Posted by: adventuressetravels | October 25, 2011

Majestic Mount Rainier

“The mountain’s out.  It’s gonna be a good day!”  The majestic point of mount Rainer stretched up into the blindingly bright blue sky speckled with clouds.  Seattle shone, bathed in its brilliant summer light; the snowcapped mountain clothed in its robe of deep green forests was magnificent.

Every day is beautiful,” Bryan, our tour guide flashed a grin, amending his statement.

I really needed to wake up.  Five in the morning is too early.  Even if I was still on East Coast time.

As the plush white tour bus climbed through the dense old-growth forest, Bryan regaled painted a detailed picture of the history of Rainier.  Even in the tour bus the towering trees and hush of the forest gave the 5th oldest national park an atmosphere of majesty.  We stopped for small hikes to see an ancient Douglas fir that had stood for hundreds of years.

The few crystalline waterfalls and wild-flower studded meadows we did get to see from the road were idyllic.  Unfortunately we did not have time to go on longer hikes and get ourselves lost in the woods.  The mountain was home to some extraordinary ones of all lengths and difficulties.  Though I am not an avid hiker, and mountain climbing is not something I have any interest in (rock hyrax is not a part of my genetic makeup), the 93-mile Wonderland Trail did sound like a fantastic adventure.

Bare brown skeletons of trees at odd angles signaled areas of decimation where lahars, terrible volcanic mudslides, had liquefied the ground and knocked trees away like matchsticks, smothering the remaining few.  But new shoots of green surrounded these grim reminders of disasters past.  The forest always renewed itself.

At around noon the van pulled into the parking lot at Paradise poked area on the Southern Side of the mountain for our lunch break.  One or two wildflowers poked their heads out of the receding snow banks.    Belying its name, Mount Rainier, and Paradise in particular is actually the snowiest place on earth and this year the snow had lingered particularly long.

Paradise Inn, a historic landmark and hotel loomed over us.  It is the oldest and most impressive example of National Park Service Rustic architecture, or parkitecture.  In attempt to blend in seamlessly with the nature the style incorporates rough-cut logs, exposed beams.  A cross between a cathedral and a log cabin, Paradise Inn takes rugged and brings it to a breathtaking new level.  High ceilings and

Paradise is one of the most popular points on Mount Rainer, and not merely because of the historic landmarks.  It is also the starting point for many of the hikes to Camp Muir and then to the mountain’s summit.  Before we left, Bryan passed around binoculars and we scanned the white capped mountain for little black dots of climbers struggling onwards and upwards towards the summit.

Sadly we did not see any animals.  Not a one.  The wildlife stayed in when the sun came out, or so Bryan told us.  But which would we rather see?  The mountain or a mountain goat?  Some days it was so foggy tours couldn’t even see across the parking lot at Paradise Inn.  We had gotten to see the whole mountain in all its snow-capped glory.

When I heard Mount Rainer was one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, I was shocked.  I didn’t even know it was a volcano, let alone active.  No one thinks about it but Washington is in the Pacific Ring of Fire.  This area is particularly prone to earthquakes, and far more dangerous, lahars, or detrimental volcanic mudslides.  With a high population in lahar evacuation areas many towns are at risk of being swept away by mud tsunamis, Bryan told us.

Unlike many tour companies, rather than employing exuberant kids fresh out of college as guides, Tours Northwest hires area veterans.  Men and women who have studied the area and can share all the most fascinating bits of trivia.  Teachers and showmen, these guides’ love of the area and enthusiasm are infectious.  Their tours invariably buoy the spirits and kindle deeper respect for nature and interest in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest.

The tour did a fantastic job of whetting my appetite and I learned so much than I would have on my own, but I definitely want to go back by myself so I can see more of the park.  I find that I appreciate nature more when I am alone or in a
small group.  Either way, the stately majesty of old growth forests, and the green-canopied world of Mount Rainier Park is awe inspiring.  Whether on a guided tour or in your own car, Mount Rainier National Park is a must if you are in Washington.


  1. Loved the amazing mountain setting, so well pictured in words, also with lots of stuff I didn’t know.

  2. I’d like to have seen a pic of the “parkatecture”, cute name.

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