In 2015, I sat by the window on a flight leaving Seattle, Washington. Below, Mount Rainer stood in all her snow-capped splendor as I snapped multiple photos on my iPhone. Seeing it from the sky was magnificent and I never thought anything would top that experience…until I saw the mountain from the ground.
“Admission to the park is free today,” said the ranger with a smile on her face. A few pamphlets were passed into the car and then we were on our way. As we drove into the park, it felt like we just entered Jonathan Swift’s fictional land of Brobdingnag, where Gulliver described the “lofty trees” and how there was no “computation of their altitude.” I thought the Douglas Firs of Mount Rainier National Park fell into that category as we zoomed past them up to the lodge. Even though it wasn’t the busiest for being close to the weekend in the middle of summer, we still ended up parking along the side of the road down a ways. Or, maybe I should say, half on the side of the road and half off? LOL! We were too happy to be there to care! We trekked up the asphalt road and past the lodge to a paved walking trail.
The paved trail ended at a bridge with a post-card perfect view of Mount Rainier. Set against a blue sky, the white capped mountain and steel grey base became the perfect contrast for the lush green meadows and trickling stream of clear water below. If you followed the steep steps down below, you could catch an even more stunning portrait of a waterfall framed between stately green firs with the mountain in the background. A popular place for family photos and selfies. In fact, if one stopped at the park to just see this view and then leave, it would be worth it.
We began a brief hike up Skyline Trail, but after realizing that the trail was quite long, we decided to turn back and try another that had a better view of the mountain. So, just across the bridge where visitors were snapping photos and gazing up at the peak lined sky, I turned onto a trail where the sign said, “Golden Gate Trail, Panorama Point, Skyline Trail” this way.
The walk up was steep and in full sun. Not a hike you want to take without water, even if you’re not going all the way to the top. Most of the trail was either a narrow path of packed dirt, boarded stairs filled with gravel or a gravel walkway. Of course, it was an incline the entire way! Since I was on a time limit and couldn’t see everything, my point of interest was a waterfall up ahead. I was certain if I could only reach that falling water, take in the panoramic view and then hike back down, I would be satisfied. The path I took led through beautiful meadows filled with yellow flowers, a stream, and as I ascended closer to the water, switchbacks on the trail made me wonder exactly how fit I really was. The worst part about the hike was that my focus was on the path ahead, the amount of energy it took to cover it and how far I had to go. But when I stopped and turned around to let others pass, I found the view behind me just as incredible as the mountain ahead of me. I learned a good lesson that afternoon – The main attraction isn’t the only object of beauty, look around and you’ll find plenty that will let you know that the trip was worth it. By the way, the hike up was worth it.
Before we left the park, we stopped in the lodge for a quick look around the gift shop and refreshment at the cafe’/restaurant. I always look forward to picking up a souvenir from my travels, but a common problem with National Parks is, shall we say, the lack of good looking knick-knacks. I’m very pleased to say, at Mount Rainier, I did not have that problem! And the milkshake was pretty good too…
“…the most luxuriant and the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I ever beheld in all my mountain-top wanderings.” – John Muir, 1889
I left Mount Rainier thinking, “I wish I had a week to spend at this place.” The grandeur of the mountain was breathtaking – too breathtaking to absorb in just a few hours. But alas, we planned to squeeze in a visit to Mount St. Helens the same day, so off we went! Yet, the adventure ahead couldn’t keep my eyes off the one I was leaving. If you haven’t yet glimpsed the beauty of Mount Rainier, it should be added to your bucket list. It’s truly an amazing place. To look at my pictures of Mount Rainier, head over to my Facebook page here and take browse through the photo album!
Mount Rainier National Park is the fifth oldest national park in the United States.
Mount Rainier is the highest mountain in the state of Washington.
Mount Rainier was named after Admiral Peter Rainier, by George Vancouver.
George Vancouver was the first European to see Mount Rainier in May of 1792 when he reached Puget Sound.
Out of 128 “ultra-prominent mountain peaks” of the USA, Mount Rainier is #3.
Visit the official website of the National Park here —> Mount Rainier