Magnificent Mount Rainier!

Mount Rainier National Park Travel Blog

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9.3.08 Seattle to Mt. Rainier


This morning we left the Seattle KOA and took Ned the 4 miles to the Airport.  (Seattle traffic is just stressful!)  We were sad to see Ned go, but I think we’re getting more accustomed to the pattern. 


We breathed a sigh of relief when we left Seattle and entered the cool, green, lush, ancient forests of the National Forest near Mount Rainier National Park.  The trees are so thick in places that Sallie, our GPS, loses her satellites.  It was just beautiful with the sunlight streaming in the open areas of the forest!


Today was a glorious day to see Mt. Rainier!  I mean INCREDIBLE.  The weather was perfect, probably 70 degrees with brilliant blue sky, green meadows with eye-popping alpine flowers, spruce trees that perfumed the air, and amongst an impressive mountain range towered the all-white Mt. Rainier- an active volcano covered in glaciers. 


The Ranger assured us that Mt. Rainier has been hiding in clouds for the past few weeks and that we were very fortunate to see the complete mountain today, as well as Mt. Eric (?) in the distance.  We felt somewhat redeemed for having missed Mt. McKinley.


Did you know that 9,000 climbers attempt to ascend Mt. Rainier every year and less than half accomplish it?  They must go to 10,000 feet the first day, then awaken at 1 am for the weather report and climb on by 2 am so they can descend before the mid-day sun warms the snow to the danger point.  Mt. Rainier is 14,400 feet and the tallest peak in Washington, but it is still much shorter than Mt. McKinley’s 20,082 (or so) elevation.  But it must be a bear to ascend.  Less than half of the climbers reach the summit of Mt. McKinley too.


We learned about the climbers at the Sunrise Visitor’s Center, where we also started a 2-mile hike on the Silver Forest Trail.  Honestly, we were really tired at the end of this “easy” rated hike - we finally determined that the 6400’ altitude was probably the culprit (we’d been near sea level this morning).  At least we hope so!


We met an 80-year-old lady and her husband who were motorcycling up here.  I just thought that was great!


In November 2006, Mt. Rainier NP had a terribly destructive flood.  The odd thing was that it only rained from a Sunday to Tuesday, yet it wiped out entire campgrounds and roads with terrible flooding and landslides.  The road to the campground on the southeast side of the park was closed this week for reconstruction from that flood.  Thousands of volunteers have also helped redo hiking trails and repair the damage. 


We enjoyed chatting with a Californian man in (another) VW bus while waiting for the 5pm opening of Rte 123 that we wanted to take south to the campground.  He seems to be on similar paths (including Vancouver and Lopez Island) and we discussed Mount St. Helen’s for tomorrow.


I’ve gotten about 5 reports on the roads into Mt. Saint Helen’s and they seem to get progressively more accurate on which sections of the roads are open.  Unfortunately, it sounds like the final section of the eastern entrance up to Mt. St. Helen’s is closed, which means you really cannot see anything, so it is not worth going on the windy, one-lane road out of the way to get there.  So I guess we’ll go around and head down into the Western entrance, which is more crowded, but supposedly has some good interpretive boards on amazing survival stories and things like that.


It is no longer high season!  We all feel like we are playing hooky and have a grand time of it!  The kids exclaimed when they saw a kid in the campground tonight, because all have probably started school by now.  Hours are reduced, some visitors centers are closed, certain campground loops are closed, and we keep hearing that certain parks or roads are “open until late September” and we remind ourselves that this IS September already!  It is hard to imagine the snow coming within a month, particularly when you have such beautiful weather.  But I’ll bet it can turn nasty, cold, and rainy very quickly.


Speaking of school, the kids have been plugging away on their studies.  We’ve focused on a few areas for each of them.  I’m really pleased with their efforts to study while I drive and they each have accomplished several goals. 


I’m most pleased with all their reading - we haven’t once turned on the TV.  While I was sad to miss the Olympics, we are focused on our journey of exploring and learning all we can while we have the chance.  We negotiate which books they read so that school novels and historical novels are interspersed with fun books.


I have to admit that it surprises me how much the kids seem to love the National Parks, hiking, and exploring Visitor’s Centers, which really are little museums of information.  We read all the interpretive boards and watch the informative movies- many adults would likely be bored.  But they seem to learn from it and enjoy it enough not to complain- I guess they know the plan.  I’m really proud of them being such good travelers.



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