This was my second visit and Andrea’s first to this amazing National Park a few hours south of Seattle. We both agreed this is our favorite US national park, at least during this time of year, with meadows full of bright and colorful wild flowers, perfectly flat reflective lakes, and an impressive mountain.
We spent the first night in relative luxury at Nisqually Lodge just outside the park entrance. The next two nights were to be spent at Cougar Campground as long as we secured a first-come, first serve site. I decided to leave the hotel early while Andrea worked and it was well worth the 20 mile uphill fat bike ride. We had a great spot! The park was pretty crowded, but we were fortunate to be hiking without too many other people on the trails, at least on the Reflection Lake loop – ripples on the lake’s surface ensured we would have to head back the following day to try for the perfect shot. After an early start on Saturday morning, we lucked out on a perfect reflection view of the mountain prior to heading up into the thinner air on Rainiers icy slopes.
Mount Rainier, part of the ring of fire, towers over 14,000’ and is often a prerequisite to climbing Denali (Mt McKinley) in Alaska. We were so lucky to see Rainier in all its glory, just pleading to be climbed. Not something to be taken lightly, and with all the local guiding companies fully booked for the season, climbing to the summit was not going to happen during this visit! Instead, I managed to drag Andrea up the Muir snow field towards Camp Muir, where most people head up to the summit. I did consider going higher but with no crampons or ice-axe it would only have gone wrong somewhere! Seeing teams of climbers, including one of the world’s great mountaineers, Dave Hahn, whom I had the pleasure of spending a couple of months with on Everest, all heading up was frustrating but only made me more determined to make a full recovery from pending hip surgery.
To get up to the snow fields we passed through the most magnificent meadows, smothered in flowers of blues, reds, yellows, whites, and all shades in between. Andrea and I have spent a lot of time hiking in the mountains but never have we seen such color as here on the lower slopes of Mount Rainier.
A long weekend was a perfect length of time for us on this occasion, although a couple of things we missed out on was the 93 mile Wonderland Trail, a circuit of the mountain which we would love to come back and complete at some stage, and oh yes, to stand on the summit – maybe over the winter for some additional adventure.
August 21st – August 24th 2014