miss.  We were surprised just how many people were still around when we headed back down to camp late on a Sunday evening.

Above Myrtle Falls

Above Myrtle Falls

 

A few remaining wildflowers

Marmots and Chipmunks

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After dinner we took a walk through camp then across the street to a trail along the Nisqually River.

Sunsetting over the Nisqually River

Sunsetting over the Nisqually River

Our visit to Mt. Rainier was the perfect end to our mini-vacation.

Grove of the Patriarchs and Laughingwater

Forecast is for chance of rain so we decided to head into Packwood to pick up ice and a few other groceries before hiking in hopes that it would clear up. Entering town there were tents set up along sides of the highway and lots of activity, lots of cars parked and people wandering about. Packwood is a very small town so we asked at the grocery store what was going on . . . Flea Market that runs all weekend long. One of the checkers was really excited to get out there and starting “selling”. It would have been interesting to walk through but not interesting enough to give up the time to do so.  A big sign at the grocery check out read “Enter to WIN A FREE GUN SAFE.” There were a lot of pretty gnarly, weathered looking folks in the store and town; I know this was a lumber town for many years but don’t know if that is still the case.

Restocked we headed back to the park to look for an elusive trailhead, Laughingwater Creek. With the overcast and chance of rain there wasn’t much use driving up to Sunrise where, on a clear day, the views are breathtaking instead we wanted to do a forest trail where clouds don’t matter. The Laughingwater Creek trail takes the hardy hiker 6 miles to three lakes or in 7.3 miles the Pacific Crest Trail but I had read about a nice picnic spot just a mile in that overlooks the creek and after yesterday my legs and knee needed a lighter day of hiking. The problem was we couldn’t find the trailhead. Directions were pretty specific in the book and we had asked the ranger who affirmed the directions but the trail sign and entrance kept eluding us.

We drove the section of the road very slowly and still could not find it so decided to move on to another beautiful forest trail, Grove of the Patriarchs, a virgin forest of ancient Douglas firs and western red cedars that have been in place from well before the Normans conquered England. Walking the trail is like walking through a grand cathedral of nature. A suspension bridge takes you to an island in the Ohanapecosh River where the trees stand protected from the ravages of fire and free to reach for the sky. Some are 25 feet in circumference and believed to be nearly 1,000 years old, they are magnificent and because this is a short trail, 3 miles round trip it is accessible to most folks.

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George and an enormous tree along the Gove of the Patriarchs trail

George and an enormous tree along the Gove of the Patriarchs trail

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Crystal clear waters

On our way back to camp with renewed resolve we again went in search of the Laughingwater Creek Trailhead, this time with success! From the description I envisioned a nice trail along the creek but we quickly realized that this was not along the creek, it immediately began climbing up through beautiful forest with carpets of moss and lime green vine maples to light up the path. We climbed and we climbed checking our mileage thinking we could at least go to the overlook that was supposed to be just 1 mile but by 1 ½ miles the trail still showed no sign of descending to the creek; my legs were tired so we turned around without ever seeing the creek. I will say though this is a beautiful section of forest, very quiet and well worth exploring. At this writing the trail to the lakes was blocked by downed trees according to the ranger and we did see evidence of many toppled trees even in the first mile. There is nothing like a great day of strolling through virgin forest to renew the spirit.

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Laughingwater Creek Trail

We arrived back at camp around 3:30 p.m. and just as the rain started campers started filling up the empty campsites. We have to vacate our site tomorrow and hope we can find another with the Labor Day weekend upon us.

It rained into the evening and at one point we turned on the floor furnace for a few minutes making the cabin nice and toasty.

Naches Peak Loop

Mt. Rainier from Tipsoo Lake

Mt. Rainier from Tipsoo Lake

We awoke earlier today I guess we caught up on all of our sleep yesterday, had a quick breakfast and drove up to Chinook Pass to hike the 5-mile Naches Peak Loop trail, one of my favorite, “have to do every year” hikes. The scenery is stunning in all directions and though Mt. Rainier, which is usually visible for the last half of the hike played hide and seek today the hike though is always worthwhile. Wildflower season is essentially over but we did see a few remaining monkey flowers, lupine, pearly everlastings, bistort, magenta paintbrush, asters, bluebells or harbells (not sure which) and just a few hellebores that were still in good shape. At the peak of the wildflowers the meadows below Naches Peak are ablaze with color. This hike was a little easier than yesterday even though it was 2 miles longer and had and additional 700 feet of elevation gain. The ascent was gentle, spread over a longer distance making it an easy walk. Midway are Dewey Lakes down in the valley, we didn’t go down mainly because I didn’t feel like climbing back up the steep trail. Instead we found an outcropping where we sat and had lunch soaking in the surrounding grandeur.

Nachos Peak and the trail

Nachos Peak and the trail

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Monkey flower

Butterfly on wild asters

Butterfly on wild asters

Back in camp we stopped at the ranger station to ask about the trailhead along Laughingwater Creek. We had directions but could not find the trail marker as we drove along the road. The young ranger described how to find it and where to park; we may try that one tomorrow. We talked to her for a bit and learned that she comes from a long line of rangers, her mother and father were both rangers and her grandmother hiked and camped all of her life. She had some photos of her family, 3-generations of forest stewards. She also had a display table set up with photos and other park information; she was conducting a survey about the National Parks. She had a number of photographs and each had a question written on the back, questions like do you think there should be more roads in the park to increase accessibility . . . NO! How do you feel about the reintroduction of fishers in Mt. Rainier NP? They are a member of the weasel family and were lost to hunting in the 1930’s when their pelts were quite valuable. I couldn’t answer that one, I really don’t know enough about the subject of species reintroduction. It sounds like a good idea on the surface though. Another question was about installation of cell towers another easy NO! Another question was what we thought was the biggest risk to the national parks . . . I said people. She also had a board where people were invited to write their definition of wilderness on a sticky note. One little boy wrote “love”, other definitions were “quiet”, “majestic”, and you get the idea. I can find no way to describe the wilderness and certainly most people to Mt. Rainier never really experience true wilderness because they enter in cars and view the park from their cars but still gain an appreciation for the importance of preserving what nature has created.

Counting our evening walk around the camp after dinner we logged about 6 miles today and just as we got back to the van the rain started pitter pat on the roof.

Little did we know at the time but this was to be our only glimpse of the mountain, by the time we finished hiking Naches Peak Loop trail the mountain was shrouded in clouds and remained so for the rest of our stay.

Mt. Rainier from Tipsoo Lake

Mt. Rainier from Tipsoo Lake

 

Heading to the mountains and points east

Finally we are about to embark on a camping trip, it is August 29, nearly the end of the season for Mt. Rainier. Early in the spring I had carved out 6 weeks on our calendar for camping but other things kept coming up that we really wanted to do and the time quickly diminished to 4 weeks. When it finally did come time to hit the road we tried to move Vincent, our van, out of the garage to begin cleaning and restocking but the van would not start. We called a towing service, they came to jump the van and voila it started.   Our first mistake was to let it sit again for a couple of days so when we began the cleaning/packing process again a few days later again the van would not start. So, again, we called the towing company and again they responded but were told the battery was DOA so we had it towed to a local repair shop, explained the problem and left the van for a new battery and a “once-over” to make sure everything else was in good shape. They replaced the battery, the rear brakes and other little things so we thought we were good to go. Erring on the side of caution we opted for a quick overnight trip just to make sure that, in fact, we were “good to go”.

We head up to Snoqualmie Pass for a quick overnight. Dinnertime and the counter top that covers our sink and stove would not stay up on it’s own. Not a good thing. We managed to jerry rig it to stay up so we could cook but the propane stove lit with a very small flame, not really strong enough to cook anything and when I turned it off to try again it wouldn’t light. Are you kidding me? The propane stove is not rocket science!

We pulled out our old backpacking stove and managed to cook dinner but knew these things needed attending before we went out for any length of time. So once we returned home we started calling RV repair places only to find it would be at least 3 weeks before anyone could take us. So we delayed our trip once again for necessary maintenance oi vey!

Aug. 29…we go! The van is clean, packed and we are hopeful that everything will run smoothly. It didn’t take long for doubts to creep in, on starting up the van there was an odd noise that sounded like it was coming from the air vents . . . maybe a leaf was stuck in the air vent but then it sounded like it was coming from the back cabin so I got out and opened the door. The noise was coming from the speaker. . . huh? It didn’t make any sense to me, the noise was coming from the front air vents and the rear speaker . . . oh good grief, now what?

George went ahead and pulled out of the driveway thinking maybe once we were underway it would stop, it did not. About ½ block away George realized that it was the radio, not set on a channel. He turned off the radio and the noise stopped.  Brilliant eh? One thing about getting older, it is really easy to entertain yourself with the stupid things that you do.

We are on the road at 11:30 a.m. YAY! The plan was to stop and visit friends near Crystal Mountain before looking for a campsite near Mt. Rainier National Park. We found Tom and Diane’s home easily and visited for a bit then went for a long walk along the White River near their home. It was good to see old friends and to possibly hatch a plan for a winter trip with them.

White River

White River

Salmon Rearing

Salmon Rearing

Not far down the road from their house we turned into Silver Springs Campground and found a lovely site with a little stream running behind the van. The White River was across the road. By the time we finished dinner it was bedtime and the river serenaded us all night.

Behind our campsite

A llittle creek ran behind our campsite

Campsite at Silver Springs

Our campsite at Silver Springs

Mt. Rainier

My cousin, Virginia, and her husband, Steve, were visiting from Maryland, and had not been to Mt. Rainier on previous trips west so we whisked them from sea level to Paradise on Mt. Rainier at 5,400 feet elevation, not an easy transition if you are intent on hiking but they did great.

The first afternoon/evening we played a game of peek-a-boo with the mountain, the clouds obscuring the summit most of the time and I was worried that after driving so far we might not even see the summit.  Fear not, the next morning we awoke to clear blue skies and the mountain out in all of its glory and a nice brisk walk before breakfast sounded nice.  The mountain is amazing in the early morning light but walking outside we were slammed with 30+ mph winds and 39 degrees – a little too brisk.  We walked down the Nisqually Glacier trail and ducked down behind the trees to get out of the wind for a much more comfortable walk; it was still cold but we were out of the wind.  We met Steve and Virginia on their way back from the more exposed skyline trail and we headed back to the inn for hot coffee and breakfast, a rather disappointing and over-priced buffet but the coffee was good.

Virginia

Virginia

Staying at the historic Paradise Inn where the views are spectacular and the trails start right outside the door is always a treat. The parking lot clears out in late afternoon leaving you, and the other 100+ guests, alone to enjoy the evening and early morning light, great for photography.  This year there was a lot of trail reconstruction taking place so access was not quite as straightforward but still just a short walk from the lodge.

Paradise Inn at Mt. Rainier

Paradise Inn at Mt. Rainier

From Paradise we drove the Stevens Canyon Road stopping for short hikes into Bench and Snow Lakes, Box Canyon and the Grove of the Patriarchs.

Nearing Bench Lake

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 Box Canyon Trail

Grove of the Patriarchs Trail

I learned that two days is not nearly enough time for the amount of ground we covered.  We ended up spending far too much time sitting in the car instead of enjoying the trails and didn’t allow enough time to just revel in the beautiful surroundings.  Next time we will stay in one place or allow more time.