Mt. Rainier for Beginners

Amazingly, incredibly, unbelievably warm and beautiful weather for a solid week in the Seattle area? In May?


But we got it.

The beginning of the week had the warmest days in the forecast, so at my dad’s suggestion we booked a last minute cabin in Ashford, just outside the entrance of Mt. Rainier National Park for three days, and headed up the mountain to see what we could find.

We had seen it from the air when we flew in a few days before. How can you not be completely impressed by such a massive hunk of rock and ice?

We arrived early and had a few hours to kill before our cabin was ready, so we drove up to the park to get a quick glimpse. We thought it would help us decide what to do, and which trails to hike over the following days.

We were pretty impressed. From the entrance gate all the way to the lodge at the top of the road, the place is amazing. We happily paid our one-time fee of fifteen dollars (which gave us entrance for a week) and drove through some of the most beautiful forest I’ve ever visited.

Huge trees, boulders, wide river beds, giant ravines, all easily accessible by car. We stopped at every single viewing spot on the side of the road so we wouldn’t miss anything. Really, this was just a taste of what the park holds, but even just this taste was pretty overwhelming.

Spring sunshine was melting the remaining snow, so the waterfalls put on a good show for us. Little ones, big ones, water was flowing right off the sides of the road and splashing through our windows.

The higher we drove up the mountain, the colder the air was. We didn’t get half way up before we closed the windows to keep warm. It was especially cold near the streams and waterfalls. Nothing better than natural air conditioning!

Brian was so excited to see the snow. Neither of us have seen any at all in years, and it was still really deep higher up in the park.

We could even see the bottom of the Nisqually glacier creeping down the mountain. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a glacier before!

We stopped just above the big bridge over the Nisqually river and walked down to take in the view.

That is a seriously deep, wide and rocky ravine. The park had some pretty serious debris flows tearing down the river beds in 2006, and the rocky paths full of destroyed trees they left behind was pretty incredible. It was obvious from every piece of landscape we saw that the park is a geographically violent place. I wonder how the original visitors and settlers managed to not die the first year here. Seriously.

This first day in the park was just a recon mission. We didn’t have our hiking gear ready, and we only had a couple of hours to check it all out. Since it’s still early in the season, half the roads within the park are still closed so we took the only route available to us and went right up to Paradise.

As in Paradise Lodge. Where the snow is still well over ten feet deep, even after all the spring sunshine melting most of it.

Brian has seen some really nasty and cold winters in Scotland, but he had never seen a snow drift that even reached his shoulders. The snow pack here at the lodge was more than twice as tall as his head!

He stood and stared at it for a good five minutes, just laughing. I think he was trying to figure out a way to bring it home to show his family. They just might not believe it otherwise.

He couldn’t resist. Snowballs flew.

He even managed a snow angel, which soaked his jeans right through.

Perfect karma for the snowball he managed to get down my back.

We picked up a park map while we were there. Once we had seen the area, we knew which trails were clear, and which ones might still have snow on them. Armed with some good information, we made our plan of attack for the next few days.

Once we were nicely plopped into our own personal hot tub in our cabin (bliss!) we talked about the hike we’d take the next day. I couldn’t wait to get right into the forest and see the old growth trees.

Our first short trip into the park was a big success!

On the map: Click here to see this location on our Google Map.

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About akil3655

A Scotsman and his American photographer wife traveling the world and writing about it. Tales, reviews, photos, interviews and crazy goings on. Because you never know what's going to happen.

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3 Responses to Mt. Rainier for Beginners

  1. Maurice May 24, 2012 at 6:07 am #

    Mt. Rainier is really a wonderful place to visit. The one week pass is more than enough to do a lot of fun activities.
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    • akil3655
      Twitter: kiltandacamera
      May 24, 2012 at 8:34 pm #

      We loved it, and there are a few more blog posts in the works about our time there.

  2. Michelle May 25, 2012 at 10:15 am #

    Wonderful! I certainly love the pictures and what a beautiful weather?! I’ve never been but i wish to visit Mt. Rainier someday.
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