Four Days in Paradise
A couple of months ago, my friend Susan Mason-Milks did a lovely ambassador-for-the-Pacific-Northwest post here about Seattle, her home town and mine… sort of. I actually live in the countryside considerably south of the city, in the next county in fact. And whereas King County boasts Seattle and the Space Needle, Pierce County has an even bigger claim to fame, all 14,410 feet of it: Mt. Rainier, and I’m staking bragging rights to it.
Family responsibilities kept me and my husband pretty close to home this summer, but fortunately we have a little slice of heaven – an amazing national park – practically in our backyard. So, two weeks ago, we finally managed to sneak off for a few days to our favorite destination. We hooked up the camp trailer and headed for “the mountain,” as everyone around here simply calls it. No phones. No internet. No job to go to. I took my laptop along so I could do some writing (current work-in-progress: Return to Longbourn), but the main point of the expedition was to get away from it all and enjoy the great outdoors – a mental health holiday.
“I shall soon be rested,” said Fanny; “to sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure, is the most perfect refreshment.” Mansfield Park
As many times as I’ve been to Mt.Rainier, it still possesses the power to awe me. It’s big, really big, and breathtakingly beautiful in every season.
Not only is Rainier Washington State’s tallest mountain, it is the most “glaciated” and most “prominent” peak in all the contiguous 48 states, rising 13,211 feet above its nearest low point. It’s considered an active volcano, with its last eruption in 1894. Native Americans called the mountain Tahoma, or Tacoma, but it was named Rainier by explorer Captain Vancouver, in honor of his friend Rear Admiral Peter Rainier of the British Royal Navy. Hmm. I wonder if Jane’s seafaring brothers – or Captain Wentworth – knew the guy.
“What delight! What felicity! You give me fresh life and vigour. Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are young men to rocks and mountains? Oh! What hours of transport we shall spend!” Elizabeth, Pride and Prejudice
Here’s something I didn’t know before. Rainier’s summit actually holds a small crater lake (130’ long and 16’ deep), the highest crater lake in North America. Sounds lovely! Would you like to go for a swim there? Too bad. The lake lies beneath 100 feet of ice and is only accessible by navigating a network of ice caves. I think I’ll pass on seeing it for myself and just take their word for it.
We did all our hiking at somewhat lower elevations, mostly in and around Paradise. Paradise is a recreational area on the south slope of the mountain, at the 5400’ level, with a lodge, visitor’s center, and a network of trails reaching all the way to Camp Muir at 10,000’. Although Paradise is “the snowiest place on earth” (receiving the most snow of anyplace keeping records), with a snow pack of up to 30’ in winter, the road reaching it is kept open year round. We’ve been there in winter, for snow shoeing, when we were walking over the tops of most of the alpine trees you see in these pictures. This time of year, for its brief summer, the snow is gone and wildflowers run rampant. Soon fall colors will commence, and after that the snow returns for the long winter.
A few flakes of snow were finding their way down, and the sky had the appearance of being so overcharged as to want only a milder air to produce a very white world in a very short time. Emma
So, for four days my husband and I camped; we hiked; and we “looked upon verdure.” We roasted marshmallows over an open fire; we gazed at the stars; and we slept in each other’s arms with the cool mountain air wafting over us. It was wonderful! It was a bit of paradise on earth – “the most perfect refreshment.” And we came home renewed and ready for new challenges.
I hope you enjoyed my little travelogue, and I hope you will someday get the chance to visit my favorite mountain. Of course, you must arrange to come in good weather. If it’s shrouded in clouds, as it very often is, you may never see Rainier, even if you’re standing on the mountain’s shoulder at Paradise.
It was a sweet view – sweet to the eye and the mind. Emma
In 1889, conservationist John Muir said of Mt. Rainier’s Paradise area “…the most luxuriant and most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I ever beheld in all my mountain-top wanderings.”
(For a related post, more pictures of Paradise, and a chuckle, read Summer: It’s All Washed Away Except the Mouse Fur at my website/blog.)
Have you ever been to Mt. Rainier? Where is your favorite place to commune with nature and recharge your batteries? Does this post bring to your mind any other Jane Austen references?