Another beautiful day in Paradise

A couple of weeks ago, I decided that since I didn’t see quite as many wildflowers at Sunrise and Hurricane Ridge this year as I would have liked, I would make a trip up to Paradise, on the south side of Mt. Rainier.

Paradise was purportedly named by Virinda Longmire, one of the early settlers at the foot of the Mountain, who was said to exclaim what a paradise the flower-filled mountainside was. I have to say I agree with her.

A trip to Paradise in the summertime has to be carefully planned, because of how popular it is. You don’t want to go on a weekend, and you need to arrive fairly early, even on a weekday, because the parking fills up. There’s a yellow light on the side of the road at Longmire (about ten miles inside the park entrance) that blinks when the parking areas at Paradise are full, and a sign that says you won’t be able to stop there but must keep moving on through when the light is blinking.

The park service used to run shuttle busses to Paradise to help with the congestion, but they’re not running this summer due to budget cuts.

At any rate, I arrived at Paradise around 10:30 (it takes about 1½-2 hours to get there from my house), which was in time to snag a spot.

The trail I’d had in mind today was the Nisqually Vista Trail. It used to be one of the most popular trails in the park, but ever since they tore down the old flying saucer visitor center near its trailhead a few years ago and built the new one over closer to the Inn, people seem to have forgotten about it, which is wonderful from my point of view. In spite of the crowds everywhere else, I ran into maybe a dozen people on the entire two-mile loop.

And this is what I saw:

Mt. Rainier from the Nisqually Vista Trail, and wildflowers.
Mt. Rainier from the Nisqually Vista Trail, and wildflowers.
Lupine and paintbrush and bistort and...
Lupine and paintbrush and bistort and…
I've only seen white lupine a few times.  Usually it's blue or purple.
I’ve only seen white lupine a few times. Usually it’s blue or purple.
Lupine, etc., along the trail.
Lupine, etc., along the trail.
Pink monkeyflowers, which like their feet wet, so you usually find them along streams.
Pink monkeyflowers, which like their feet wet, so you usually find them along streams.
Like this one.
Like this one.
A close up of scarlet paintbrush, although it's more coral-colored than scarlet.  The colored parts are actually bracts surrounding the inconspicuous flowers.
A close up of scarlet paintbrush, although this one’s more coral-colored than scarlet. The colored parts are actually bracts surrounding the inconspicuous flowers.
Mt. Rainier and the Nisqually Glacier, where the headwaters of the Nisqually River originate.
Mt. Rainier and the Nisqually Glacier, where the headwaters of the Nisqually River originate.
A close-up of the snout of the Nisqually Glacier.  Even at that distance, the sound of the river pouring from the glacier is very loud.
A close-up of the snout of the Nisqually Glacier. Even at that distance, the sound of the river pouring from the glacier is very loud.
Closeup of some heather blossoms.
Closeup of some heather blossoms.
A patriotic view of red paintbrush, blue lupine, and white Sitka valerian.
A patriotic view of red paintbrush, blue lupine, and white Sitka valerian.
Pure blue gentians, which grow profusely along the driveway between the lower parking lot and the visitor center.
Pure blue gentians, which grow profusely along the driveway between the lower parking lot and the visitor center.

Lots and lots of wildflowers. A beautiful Mountain. And an excellent view of the Nisqually Glacier.

All in all, a terrific day at Paradise.

I also stopped in Longmire on my way back, which is the site of the first settlement in what is now the park, and hence the place where they emphasize the history of our fifth national park. I wanted to pick the brain of the ranger on duty at the museum there about some resources for my next novel, and to poke around.

One of the old busses that used to take people up to Paradise a long time ago, parked at Longmire.
One of the old busses that used to take people up to Paradise a long time ago, parked at Longmire.
The Longmire Museum, one of the oldest museums in the national park system.
The Longmire Museum, one of the oldest museums in the national park system.

And that was my last summer visit to Mt. Rainier this year.