An Easy Prize
~Wednesday, October 12, 2022~
One of the biggest complaints about where we’re staying is how dark the campground is. Today, we’d experience the never ending shroud of darkness for ourselves.Yes, its dense canopy gave us no sense of time whatsoever. Through the drapey branches I could see a little hint of blue through them, giving us some hope that we were in for a sunny day once we got the show on the road. One thing’s for sure…..our solar panels would need an artificial boost from our reliable generator.
While planning out our day over a breakfast of oatmeal and fruit, we were finally paid a visit by the campground manager checking to see if we had a required Discover Pass. So I guess they were enforcing it after all. Jeff explained how we had just arrived the night before and that I was already in the process of signing up for it online. He was very polite about it, instructing us to jot down the ID# on a piece of paper and to place it prominently on our dashboard. With the truck gone most of the day, we’re not sure if he ever tried following up.
There are 5 unforgettable destinations within the park….we would only have time for 2…..Paradise (meadows, streams and waterfalls), and Longmire (rustic park architecture). But there is also Ohanapecosh (old growth forests), Carbon River (temperate rainforest) and Sunrise (subalpine meadows). Today’s adventure for us was on the south side of the park in the Paradise Area. Paradise being the most popular of them all. Having numerous hiking trails, meadows, streams, waterfalls and wildlife, it’s what appealed to us the most as well as the easiest to access from our campsite in Ashford.
Our goal was to simply get acquainted with a few of the trails, tour the visitor center and discover what makes this 14,410 foot peak so inspiring.
The drive up the mountain took us from our campground at 1,762 feet to 5,400 feet, ending at the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center. It was a good thing we had only short hikes planned for today since we had just recently been at sea level, needing a few days to acclimate. Unfortunately, we were 2 days too late in being able to experience the visitor center and the old world service of the Paradise Inn, as they were closed for the 2022 season. But there’s plenty to do otherwise from taking selfies in front of the noble mountain to getting out there and experiencing the many trails for yourself. We decided to hike the 2 shorter trails right from the visitor center…….the Alta Vista Trail at 1.7 miles and the Nisqually Vista Trail at 1.2 miles. The Nisqually Vista Trail offered great views of the Nisqually glacier valley along with gorgeous Fall foliage. Nisqually is also wheelchair and stroller accessible. Hmmm….with the mountain constantly drawing our eyes upward, we couldn’t help but notice a little steam coming from its peak. A little thermal activity perhaps? Venting does occur since the volcano is still considered active, but suppose it could have also been a cloud. Finishing up this trail, we immediately connected to the Alta Vista which was a steep one, offering us a good warm-up for tomorrow’s bigger hike.
It was from this trail that we noticed dark smoke choking the northern cascade area, slowly making its way toward Rainier with the shift in wind direction. Hoping once nightfall takes over, the wind will push it away from where we are. Both trails offered amazing views of the highly eroded mountain and its heavily glaciated surface, leaving us awestruck of being able to get so close to it.
Driving back down the mountain, we stopped at the magical Narada Falls, between Longmire and Paradise.
The 176-foot tall waterfall has 2 distinct features….the top tier and the horsetail (appropriately named after its multiple channels down the rock face). There is a path that leads down to the falls which we decided to skip since it was late in the day and we were tired from our previous hikes. Continuing on, the roads seemed eerily quiet as if we were the only ones left on the mountain. Did we miss an eruption notice? Shh!! Wait…..is that lava I hear gurgling? Did I just feel a rumble? Is that Pierce Brosnan I see? I think I just saw Linda Hamilton drive by!! All reminders of the 1997 disaster film, Dante’s Peak! Jeff and I somehow find cataclysmic movies very entertaining, relating them to what could be possible. One thing’s for certain, it’s not IF Mount Rainier will blow again, it’s WHEN. The last eruption occurred in 1894 and is evidently overdue. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, about 80,000 people and their homes are at risk. That would be a little unnerving to know you’re right in its path of destruction.
Before exiting the park, we stopped at the National Park Inn noting its full service dining room and general store, and the lovely views of the peak from its large porch. We thought it a little strange that a lodge belonging to such an iconic park would not have a more grandiose entrance or at least an inviting lobby. Surprisingly, it had neither. A big mountain deserves an epic lodge and some special highlights worthy of reading……..
1️⃣There are over 260 miles of maintained trails for hiking
2️⃣There are 25 glaciers on Mount Rainier
3️⃣There are 3 Life Zones….Forest (1,700 to 5,000 feet), Subalpine (5,000 to 7,000 feet) and Alpine (7,000 to 14,410 feet)
5️⃣There are more than 65 species of animals that call Mount Rainier “home”
6️⃣58% of the mountain is covered by forests
7️⃣The mountain has lost 1,500 feet of its height due to eruptions
8️⃣Mount Rainier is one of the deadliest active volcanoes in the world
9️⃣Mount Rainier is seismically active
🔟Mount Rainier was originally known as Tahoma, meaning “mothers of water”. It was named Rainier in 1792 by British explorer George Vancouver for his friend Pete Rainier.
1️⃣1️⃣Mount Rainier has 3 summits…..Liberty Cap (14,112 feet), Point Success (14,164 feet) and Columbia Crest (14,411)
1️⃣2️⃣A huge flood hit the mountain in 2006, closing the park down for 6 months
1️⃣3️⃣Mount Rainier was the first national park to allow cars