Olympic…June 7, 2018
Yellowstone…June 13, 2018
“The lake and the mountains
have become my landscape,
my real world.”
A step back in time...
As we approached Mount Rainier National Park, we inquired about the trail conditions of our planned backcountry adventure. Unfortunately, we were informed that our trip would require navigating through roughly a mile of deep snow as well as sleeping on a snow-covered campsite. A very challenging task that without any experience was neither recommended nor something we felt comfortable doing. We decided to head to the Longmire Wilderness Center within the southwest part of the Park and re-plan our visit. Moments after driving through the Nisqually Entrance, Amanda got her first glimpse at Mount Rainier. "I just saw the best view in the park!" she said. Although debatable whether it was actually the best view, we both would later on agree that looking at this majestic mountain from any viewpoint was breathtaking.
The Longmire district is one of the few year-round accessible parts of the Park, where as the subalpine regions stay snow-covered most of the year and summer usually only lasts about two months. The rustic architecture and roads of Longmire were constructed over 100 years ago and one could truly take in the historic meaning of the Nation's 5th National Park. At the wilderness information center, we learned that their were only a handful of trails not covered in snow, which changed our backcountry campsite to Lake George near the southwest border of the Park.
A glacier covered volcano...
Before heading out into the wilderness, we used the spare time to hike 2.5 miles up the Hurricane Ridge Trail to get another glimpse at Mount Rainier. Although a few clouds covered parts of the summit, we were able to enjoy a spectacular view that was well worth the hike. The summit, at 14,140 feet (4310 m), makes the mountain the tallest, most glaciated peak in the continental United States. Surrounded by over 20 glaciers with ice patches of up to 750 feet (230 m) deep, it is hard to imagine that this is still an active volcano. In fact, it is the tallest volcano in the Cascade Mountain Range.
Not a bad view at Mount Rainier
Once we reached the trailhead, we drove over to the Tahoma Creek Trailhead and packed up our packs for the night. Around 5:30 PM, we started the 4-mile ascend to Lake George. While mostly walking on a dirt road along Fish Creek, the final mile took us into the forest and after roughly 2.5 hours we reached the Lake. Most of the campsite was still snow-covered, but we were able to find a good place to set up camp. For a while, we thought we were the only ones at the campsite, but later we realized that there were two other people that stayed up there with us. It was clear that we had come way earlier than the usual hiking crowds that trek the Park's backcountry in July and August.
As darkness set in within an hour of our arrival, we made sure to take in the gorgeous mountain lake before it was too late. After a quick dinner, we put on our layers, hats, and gloves and tried to stay warm under our sleeping bags with temperatures below freezing.
Lake George, our campsite
A scenic drive around Rainier...
Having endured the cold night, we got up early and strolled back out to enjoy as much of the Park as possible. We headed to Paradise located at the southern slopes of Mount Rainier to stop at the Visitor Center. The overcast weather did not allow that great of a view of the mountain itself, yet the exhibits at the Visitor Center were helpful to understand the Park and its history better. To finish our visit, we drove toward the southeast exit, which took us on a scenic drive around Rainier. We made sure to stop at the many turnouts to take in this magnificent park.
Even though our stay at Mount Rainier was originally scheduled for a longer period of time, we understood that due to the weather it would have been smarter to visit in July or August. With so much more to see, the Park left us hungry to come back for more exploring. Next, we will pass through Idaho and stay in Missoula, Montana before heading to the nation's first National Park, Yellowstone.
Amanda & Janek