Friday, June 1, 2012

Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier from Highway 2

Thursday, May 10th, we were in Spokane to visit our son and on the way home drove through White Pass (Highway 12) and spent a day in Mount Rainier National Park.  To our shame we had never visited Rainier, though we have lived in the northwest for many years.  We certainly will be visiting again, though, probably later this summer when the park is more accessible and snow free.

We drove part of the night, found a place not far from Rainier where we could sleep, and spent the rest of the night in the back of our van.  My wife has made curtains and when we are traveling we take out the middle seats and fold the back seats down into the floor so that we can spread our inflatable mats and sleeping bags in the back of the car and spend a comfortable night.

In the morning we traveled on to the Nisqually entrance on the southwest corner of the park and spent the rest of the day there.  There is still a lot of snow in the park and the main road through the south part of the park is still not open all the way.  Nor was there much hiking available or many wildflowers in bloom, but we found plenty to keep us busy for the day.

Nisqually Entrance

Kautz Creek

Western Trillium

Skunk Cabbage

Kautz Creek

We drove first to Longmire, stopping for pictures along the way and at Longmire followed the Trail of the Shadows, a short trail that circles through some of the hot springs and mineral springs that were once part of a thriving resort run by a Mr. and Mrs. Longmire before Rainier became a National Park.  There is still a lodge there and some of the old stone work from those earlier times.

Trail of the Shadows

Mineral Springs

Old Mineral Baths

Skunk Cabbage

From there we went on to Paradise where the road was closed by snow (but who would want to go further than Paradise anyway).  There were a lot of people there skiing and snowshoeing, but we stayed only long enough for some pictures and headed back down.  On the way down we stopped near Cougar Rock to do some more hiking, though we found the hiking somewhat difficult because of the snow.

Christine Falls

Model at Paradise Visitor's Center


Nisqually River

We hiked across the Paradise River and up into the forest to Carter and Madcap Falls.  For about half the way the trail was snow-covered and we had to watch ourselves that we didn't fall.  The falls were worth seeing but the bright sunlight made pictures very difficult.  Carter Falls was the most difficult to photograph since it can only be seen from above and through the trees.

Heading back to the entrance we drove the up the West Road also as far as we could go and it was there especially that we saw wildflowers in bloom, Western Trilliums, Wood Violets, Wood Sorrel and a plant we have tentatively identified as Sainfoin, a non-native plant in the vetch family.  The mountains and Rainier itself were the main attractions, however..

Silver Moth


Wood Sorrel

Wood Violets

Finished, we headed for the town of Yelm where we spent the night in the back of the van in preparation for another hike, a wildflower excursion the next day, with the members of the Washington Native Orchid Society.  That, though, is the subject of another post.  Spectacular mountain scenery, a beautiful day, and plenty to see left us relaxed and happy.

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