There are two main sites for accessing the base of Mount Rainier in western Washington State: Sunrise, on the northeastern side of the mountain, and Paradise, on the south. I once went to Sunrise about 15 years ago, and that was the last time I had been so close to Washington’s gentle giant.
Last Sunday, the 21st, my sister and I met up with our parents near Paradise, and had a wonderful day exploring viewpoints and short walks, the longest of which was an easy walk of less than a mile to a lovely waterfall. It would have been great to do more actual hiking as the weather was fantastic (hot actually) and the wildflowers were in full bloom, but I was recovering from a cold and wasn’t quite up to anything too strenuous just yet.
After lunch outside the inn, we went on our little walk and saw a few butterflies and myriads of people amidst the beautiful scenery.
Our destination was Myrtle Falls, a pretty little spot but only accessed from a steep and narrow staircase down from the main trail. The staircase ended on a small platform by the falls which soon became packed with other avid photographers, so we quickly took our shots and left to gaze at the mountain back on the trail.
Even in the midst of a busy day at the park, it was wonderful to breath the fresh mountain air and drink in the views.
As we left the top of the Paradise road, we drove down and stopped at many of the viewpoints along the way.
Our second stop was the result of an impromptu, “what are they looking at down in the valley there? It must be an animal…it’s a bear!” from my sister. My sister and I had only ever seen a couple of bears in the wild, and they were young black bears running away from us while we were interning at a wildlife area in the north Washington Cascades about 10 years ago.
This big old shaggy black bear wandered slowly through the valley, eating some shrubs and grass and not bothered with anything. It was a long ways off (can’t wait to get the 70-200mm Canon lens and 2x extender soon), but still pretty cool for us.
There were a lot of neat spots to stop at, so we took our time coming down the mountain, ooo-ing and aww-ing all the way.
I was particularly interested in the reflection lakes, and trying for shots of Rainier’s reflection as the wind was very light. Sadly the lakes were not quite calm enough for good reflections, but it still was a pleasant stop that involved me being able to finally touch my first snow in about 2.5 years!
At the end of our drive, I moved all my stuff (and myself) to my parents’ car, so my sister could go home and I could go stay with my parents to visit with them (and start the process of sorting and repacking boxes in storage) for a couple weeks.
For more photos of the day trip, please check out my Mount Rainier Flickr set.