I had the last in a series of house guests in 2022: C. (celebrating her 30th birthday) & R... and so, I had an excuse to try to connive them into going on an (admittedly long) automobile journey, to see something of the beauty of Washington State outside Seattle.
The day of their arrival was the day the rain came -- lots of it, and so, it heralded the beginning of the rainy season, which will stretch until next June. But it also heralded the end (mostly) of smoke season.
The stagnant smog choking Seattle parted. The air was clean. There was much rejoicing, even as strangers on the street could be heard lamenting the coming of the clouds. The end of sunshine.
Out of places that I visited in Washington State that were jaw-droppingly gorgeous, the surrounds of Mt. Rainier stood out to me, after my visit in August. I would be glad to have any excuse to go back, and now I did.
The trouble was, the unusually heavy rain on Friday & Saturday wasn't rain at 4,000 ft. It was snow. The park had gone from smokey to snowy overnight, and the National Park Service had only this to say about road conditions:
Delayed report on road opening status. Crews are assessing conditions. - tks— MountRainierNPS (@MountRainierNPS) October 23, 2022
When we stopped for gas, I was happy to look at my phone and see an update:
Due to current road conditions, the Longmire gate opening is estimated to be delayed until 10am. - tks— MountRainierNPS (@MountRainierNPS) October 23, 2022
It was about 9:50 then. Our timing was perfect.
Mt. Rainier National Park
Its main attraction is the titular mountain. With its summit at 14,441 ft., Mt. Rainier is the highest in the state of Washington and the Cascade Range, and the most prominent in the continental United States. It's also an active volcano, one of the most dangerous in the world.
The mountain is home to 26 major glaciers and miles of permanent snowfields. It provides easy road access to alpine meadows, but the consequences of its beauty and popularity include long wait times and overcrowding that may be reduced by introducing timed entry tickets in the future. Much of the park is difficult to access in the winter time. See all posts tagged 'Mt. Rainier National Park'
As I've already written, the Skyline Trail is really, really special and magnificent and lovely.
On the way up to the Skyline Trail, the road gradually gained some patches of black ice, but nothing my car and I couldn't handle. Definitely slippery!
Unfortunately, the area was rather shrouded in clouds, and the deeper snow on the trail wasn't something my guests and I were quite prepared to go on a long walk in. I opted to suggest not hiking there, simply because I didn't want to walk too far and have someone end up cold and wet.
Did I inherit this sense of "safety" and "protectiveness" from my mother? Better not tell anyone. (Thank goodness no one reads this.)
Regardless, the views were beautiful & worth coming for.
So, what seemed like a more achievable place to hang out for a while? There are a few short hikes to waterfalls, lower on the drive to Paradise. We decided to stop at Narada Falls, as it was a short trail, and probably something we were better prepared for.
The walk around the falls is a short one, and owing to the dry spell, they were not at full flow, but were still enjoyable to check out.
We pulled off near a closed roadway. It was one of those little "national park scenic drives" that seem to exist only to reinforce to me how much the front-country portions of these parks is optimized for personal automotive travel.
The street was roped off, but it was as good a place as any to stop, sit on a ledge, admire the forest and the mountains, and enjoy the sandwiches we had brought.
While we were a-munchin', several other cars pulled up, effectively parking us in, but strangely they did not linger long. It was easy enough for me to pull a U-Turn and exit.
Nisqually Glacier Viewpoint
Heading back towards Seattle, and its myriad of stops, I got out to take some pictures of the Nisqually Glaicier and nearby landscape. Here they are for you.
Overall, I'm really glad I stopped by Mt. Rainier. This dramatic, snowy landscape, was only the start of the winter season. The snowpack will linger for a long time, and the roads into the park will only be open sporadically on weekends until it thaws.
I'm glad I was able to take the opportunity to visit the area while I was able, and I'm glad I had a few good friends along.
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