We had a picture perfect day hiking in Mt. Rainier yesterday. We drove over an hour through stunning trees to the Paradise part of the park, including a Visitor Center and old Inn made completely without nails.
We were intending on a 5.5 mi Skyline Trail hike to view the glaciers and scenic lookout. The bad news, parts of the trail were completely covered in snow and were above our gear and desire limits so we weren’t able to complete the entire loop. The good news was that we were able to see the highlights, and only had to traverse some minor snowfields.
But I better start from the beginning. Dogs are not allowed to hike in any national parks so we had to leave Molly at “home.” The hike starts straight up and just continues in that direction, 1700 ft elevation gain in about 2 miles.
We crested the first lookout to see a doe (a deer, a female deer) standing in a stream surrounded by snow just drinking and relaxing. The mountain was directly in front of us, showing it’s blueish glaciers and cloudy peak. We have not yet seen the top as Mt. Rainier has it’s own little constant cloud cover. (Quick tidbit: Mt. Rainier is the fifth highest peak in the lower 48 states, standing at 14,411′ and contains the most glaciers in the lower 48 states as well). They literally surround this huge mountain. We continued onward and up, up, upward on the crowded trail crossing several snowfields, some as long as 100 feet. Luckily we had brought our hiking poles and they really made a big difference today. The top, or as far as we could get to, was Panorama Point sitting at 6800′. Of course it had a view looking up at Mount Rainier so close and still about 3 mi away, but looking away from the mountain, was a panoramic view of the valley below in Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, and in the very far distance Mt. Hood. We were enjoying the view when Mark grabbed the binoculars and announced that he could see a momma bear with a cub in the valley below. We took turns watching them run and play through binoculars and he tried to get our camera set up with the biggest lens we have but the pictures still just look like dots as they were over a mile away. I had been dreading the hike down because I knew I was gonna have to traverse those snowfields again and slide downhill on them this time. As adventurous as I am, I hate going downhill on snow (which is why I don’t ski.) I took my time and slipped my way each step. I glanced up and saw Mark smiling up at me. He says, “All I can hear is you going, ‘weeeeee, wooaahhh’.” I hadn’t realized I was doing any of that out loud. We also saw something unique that we have never seen before: spiders skittering across the snow. I called them polar spiders, after all they were walking on snow, but they were black in color, and I’m not sure if they actually lived in the snow or were just traversing it like we were. After hiking back down, we were going to do a scenic drive to another farther part of the park, but there was road construction and the afternoon was getting late. We’ll have to come back here on another trip to see the Longmire section of the park (and Narada Falls since we missed the turnout.)
On the way back, we stopped for a short, breathtaking half mile walk through thick forest to the Grove of the Patriarch’s, a 1000 year old grove of giant cedars and firs. There are trees standing 25-35 feet in circumference. We took a video of a group of 10 Japanese travelers and it took all of them to completely surround one tree in a group hug. Not only was in awesome to see, there was some added adventure in crossing the river over a suspension bridge – where only one person was allowed to cross at a time. It was a grand day, a perfect, awe-inspiring mountains and forest day in true Washington style!