We are currently in the Chicago O’Hare airport on our way back to Jackson Hole, WY after spending the weekend here to celebrate Katharine’s friends’ wedding. We had a great time in Chicago, but we are excited to get back to the mountains!
Epic Trip Day 19-21: Mt. Rainier National Park (8/22-8/24)
We spent about a week in the Seattle/Washington area using Katharine’s cousins Tom and Amy as a home base to explore the three national parks. Our first mini trip was to Mt. Rainier, and Tom and Amy joined us for a few days of day hiking and camping in the park. After almost a month of hiking on our own, it was fun to have some new hiking buddies and people to chat with along the way.
Mt. Rainier – Sunrise Area
We started in the northern Sunrise area of the park and Tom and Amy helped us pick a really nice loop trail to do. We had somewhat cloudy weather but were lucky enough to see the mountain for a decent portion of the hike.
We were also lucky enough to avoid getting rained on despite the ‘doomsday’ clouds rolling in.
We were often distracted and slowed down along the trail by marmots and pika… Nathan and Tom both had their telephoto lenses and creeped up on the mountain rodents to capture their cute faces. The marmots were lazy and seemed to enjoy being photographed while pika were very timid and were hard to see amongst the rocks (but easy to hear).
After the 7 mile hike, we realized we needed gas so we headed to the nearest town to fill up and had dinner at a dive bar. While we were gassing up, we saw our first elk of the trip… after spending days in Redwoods trying to see them, we got to see elk on the lawn of a motel across the street… not exactly the most wild experience, but it’s still always fun.
The next day we drove to the Paradise area of the park, which is the most popular for good reason. We did another loop hike and saw an amazing display of wildflowers.
The meadows were filled with marmots, including some babies, eating as many flowers as they could while others napped on rocks.
As we climbed a bit higher to Panorama point, the weather got very cloudy and foggy, so we didn’t actually see Mt. Rainier at all that day. But the marmot-palooza definitely kept us entertained!
On our third day we did a hike along a stream with several very impressive waterfalls. The trail description hadn’t really emphasized them, so it was a pleasant surprise.
Just as we reached the top of the climb and came out into the open in the meadow, Mt. Rainier was peaking through the clouds with a brief spot of blue sky. Within five minutes though, a new batch of clouds rolled in and completely covered it for the rest of the afternoon.
It turned out to be a great hike with enough of a climb that we felt like we really earned our view of the mountain. When we got back to the trailhead Tom and Amy headed back to Seattle and started driving towards Olympic NP.
Mt. Rainier NP is understandably centered around and focused on the mountain, but since the weather didn’t fully cooperate, we were more impressed by the flowers and wildlife. John Muir also visited Rainier, and his most famous quotation was actually about the flowers, not the mountain itself. So we’d definitely love to return and get a chance to hike (or snowshoe) around when the mountain is backed by blue skies.
Epic Trip Stats:
- Days: 21
- Nights in a tent: 16
- Miles driven: 2630
- Miles hiked: 91
- National Parks: 6