Last year, on the 4th of July, Michelle and I decided to do something silly and touristy. We went into Seattle and rode the Duck. We had a blast! So this year, since it was a three-day weekend, we were pondering what we should do! She suggested “Let’s get up early and go to Mt Rainier!!” “Oh hell yeah!” (all the pics that follow were taken by Michelle and I, some of them turned out well enough that they could have been snagged from google, but nope all ours!) Now the getting up early part is key. On a holiday weekend, the place can be packed. Our plan was to get up at 5, (we got up at 5;30) and get there early. I was hoping we had 2 things going for us. The first was the 4th was the first day of the holiday weekend. Since most people like fireworks, I was hoping a lot would stay home, then go up the mountains today or tomorrow. The other thing was the weather wasn’t supposed to be all that great yesterday. Seattle is known for rain and cold on the 4th. In fact, they were calling for clouds in the morning and maybe clearing later. MOST people only go to rainier when it is sunny. We were willing to deal with the clouds. Luckily though, the weatherman was wrong! (In fact the rain happened after we got home) Yep, we had blue sky and sunshine! It was also warming up quick. We started out in shorts from home, but being the mountain person I am, I had plenty of layers in the trunk “just in case!” they stayed in the trunk all day. We made a bee-line up to the Paradise Visitor center. This is the most popular place in the park, and later in the day, there wouldn’t be a parking place available for love or money. Getting there just after 9 AM, we had plenty to choose from. So from just the picture of the visitor center, you might wonder “Yeah so? What’s the big deal?” Now look at what you get when you step out of the parking lot Yep! 4th of July and there is snow EVERYWHERE. And this is a lower snow year. I have seen it much deeper in July. Paradise has held the record for the single most snowfall in the US 93.5 feet (nope not a typo feet!) of snow in the winter of 1971-1972. As you can see here it still got pretty deep! However, it was still toasty warm out there! Warm enough I decided to keep my normal footwear while we played in the snow. Michelle, who can get cold easily at times even stayed in her shorts. We did have to be careful though. The snow is deep enough to cover younger trees. In the spring, the trees give off heat, melting snow enough to let the sunlight through, this can leave big holes to fall into! We made sure to watch out! It is easy to be so focused on the mountain herself up there, that you miss some of the other gorgeous pieces of nature surrounding her at Paradise. As I was taking some of these pictures, I noticed some ASS hadn’t disposed of a plastic bottle. I HOPE the wind blew it away, and he wasn’t stupid enough to throw it. But it was sitting in this little pond. I earned some mountain karma (and some muddy feet) cleaning it out and disposing of this. STUPID people. I was a bit nostalgic up there as well, just below this part of the mountain is Camp Muir. I believe it’s called cathedral rock. Muir is where you camp overnight before going on for your summit attempt, Paradise is where the climb starts. Sure enough while we were there. Alpine Ascents showed up and the climbers were getting ready for the start. I just, for a moment, thought I join them. It was the only less than happy part of the day. It faded soon! After checking out the lodge and the visitor center, we decided to head down the road. More people were showing up, and there were those who were ignoring the “Stay out of this area” signs. This can result in losing a person or worse. damaging very fragile alpine meadows. (Why is damaging meadows worse than losing a person? Well if you are dumb enough to ignore a sign, I don’t have lots of sympathy ) We decided to make a loop of the trip. Up to Paradise, then go down why 410 to home. Now that we had checked out the visitor center, we were free to stop anywhere we wanted. And stop we did! I won’t bore you with every one of the stops, but some were cool! Paradise River Reflections Lake Sunbeam Creek Random flowers The box canyon of the Cowlitz river is truly amazing. These pictures don’t completely capture the force of the water going through a deep narrow cut of solid rock, but I tried. They kinda look like waterfalls but they aren’t. These were taken looking straight down from a couple of bridges. I can’t tell you how many cars blazed by this without stopping, it’s this kind of nature and geology that makes me love going to Mt Rainier. From there, we drove to the top of Chinook Pass to the Tipsoo lake area. Our plan was to have our first picnic ever together, but we weren’t sure if this table would be all that comfortable However, we were able to snag one where the snow had melted. This is such a cool spot. Later the summer, it is meadow and a gorgeous lake. Right now, to me anyway, it is even cooler!
We walked around the lake, played in the snow a bit, and just relaxed. During the trip down, Michelle did meet a new friend We then cruised on home in record time. There wasn’t any traffic at all! Folks, I think I truly needed this. There is no fresher air, no better smells, or better place to heard the forest breathe. I have been going there my entire life, and I still haven’t seen everything or hiked but a fraction of the trails. It did something to me, because last night, our neighborhood was a war zone of competing fireworks (or so I am told). I slept better than I can remember and heard nothing! Rainier has always been my favorite place, always will be, and I am lucky to have been able to share this with Michelle twice now. We need to do it more. Do NOT miss a chance to go if you get to Seattle. Oh and just to show I really was there too!