Paradise – Mt. Rainier

Our yearly pilgrimage to Mt. Rainier has finally arrived and I can hardly wait, Mt. Rainier is definitely my happy place. With most of the winter snows gone I am hoping for a spectacular show of wild flowers but in truth I will love it flowers or none it is just such a beautiful place in any weather, any time of the year, the mountain has an energy that I cannot describe you just have to go there and feel it for yourself.

Mt. Rainier from Paradise Visitor Center

When we arrived at Longmire, about 25 miles from the top of the road at Paradise Inn, the sign said the parking lot was full at Paradise and that is never good but it is Sunday and summer weekends are packed, everyone out to enjoy the mountains. We took a chance, as did many others, and drove to the top, we have a reservation at the Inn for the night so knew that at some point we would find a place to park it was just a matter of how far we would have to hike back up.

All of the trailhead parking spots were full and nearing the Inn the picnic parking was full and cars were parked in every possible spot alongside the road . . . not looking good. We made a couple of passes through the parking lot hoping someone would leave but no such luck and then I saw a man with a clipboard at the entrance to the parking for the Inn . . . perhaps an “in”. Sure enough he was allowing registered guests in to park even though we had arrived early WAHOO!

Paradise Inn is a classic National Park Inn, built in 1916. The rooms are small and simple, some with and some without baths but the rooms are not the main attraction here, it is the mountain.

Paradise Inn at Mt. Rainier

We were meeting friends who had driven up yesterday and we quickly found them, grabbed a bite of lunch then headed off for a hike. The clouds were welcome, making hiking a delight as we climbed above the tree line.  We started out on the Myrtle Falls trail and then headed east for a short distance on the Skyline Trail before being turned back by a stream crossing.

Myrtle Falls Trail

Slogging back uphill we continued in the other direction playing peek-a-boo with the mountain as the clouds rolled in and out. At elevations above 5,500 feet we were feeling challenged by the steep trail and thin air but we persevered seduced by the views and meadows of blooming wildflowers (avalanche lilies, glacier lilies, magenta Indian paintbrush and lupine.




Deception Falls

On the west side of Stevens Pass there is a hidden gem of a waterfall.  We’ve stopped there many times to stretch our legs but never at this time of year, after a major snow melt.  This rather ordinary but pretty cascade becomes a spectacular torrent of water crashing down multi-tiered waterfalls, culminating when the falls slam into a granite wall – making an abrupt 90-degree turn to the right before joining the Tye River.

Deception Falls

Right Turn



On the road again . . .

On 9 days behind schedule but we finally pulled out of the driveway around 1:00 p.m. heading to points south with a goal of Yosemite National Park. We have until the end of the month before we need to be home and this first week the weather does not promise to be much more than rain, no matter whether we take the coastal route, go straight down I-5 or even head to the eastside of the Cascades which also threatens rain/snow. For now we opt for the shortest distance, straight down I-5 as far as Salem or Roseburg and then look at the weather forecast.


It was a little disconcerting to see two of the campgrounds along I-5 south of Olympia closed but Seaquest State Park, gateway to Mt. St. Helens was open so that’s where we decided to go, only 5 miles off the freeway it would be easy enough to turn around if we didn’t like it. As we pulled into the camping area we noticed a lot of tree limbs and branches scattered about in fact we backed out of the first camping loop because of the amount of debris on the roadway. A ranger was clearing one of the roads so we stopped and talked to make sure the campground was open for business. He said they had experienced 60 mph winds on Friday, lost 7 trees and countless limbs large and small. He had one section of the roadway cleared so we opted to camp the night in the full hook-up area where it had been cleared.

We set up camp and took a walk through the destruction, what a mess! Exploring one of the closed loops you could barely see the picnic tables. I wanted to see if we could get to the lake without running across a busy highway and sure enough there was an underpass that led to a beautiful walkway through the marshes with a great view across the lake to snow-capped Mt. St. Helens. I had not brought my camera but tried to capture it with the cell phone, not the same.

Water Lily

The Visitor Center was closed by this time but we may stop in the morning and I saw a group of trillium that I would like to shoot with my “real” camera tomorrow.


Back in camp another trailer had arrived and we stopped to chat, a nice couple of Mukilteo out on their maiden voyage with a brand new trailer. They invited us over but by the time we finished dinner and cleaned up the kitchen it was getting dark and had started to drizzle, maybe we will see them in the morning.

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!


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.


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




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.

Walla Walla to Boardman OR

A transition day switching from glamping to camping but before leaving the lovely Marcus Whitman Hotel and Walla Walla we had a few chores to take care of. First stop by the bicycle shop to have the flat tire on George’s bike fixed, the culprit “goat heads”. The fellow at Argosy Cycles had us on the road in no time. We needed to restock the van with groceries and fuel and then one more winery.

We found Canoe Ridge on the edge of town in an old railway building. We sampled a few of their estate wines and purchased a couple of bottles of their cab.

Finally, on the road again . . .

Arrow CloudEntering Oregon the clouds guided us to a sweet little campsite on the banks of the Columbia River in Boardman. The sun was shining and there was a nice breeze off the river. Train tracks run along both sides of the Columbia River through Gorge all the way to Portland so the campsites are peaceful only until the freight trains rumble through, many, many freight trains with hundreds of cars and mostly at night but we have made peace with them and find it a small price to pay to camp in such a beautiful area so, for now, we are happy campers.

Our Campsite view of the Columbia at Boardman OR

Our Campsite view of the Columbia at Boardman OR

Our Campsite view of the Columbia at Boardman OR

The marina at Boardman OR

After dinner we rode what we thought was a trail through the campground but, in fact, is the Columbia River Heritage Trail that will eventually be a 25-mile trail, at sunset it is a beautiful ride with long shadows and muted desert colors, the sunset reflecting on the river and the clouds putting on a show of their own; my camera was back in the van. The trail was an unexpected delight.

Sunset on the Columbia

Sunset on the Columbia


Walla Walla Wines

Despite rain off and on we all had a fantastic day of wine tasting and fabulous food no shortage of either in Walla Walla.

We started with the grand breakfast buffet at the Marcus Whitman Hotel where we were staying and then wine tasting at Pepperbridge Winery and Amavi Cellars located just outside of town.  Amani had some really wonderfully rich reds and a spectacular view out over the vineyards and hills to the east.

A guitar hung on the wall with a sign that said play me so Bill offered up a little serenade, the perfect accompaniment to our tasting.

Pepperbridge Winery

Bill serenades at the winery


Pepperbridge Winery

Happy Tasters

After the wineries out of town we reconvened at the hotel to decide our next stop, agreed on Olive Marketplace and Café for lunch; we had eaten there yesterday but were happy to return, the food is excellent and servings ample. George and I shared an apricot chicken salad and a cookie; it was more than enough for both of us.

Olives Marketplace and Cafe

Olive’s temptations

Next stop the Charles Smith tasting room a short walk away. This was a big hit with everyone and purchases were made. We did learn that they have a tasting room in Seattle’s Georgetown so we only purchased one bottle, not wanting to transport wine with another week of camping ahead and the temperatures rising, we can visit their tasting room when we get home.

At the Charles Smith Winery

At the Charles Smith Winery

After all the wine and a filling lunch I needed a short nap so we returned to the hotel for a rest then met in the bar at the hotel for happy hour and dinner.

Vineyard Lounge Happy Hour

This was a day of food and wine for sure, bellies very full we waddled back to the room. Tomorrow we will have to get some exercise to work off some of our excesses, all worth it, a really great day with good friends.