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:
A couple of plant close-ups.
And some little critters.
A view headed down the Mountain.
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!
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…
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.
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.
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!
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to make my annual wildflower reconnaissance up to Sunrise on Mt. Rainier. It was a beautiful day, if a bit too hot in the lowlands, the best kind of weather for escaping to the Mountain.
So I got up early, and packed a lunch, and made the two-hour drive — only to discover that the story we’d been seeing on the news about a 64-year-old man who’d gotten lost on the Wonderland Trail would have a direct effect on my day, as well as the day of a lot of other people hoping to visit the park. Not nearly the effect it was having on that poor hiker’s day, thank goodness, but the search and rescue effort had closed the parking lot at Sunrise so that the helicopters from Joint Base Lewis-McChord could use it as a landing pad.
So, now what to do?
I hadn’t driven all the way around Mt. Rainier in at least a dozen years, and to the best of my knowledge I’d never done it in a clockwise direction. I’d also been intending to go to Tipsoo Lake, just inside the eastern border of the park almost to Chinook Pass, for a long, long time. I was already headed in that direction, and had a good jump start, so, I thought, looking at my full gas gauge, why not?
Tipsoo Lake isn’t more than about ten miles to the southeast of the turnoff for Sunrise, on the road that leads to Yakima. It’s a beautiful alpine lake which, in still and sunny weather, reflects the Mountain in its water. Today wasn’t still, but the view was still pretty spectacular, as were the early wildflowers. I was surprised to still see snow on the ground, too, which made me wonder if I was really missing anything by not going to Sunrise — I’m not all that fond of hiking in the snow.
After an enjoyable hour on the footpath encircling the lake, I headed south — and downhill a few thousand feet — to Ohanapecosh, at the southeast corner of the park. Ohanapecosh is back down in the deep, lush forests that surround Mt. Rainier, and a trail winding through them is appropriately named the Grove of the Patriarchs. The grove itself is on an island in the middle of the river, reached by crossing a sturdy but fragile-feeling suspension bridge, which gave me the weird sensation of still feeling like I was on it even after I was back on dry land.
From Ohanapecosh I drove up Stevens Canyon, which is a spectacular drive clinging to the sides of cliffs and passing through avalanche chutes.
The Stevens Canyon road leads up to Paradise where I had planned to walk the Nisqually Vista Trail before heading home. However, when I got there, I discovered that Paradise was still snow-covered, in the middle of July! Normally the snow is almost gone by then, but we had a very late winter this past year, and a very heavy snowpack, and it was still snowing up there in May.
So, as I said, not being a fan of hiking in the snow (and the main reason I’d wanted to hike the trail being wildflowers), I decided to head on home.
Not exactly the day I’d planned, but I’m still glad I did it. It’s fun to explore different parts of familiar places, and Mt. Rainier is just about as familiar to me as my own back yard.
I’m just really sorry they never found that poor hiker.
Or, to put it in non-American terms, the high temperature for yesterday was 1dC at my home at 470 feet/143 meters altitude in the Puget Sound lowlands, and almost 18dC at Paradise at 5400 feet/1646 meters on Mt. Rainier.
The cause of this? The technical term is temperature inversion. If you want to know more about it, you can read this entry in Cliff Mass’s weather blog. He’s a meteorology professor at the University of Washington and an expert on Pacific Northwest weather, and writes an interesting and entertaining blog.
But to this layperson, what it means is that my neighborhood has looked like this for most of the last two weeks:
So my friend L and I decided to go up to Paradise, which literally was a paradise in comparison, yesterday.
We got to Longmire, at 2700 feet, late in the morning. It was already clear there, but still pretty cold, and more snow than I’ve seen there in most winter visits I’ve made (we had a lot of precipitation — rain in the lowlands and snow in the mountains — in December). However, there was some evidence of melting and freezing in the form of these icicles hanging off the museum roof.
The gas station at Longmire is no longer functional, but contains an exhibit about the changing modes of transportation in the park in its 100+ years of existence. It was actually colder inside the building than out, so we didn’t linger there.
The melting and freezing resulted in some seriously beautiful ice crystal formations, too. The crystals on this rock were almost an inch long, and the expanses of them on the snowbanks looked almost like fur.
After wandering around Longmire for a little while, we headed on up to Paradise. The road from the Nisqually Entrance to Longmire had been more than a bit slippery — plowed but icy — and I’d been a bit concerned about going on, but another effect of the temperature inversion was that the higher we went, the better the road conditions were. By the time we got halfway to Paradise, it was bare and dry most of the way, if hemmed in by plowed snowbanks higher than the car.
We ate lunch at the visitor center, then went out and walked around one of the several snowcatted trails. The one we took went around behind Paradise Inn, which is closed in the winter. The cornices and other wind-blown snow formations were spectacular. The sun beamed down and it was warm enough that a jacket was almost too much. Just absolutely glorious. I could feel the funk I’d been in since we’d first gotten socked in just evaporate. It was wonderful.
It was very hard to come back down to the gloom when the day was over.
But it was one of the best things I’ve done so far this year. I love living two hours from Paradise.