A Return Trip to Mount Rainier
In summer 2021, I had a chance to revisit familiar ground after a long absence. I decided I was long overdue for a return trip to Mysterious Mount Rainier.
Mount Rainier is a mysterious presence if you grow up in the NW corner of Washington State. On a clear day, it’s 14,000+ peak looms over the skyline. Washingtonians believe they can forecast the weather based on cloud formations on the peak. A ring of clouds around the mountain means cloud cover is coming to the Seattle area.
Mount Rainier is an episodically active composite volcano. I think of it as a living, breathing entity. An eruption is always possible, though experts say not probable in any given year. During times of increased volcanic activity, I see articles about the possible devastation of an eruption so close to a major population center. Many were surprised in May of 1980, when Mount St Helens, to the south of Mt Rainier, erupted instead.
Memories of Mount Rainier National Park
Being from Kansas, my parents were drawn to Mt Rainier. They grew up in a flat landscape and found the giant to be irresistible. We camped, hiked and fished in Mt. Rainier National Park every summer, sometimes more than once. When my brother was in college, he waited tables at Paradise Lodge inside the Park. Occasionally he got to tag along with climbing expeditions as a junior guide. He was always thrilled to be chosen to be part of a climb. When it was time for me to learn to ski, I learned at Crystal Mountain, on the flanks of the Mountain, just outside the National Park gates.
The Return 2021
When I decided to return as an adult with my trailer, I was wondering how much would seem familiar to me. As it turns out, quite a bit!
I came in to the park from Yakima on State Route 410, also known as Chinook Pass. The road winds through the park and I got a chance to test my hauling skills on the twisty section inside the park. Fortunately, other drivers were patient with me, and I used the frequent pull-outs to let faster traffic pass me.
I made a slow, but scenic drive past familiar names like Paradise and Ohanapecosh. I came out of the Park, past Crystal Mountain Ski Resort, and pulled in to my reserved campground at Silver Springs.
When I choose a campsite based on information I’ve read on-line, I’m never quite sure what I’ll find. Silver Springs was a pleasant surprise. A great campsite with spacious sites, right on the river. A bonus is that it is only miles from the Park gates. I was joined by my cousin Annie and her husband Mike. We had easy access to hiking in the Park and at Crystal Mountain. I took a gondola ride at Crystal Mountain, over the slopes where I first tried skiing.
I learned that my attachment to the landscape of Mt Rainier has not faded with time. If anything, I appreciate the Mysterious Mount Rainier more today, than I did as a child.
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