Category Archives: Mt. Rainier

Paradise!

Yesterday, my quilting friend Kathy came over the mountains and took me to Paradise on Mt. Rainier.  We ate lunch (divine mac and cheese) at the National Park Inn at Longmire, then headed on up.  It was absolutely beautiful, and here is the proof:

My Mountain, aka Mt. Rainier.
Fall foliage on the alpine tundra at Paradise.
Another view of the Mountain, with more foliage.

A couple of plant close-ups.

Scarlet mountain ash berries.
The only wildflowers I saw — these are pearly everlastings, which is a more than appropriate name.

And some little critters.

A gray jay. Otherwise known as a camp robber :-).
M’sieur chipmunk.
Getting ready for winter with a big mouthful.

A view headed down the Mountain.

The brilliant autumn tapestry from the Paradise Valley Road.

And the absolutely lovely quilt I was given by my fellow members of the Washington State Internet Quilters (WASIQ).  Thank you so much to all of you!

A beautiful quilt.

It was a long but glorious day.  I darned near slept the clock around last night, I was so tired, but it was so, so, so worth it…

May 27: I feel like I could fly.

The movers pulled away at about 2 pm on Friday, with all my worldly possessions filling most of a truck.

In spite of a minor kafuffle with the closing (you all knew everything was going way too smoothly to be real, right?) and some last-minute computer issues (my computer guy finally finished working on my laptop at 5:30 on Thursday evening – fortunately he was doing it remotely so I didn’t have to go pick it up), everything got done. Hallelujah.

I did a last walk-through, called Loralee as I’d promised, made a few last stops, and got the heck out of Dodge.

I’d decided a while back that I was going to go through Mt. Rainier NP on my way, so that’s what I did. Through the Nisqually Entrance, where I found out that the route I wanted to take had just opened for the season that day, up towards Paradise and down through Stevens Canyon. There wasn’t as much snow up there as I’d thought there would be, either. I suspect the reason Stevens Canyon doesn’t open earlier is because the terrain is basically an avalanche waiting to happen. Chute after chute after chute.

Near Paradise. Still lots of snow!
Near Paradise. Still lots of snow!
Stevens Canyon from the overlook.
Stevens Canyon from the overlook.
Serviceberry in bloom at Box Canyon.
Serviceberry in bloom at Box Canyon.
A view down into Box Canyon, which reminds me a lot of the slot canyons I saw in the Canadian Rockies last summer.
A view down into Box Canyon, which reminds me a lot of the slot canyons I saw in the Canadian Rockies last summer.

It showered off and on most of my way through the park, and I saw not one, but two separate rainbows before I got to Ohanapecosh. Good omen much???

One of the two glorious rainbows I saw at Mt. Rainier. I never did see the Mountain itself, though. Too cloudy and showery.
One of the two glorious rainbows I saw at Mt. Rainier. I never did see the Mountain itself, though. Too cloudy and showery.

I’d thought about spending my first night at Ohanapecosh, but it was still relatively early and the campground was crowded, and I decided to go on.

On down to U.S. 12, which eventually leads to Yakima, with a bunch of forest service campgrounds along the way. I knew it was Memorial Day weekend. What didn’t connect was how this fact would mean full campgrounds along the way. Oh, well. I did eventually find a site, but it was almost 8 pm by the time I did. Thank goodness for almost 16 hour daylight hours this time of year.

And this is where I end by saying I love Merlin the van. He’s comfortable and self-contained, and I was exhausted, and he made my first night on the road great

To Texas and back

A closer-up view of bluebonnets.
A close-up view of bluebonnets.

I have just returned from my annual trip to Tyler, Texas, to visit my almost 92-year-old mother, and, this time, to make a short (three-day) jaunt with my sister, who lives down there, too.  We planned this several months ago, before all of the problems with my condo made me decide to sell it and take another Long Trip, and the plane tickets were already bought, so I didn’t try to cancel it.

Mt. Rainier from the plane.
Mt. Rainier from the plane on the way down to Texas.

Anyway, Mother is getting more and more fragile.  I won’t get into her health issues here except to say how grateful I am that she’s still alive for me to go visit.  I stayed with my sister Ann, and that’s only one reason I’m grateful she’s down there nearby for Mother.

Anyway, I’d been wanting to go to Austin and San Antonio and the Hill Country for a long time, and since this time I had to rent a car, anyway, I decided to go, and to invite Ann to go along with me.  After a couple of days visiting with my mother, we headed south to San Antonio.

One of the nice things about Tyler is that to go any direction but due east or west, you pretty much have to get off the Interstate.  The drive to San Antonio, aside from missing one turn, not realizing we had until we’d gone too far to turn back, and having to reroute ourselves, was fun.  Wide open spaces, small towns, and wildflowers scattered all over the roadsides.

We arrived in San Antonio in the late afternoon, and found a hotel within walking distance of the River Walk and the Alamo, and went to eat supper along the River Walk.  The River Walk reminded us both a bit of certain parts of Disneyland, but it was still fun (and about 10 degrees cooler than up on the street), and we ate fancy pizza right next to the water.

The next morning, it was raining just a bit.  We strolled over to the Alamo under Ann’s umbrellas (she had two).

The Alamo.
The Alamo.
A close-up of where a cannon ball hit the Alamo during the famous battle.
A close-up of where a cannon ball hit the Alamo during the famous battle.
A view of the front of the Alamo from where we were waiting in line to get in.
A view of the front of the Alamo from where we were waiting in line to get in.  They don’t let you take photos inside.

I liked the Alamo.  It was very interesting historically (they did a terrific job with the museum exhibit part of the thing), and the gardens were lovely.  The rain was a minor nuisance, but not a big deal.  Yes, the Alamo is basically a shrine to Texas, but I knew that going in, and, well, I eat history up with a spoon, so I had no problem with it.

A blooming cactus in the gardens beside the Alamo.
A blooming cactus in the gardens beside the Alamo.

On our way back to the hotel to pack up and check out, we saw a whole bunch of carriages decorated as if for a wedding.  Turns out we’d arrived the night before San Antonio’s annual Fiesta began.  According to one of the carriage drivers, Fiesta attracts more people every year than New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, and was started when a bunch of ladies got drunk and flung flowers at each other 🙂

In the afternoon, we drove up to the Hill Country, which is sort of legendary for its spring wildflowers.  It did not disappoint.  After lunch in Fredericksburg, we took some back roads out through the rolling countryside (calling it hilly would have been stretching things, IMHO), and saw whole fields of flowers.  Bluebonnets, of course, but also winecups and evening primroses and all sorts of things.  Just gorgeous.

Bluebonnets!
Bluebonnets!
These are called winecups.
These are called winecups.
I had to look this one up in my brand-new Texas Wildflower field guide. It's called Prairie Pleatleaf, and it's a member of the iris family.
I had to look this one up in my brand-new Texas Wildflower field guide. It’s called Prairie Pleatleaf, and it’s a member of the iris family.

We wound up spending the night in the town of San Marcos, just south of Austin, and came in for a rude surprise when we turned on the Weather Channel.  A huge storm was headed our way.  You might have seen the recent news reports about flooding in Texas?  Well, we weren’t in Houston, where it got really bad, but the rest of it?  We were right where it was about to hit.

So we decided to cut our trip short by one day and go back to Tyler the next morning.

People think it rains a lot here in western Washington, and we do get a fair amount.  But it’s a soft rain.  Texas rain is like driving through a bleeding waterfall.  I’m not overly fond of thunder and lightning, either.  At least we didn’t have any tornado warnings.  But we made it back, and my only disappointment was that I didn’t get to go to the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin.  Maybe next time, if there is a next time.

Once back in Tyler, the weather cleared up (bad weather seems to go around Tyler a lot of the time, which is really weird), and until I left several days later (having planned the trip with the jaunt in the middle so Mother could rest up while we were gone), I not only spent as much time as I could with my mother, but I got to stroll around a nature trail just down the street from my sister’s house, where there were also lots of wildflowers.

Faulkner Park, near my sister's home in Tyler.
Faulkner Park, near my sister’s home in Tyler.  So many different kinds of trees, and so many different leaf shapes and sizes.
Red clover.
Red clover.  I’ve never seen clover blossoms that big and that color anywhere else.
Honeysuckle.
Honeysuckle.
Evening primrose (although this species actually keeps its blossoms open all day). Did I mention that I adore my new camera???
Evening primrose (although this species actually keeps its blossoms open all day). Did I mention that I adore my new camera???

The last day before I left, Mother and I drove out to a place called Love’s Lookout, about fifteen miles south of Tyler, where there’s a nice little bench with a beautiful view, and we sat and talked for a while.  It’s kind of our place, and I’m glad she was still able to go out there with me.

An autumn view from Love's Lookout, taken in 2006. I didn't take my camera with me this time, so you'll have to imagine how lush and green the countryside was the other day.
An autumn view from Love’s Lookout, taken in 2006. I didn’t take my camera with me this time, so you’ll have to imagine how lush and green the countryside was the other day.

And that was my visit to Tyler this year.  Every year now I wonder if this will be my last visit with my mother.  I hope not.

 

Oregon grape

Otherwise known as Mahonia aquifolium.  Playing with the zoom on my new camera this afternoon, out at the Dogwood Scenic Overlook out by Eatonville, where on a clear day you can see Mt. Rainier.  Alas that this was not a clear day.  But this shot pleased me very much, as I really like the sharpness of the flowers compared to the out-of-focussedness of the background.

Oregon grape

I really can’t wait to actually take this camera somewhere, but it probably won’t happen until I go to the Monroe quilt show a week from Friday.

From Summer to Winter in 6000 easy steps

Looking up towards Sourdough Ridge, at Sunrise, Mt. Rainier National Park.
Looking up towards Sourdough Ridge, at Sunrise, Mt. Rainier National Park.

So. A week and a half ago, we were having temperatures in the 80s here in the Puget Sound lowlands. We’ve had a summer for the record books — the most 90 degree days in one year, the most 80 degree days in one year, the hottest June, July, and August on record… The weather forecasters were beginning to sound like a broken record (and far too chipper for their own good, given the circumstances).

Then, a week ago today, the switch flipped. The temperatures dropped to the 60s, the wind picked up, and — you guessed it — we had the biggest August windstorm on record. All of a sudden it was October (the main harbinger of autumn here is wind — google Inauguration Day storm, Columbus Day storm, and Hanukkah Eve storm if you don’t believe me).

I’ve already got a second quilt on the bed, too, because the nighttime temps have started dropping to the 40s.

And then, to celebrate completing my new novel Reunion (the second Tale of the Unearthly Northwest), my friend L and I drove up to Sunrise today, on the eastern side of Mt. Rainier, and were greeted with this beautiful sight:

Low 40s, with snow-covered picnic tables.  Suffice to say, we ate our lunch in the car.
Low 40s, with snow-covered picnic tables. Suffice to say, we ate our lunch in the car.
The trail was a bit icy and slushy, but the walk was wonderful.  The air smells absolutely amazing up there.
The trail was a bit icy and slushy, but the walk was wonderful. The air smells absolutely amazing up there.
Not all was black and white and gray.  Mountain ash foliage in full autumn color.
Not all was black and white and gray. Mountain ash foliage in full autumn color.
Looks like some kids were having a good time!
Looks like some kids were having a good time!
There really is a mountain up there.  Looks like the bottom of the cloud deck was at about 12000 feet.
There really is a mountain up there. Looks like the bottom of the cloud deck was at about 12000 feet.

Oh, and the 6000 steps? Sunrise is at 6300 feet. We hit snow at about 6200 feet (Sunrise Point, about a mile from Sunrise proper, is at 6100 feet, and there was no snow there).

What a day. And I have the wet shoes to prove it!

Almost autumn

It won’t be officially astronomical autumn until the 22nd, or unofficially autumn until after Labor Day weekend, but still.  It’s been feeling like autumn all week, cool and showery (and we had a very autumn-like windstorm on Saturday).

You can also tell because the hardy cyclamen are blooming beside my front door (please excuse the weeds).

Hardy cyclamen. I don't remember if it's hederifolium or neopolitanum or coum, sorry!
Hardy cyclamen. I don’t remember if it’s hederifolium or neopolitanum or coum, sorry!

So today when I went for my walk along the Nathan Chapman trail, I decided to take my camera and see what I could see.

Here’s a shot of the beginning of the trail.

The northern end of the Nathan Chapman trail in South Hill, WA.
The northern end of the Nathan Chapman trail in South Hill, WA.

Here’s some blackberry foliage already beginning to turn color.

Blackberry foliage.
Blackberry foliage.

I don’t know what kind of berries these are. Currants, perhaps? The foliage does not say pyracantha or serviceberry to me.

Unidentified (so far) red berries.
Unidentified (so far) red berries.  ETA:  according to the Hardy Plant email list, they’re feral (and rather invasive, alas) white hawthorne (the white refers to the flowers, which indeed did come in big lovely white clusters last spring).

The photo below is part of the result of our very hot, dry summer this year. Things are starting to green back up now that we’ve had some rain, but some things won’t be back till next year now.

What the end of a hot, dry summer looks like.
What the end of a hot, dry summer looks like.

The vine maple will be flame-colored in a few weeks, but for now it’s still green.

Vine maple leaves.
Vine maple leaves.

There are even a few flowers left.

Wild pea flowers.
Wild pea flowers.
Wild asters.
Wild asters.
Goldenrod gone to seed.
But the goldenrod has already gone to seed.

I found some blackberries, too, but the only ones that hadn’t been picked and eaten were up high enough to be at an awkward angle for photographing, so I’m not going to inflict my blurry efforts on you.

No Mountain today, either. Mt. Rainier is visible from where I took the picture below when the sky is clear. It should be out when my friend L and I go to Sunrise on Saturday!

Mt. Rainier hiding behind the clouds.
Mt. Rainier hiding behind the clouds.

A day at Sunrise on Mt. Rainier

A view of the Mountain from the Shadow Lake trail.
A view of the Mountain from the Shadow Lake trail.

Late summer in early July

My friend Loralee and I went to Mt. Rainier for a wildflower jaunt on Wednesday. This just goes to prove that I have an unending jones for wildflowers, because I’d just seen tons of them on my trip to the Canadian Rockies.

It was hot in the lowlands, our 14th consecutive day above 80 — we tied a record yesterday with another one — so the 70s predicted for Sunrise at 6300 feet (about 1920 meters) on the east side of the Mountain sounded wonderful. (it’s been remedied by the long overdue return of our onshore flow, the wind off the ocean that we often refer to here as our natural air conditioning — so far, today’s high’s been about 70F (about 21C)).

We stopped to pick up what I always think of as an insta-picnic at Subway on our way up, and got to Sunrise around noon. We had a lovely picnic, then I went for my usual jaunt around back behind Sunrise to Shadow Lake while Loralee strolled closer by.

If I hadn’t known for a fact that it was July 8th, I’d have sworn it was the middle of August. There’s usually at least some snow on the ground near or on the trail this early in the season, the pasqueflowers aren’t quite over, and there’s glacier lilies everywhere.

On this July 8th, there was no snow whatsoever except way up on the Mountain, the phlox that normally blooms in late July was all but finished (I found maybe two clumps that hadn’t gone to seed), the lupines were past their prime, and there were August asters everywhere.

It was still gorgeous, as usual, but still.

Here’s some of what I saw today:

Pasqueflower seed mopheads.
Pasqueflower seed mopheads.
Davidson's penstemon.
Davidson’s penstemon.
One of about two patches of alpine phlox that weren't finished blooming for the season.
One of about two patches of alpine phlox that weren’t finished blooming for the season.
I don't know what kind of butterfly/moth this is, but they were all over the place.
I don’t know what kind of butterfly/moth this is, but they were all over the place.
The only four-legged critter I saw on my walk (he's a least chipmunk).
The only four-legged critter I saw on my walk (he’s a least chipmunk).  There were rumors of bears, but I was just as glad not to see them.  I prefer bear-watching from my car, thanks.
A rather low Shadow Lake.
A rather low and murky Shadow Lake.
Harebells!  In early July!  As Ivan Vorpatril would say, that's just Wrong.
Harebells! In early July! As Ivan Vorpatril would say, that’s just Wrong.
Lupine pooling in the meadow.
Lupine pooling in the meadow.
A not-normally-dry creekbed.
A not-normally-this low creekbed, with lousewort (what an awful name) and bistort.
Mostly lupine, with about  half a dozen neighbors.
Mostly lupine, with about half a dozen neighbors including white lovage.
Broadleaved arnica.
Broadleaved arnica.
Scarlet paintbrush.
Scarlet paintbrush and asters..
False hellebore, which always looks like mutant cornstalks to me, with asters in the background.
False hellebore, which always looks like mutant cornstalks to me, with asters in the background.
A single alpine aster flower.
A single alpine aster flower.

All in all, given the lack of winter and a so-far unreasonably hot spring and summer, not bad.

But, as I said to Loralee on our way down the mountain, “Harebells! In early July!”

More wildflowers

This time closer to home. It is that time of year again, after all.
These are all from along the Nathan Chapman trail in Puyallup, Washington, except for the first one, which is from the rainforest trail at the Carbon River entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park.

Skunk cabbage.   Because a local spring wildflower photo essay is not complete without skunk cabbage.
Skunk cabbage. Because a local spring wildflower photo essay is not complete without skunk cabbage.
Serviceberry blossoms.
Serviceberry blossoms.
Wild strawberry.
Wild strawberry.

 

Western bleeding hearts.  They're all over the place this time of year.
Western bleeding hearts. They’re all over the place this time of year.
Siberian miner's lettuce, or candy flower, depending on your preferences.  Both common names for the same plant.
Siberian miner’s lettuce, or candy flower, depending on your preferences. Both common names for the same plant.

The next two photos are really blurry, but I’m including them for the sake of completeness.  My apologies.

Salmonberry blossom.
Salmonberry blossom.
Wild currant blossoms.
Wild currant blossoms.
Elderberry blossoms.
Elderberry blossoms.
Cranesbill.
Cranesbill.

And, no, this isn’t a wildflower, but I’m including it, anyway.

And this is the view on a clear day from the ballfields at the north end of the Chapman trail.
This is the view on a clear day from the ballfields at the north end of the Chapman trail.

From autumn to winter back to autumn again at Mt. Rainier

Frosted trees at Paradise, Mt. Rainier
Frosted trees at Paradise, Mt. Rainier

This past Monday my friend L and I decided to take advantage of the clear (if rather chilly) weather and make a jaunt up to Mt. Rainier. Our goal was Paradise, at 5400 feet, but that depended on how clear the roads were, it having snowed up there the day before.

The roads were only a bit icy in spots (we only slid once, and that for a few inches), and the rewards were spectacular. Six inches of very sticky snow coated everything, from the Inn to random plant stems. It was clear when we arrived, but the clouds did start building up while we were up there, which is why I have no pictures of the actual mountain from this trip.

Paradise Inn, boarded up for the winter.
Paradise Inn, boarded up for the winter.
Frosted bushes
Frosted bushes
There *is* a Mountain behind those clouds, honest.
There *is* a Mountain behind those clouds, honest.
Nice tall snow sticks so the plows can find the parking lot.
Nice tall snow sticks so the plows can find the parking lot.
6
Nevermore in the almost-deserted parking lot.

It was cold. 31dF, to be precise, with a bit of wind. So we didn’t stay up there long, just enough so my friend could try out her new snow boots, so I could accidentally step in a plowed pile of snow up to my knees, and to eat our picnic lunch in the car.

Then we headed back down, stopping at Narada Falls (where the trail to the falls viewpoint was completely iced over), and at Longmire (at about half the altitude of Paradise), where we walked one of my favorite trails in the park, the Trail of the Shadows.

The Trail of the Shadows leads around the edge of a meadow dotted with hot springs and partially filled with a pond. It’s also the site of the first settlement in what is now the park, where, in the 1880s, James Longmire discovered the hot springs and decided to build facilities so that people could come and soak in them (and drink the water, although its reputation is foul-tasting).

This time of year mushrooms are quite abundant and varied. But the trail wasn’t underwater, which parts of it can be in late fall.

Two of the many, many mushrooms/toadstools/miscellaneous fungi we saw at Longmire.
Two of the many, many mushrooms/toadstools/miscellaneous fungi we saw at Longmire.
Across the golden meadow to the rain forest.
Across the golden meadow to the rain forest.
One of the springs the Longmires tamed for their resort.
One of the springs the Longmires tamed for their resort.
Plenty of running water, but none over the trail.
Plenty of running water, but none over the trail.

It was my first real outing since recovering from pneumonia last month. I’m quite pleased to report that I made it all the way around the mile-long trail without getting tired, as well as doing all the driving on the 3-hour round trip. I must be well!

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.