The Many Faces of Mt Rainier, or 4th of July Part 2

In the last post I told you of our 4th of July adventure at Mt Rainier National Park, which included a ridge hike at Sunrise and a forest hike through the Grove of the Patriarchs on the Ohanapecosh River.   I will complete the story with the second half of our day and a much shorter but lovely walk at Box Canyon and a stop by one of the most famous views of the Mountain at Reflection Lakes.

After our hike at the Grove, we continued south and west on the Stevens Canyon Road.  Neither of us can remember taking this way before so we enjoyed fresh and new vistas of Mt Rainier.  Oh yes we did!

Box Canyon

Here we stopped to walk the short trail to view the deep canyon carved by the Muddy Fork of the Cowlitz River. The area also reveals what is left behind when a glacier retreats:  polished slabs of rock where lichens and mosses slowly take root, eventually decomposing into soil to support new forest.    Brilliant blue delphiniums also blanketed the area.

It’s hard to realize the depth here, but the rushing water is 180 feet below.

Continuing on the Stevens Canyon road, we were led to the beautiful sub alpine Reflection Lake, which proved true to its name.

After a full day, we exited through Longmire on the southwest side of the mountain, passed through small towns on our way home watching the firework displays around us, and eventually settled for our final picture of Mt. Rainier under sunset hues.

Home again, home again.

~ Susanne

Sunrise at Mt Rainier

Sunrise at Mt. Rainier but no need to get up early for I speak of the Sunrise side of the Mountain and not the time of day!  I hope you are not tired of Mt Rainier but the 4th of July proved a perfect time to visit again while others swarmed more local parks below for firework displays. This may have been one of our best trips ever, as we covered more of the Park in a single day, enjoying 3 short but amazing hikes and incredible views of the mountain from all sides.

Normally we take the southwest entrance at Longmire into the National Park as it’s open year round. But this time we entered on the northeast side at the White River entrance headed for Sunrise, and it turns out, many new vistas!

We got our first surprise at an overlook where we had great views of the lesser known, but equally beautiful Mt. Adams.  The poor thing came up short as the second highest mountain in the state at 12,281 feet and so lives in the shadow of its more famous neighbor. It’s not easy being number 2.  Still isn’t it a beauty?

Sunrise

We arrived at the Sunrise Visitor Center at 6,400 feet, the highest point in the Park reachable by car. Here we found close up views of Emmons Glacier, the largest American glacier outside of Alaska, and source of the White River.

Of the many hikes available in the area we chose the 2 mile Silver Forest Trail, with continuous views of the mountain and meadows full of wildflowers, all under brilliant sunshine.  It didn’t seem fair to get so much for so little effort!

After lunch we headed down towards Stevens Canyon and the Grove of the Patriarchs for an easy hike through old growth forest.   The trail took us along the Ohanapecosh River and across a suspension bridge (one at a time, according to the sign.)

After a short walk on the other side, we were in an island of ancient Western red-cedar, Douglas-fir, and Western hemlock, some of them, a thousand years old.  We walked quietly among these giants, marveling at their size and beauty.

After leaving the trail, we continued on Stevens Canyon Road, stopping by Box Canyon and beautiful Reflection Lakes.  But this is running long so I will save that for Part 2 of my 4th of July Rainier adventures.

See you soon.

~  Susanne

Day Trip to Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually Wildlife Refuge

We often neglect the things in our own backyard as being too local or too familiar.  And so it was for me with the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge which I had passed by many, many times on my way to somewhere else.

“Someday,” I would say to my husband Bob, “we’ll have to stop.”

But we never did.  All these years.  Until today.  After being sick and housebound all week, Bob was desperate to get out and enjoy the summer weather we were having.  The Nisqually Wildlife Refuge would be perfect for a day trip and simple hike.  After stopping by our favorite coffee shop (you know the one) we headed south for the hour drive to the Refuge.

A little background first for those of you unfamiliar with the Nisqually. There is a big beautiful mountain in our neck of the woods which has more glaciers than any other peak in the continental United States. One of those glaciers on Mt. Rainier is the Nisqually, the source of the river that flows from the mountain into Puget Sound, forming the rich Nisqually River Delta. The Glacier and River were named after the Nisqually Tribe who have lived in this area for thousands of years.

The Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1974 to protect the delta and its diverse fish and wildlife habitats. It was renamed in 2015 to honor Billy Frank Jr.,  a Nisqually Indian activist for Native American rights, who played an important role in getting treaty fishing rights restored to local tribes.

We arrive at the Refuge and after browsing through the Visitor Center, take the Twin Barns Loop Trail, an easy boardwalk through riparian forest. Here we are dwarfed by enormous maple trees which overshadow us. The air is warm and fragrant, and rich in the chatter of birdsong.  The peace is pervasive.

The boardwalk continues through the Refuge to several overlooks including the Nisqually River Overlook below.

Further down the trail we meet a photographer who shows us pictures he took of baby Great Horned Owls.  He’s carrying two large cameras, binoculars and a tripod.  I’m carrying my new and much smaller camera but am not skilled, nor patient enough to photograph birds – yet.  I am content rather to watch them flit through the brush and listen to their music, and luxuriate under the tree canopy.  I do manage to photograph more sedentary fauna and flora including this frog and turtle sunning themselves….

and these cattails releasing their seeds from velvety tops.

The Loop Trail was enough for today and we were both rejuvenated by our visit to this wonderland.  We vow to return again for the other trails and to experience the Nisqually River Delta in all four seasons.

~ Susanne

A Summer Day in May

Summertime and the livin’ is easy here in the Pacific Northwest.  After the longest rainy season on record, summer arrived with gusto this week with temperatures in the seventies and eighties.  We poor, cold, and waterlogged natives embraced the sunshine and are soaking up the long overdue rays while they are here.

That includes me as I head to Coulon Park in the heat of the day where I find the irises in bloom and bright as the sun,

and these walkers blending in with the green.

The view of Rainier to the south was striking as always..

but the Olympics floated in the haze somewhat ghostly to the west,

reminding me that I will welcome the cleansing of the next refreshing rain.  I am after all, a  true native.

~ Susanne

Mt Rainier Up Close and Personal

Did you know there is a Paradise on earth?  Well yes, there is!  And it can be found at Mt Rainier National Park!

After being teased by beautiful local views of the mountain we decide to take the drive to the National Park for an up close and personal look at Mt. Rainier.  No, not for the first time, but for the first time this year.  A sunny day is promised and the roads are clear.

We arrive at the south entrance to the Park at Longmire, and after lunch at the historic National Park Inn, take the drive up to the Paradise Visitor center.

Mt Rainier National Park was established in 1899 and was the fifth U.S. National Park.  It was the first to be designed from a master plan to include entrance arches, rustic buildings, scenic lookouts, trails and visitor centers, becoming a pattern for National Parks to follow. We stop at many viewpoints and waterfalls on our way to Paradise.

Near the top we spot a red fox by the side of the road who wisely climbs the snow bank to safer ground.

We arrive at the Visitor Center at 5,400 feet and enjoy close-ups of the 14,410 foot volcano, the second highest mountain in the continental U.S.  It is also one of the snowiest places on earth.

It is from Paradise that climbers make their way to Camp Muir at 10,188 feet so they can rise under the darkness of night for the climb to the top. Over 10,000 people a year attempt the climb and almost half as many make it.  With binoculars, you can already see climbers making their way up to Camp Muir. Others are content to play in the snow a little closer to the ground.

After our visit we head back down for a short hike at Longmire in an area where meadows meet the forest. We take the boardwalk through hot springs, skunk cabbage and fragrant woods.

Under the tree canopy I tell Bob to look for the buried treasure ahead.   ‘X marks the spot’ I say, but he walks on by.

We complete the loop, following the trail into golden meadows where more views of Mt. Rainier await,

until we are finally back to where we started.

On the drive home we pass by the Recycled Spirits of Iron Sculpture Park near the small town of Elbe.  For just a donation you can walk among the unusual sculptures created by artist Dan Klennert which we did,

finishing up with a song.

And so after a wonderful day under sunny skies at the most beautiful mountain in America we head back home, once again counting our blessings that we live in such an amazing part of the world.

~  Susanne

Mt Rainier on a summer day…

We don’t usually make the drive to Mt. Rainier on a sunny Saturday in the middle of summer.  But this past weekend that is exactly what we decided to do, heading from Renton through Enumclaw  to the Sunrise side of the mountain.  We didn’t make it all the way to the Visitor Center (6,400 ft) as we opted out of the bumper to bumper traffic at the entrance gate. No matter. The mountain is not limited to the boundaries of the park and we found incredible views nonetheless.

It’s Mount Rainier, after all.

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