At the end of our stay in Astoria, we had two days to travel up to the Seattle area for a long-planned gathering of friends. With a forecast of warm, sunny weather, it looked like we had a good chance to see Mt. Rainier from bottom to top. We found a new-to-us campground, reasonably close to Mt. Rainier (even closer to the east side of Mt. St. Helens) and off we went.
Taidnapam (pronounced Tide-na-pom) Park (click here to read our review and see photos) situated on Riffe Lake, is owned by Tacoma Power, the power supplier for the city of Tacoma. When we arrived on Tuesday afternoon, it was less than a quarter full, most of the campers having left on Labor Day.
It seemed like we spent hours picking out our site… too many choices! We finally settled on a long, level site and set up camp. Roof-mounted satellite TV dishes don’t work here, and we didn’t have a local NPR radio station, either. Surrounded by tall pines, without our usual ties to the “outside world”, it felt like real camping (well, except for the full hookups and cell service!).
On Wednesday, we were off to see Mt. Rainier. We haven’t been in that national park for five years, but had fond memories of the sunshine, the beautiful lakes and trails, and the lush gardens of wildflowers. Yesterday, we had a repeat performance.
The good thing about visiting the park after Labor Day was the absence of huge crowds of people. The bad thing was the road construction! Highway 12, the road from I-5 over to Yakima and the main route to Mt. Rainier, had big electric signs announcing delays of up to 2 hours. Fortunately, we turned off of highway 12 to Taidnapam Park before we tangled with the serious road construction.
The main road into the park is closed, so the only access to Paradise, the most visited area of the park and home to the visitor center, is through the west entrance. For us, that meant a drive north on highway 7, also undergoing (thankfully, minor) construction. Once in the park, access to most of the eastern side was difficult (or impossible) – but our goal was Paradise (isn’t everyone's??) and we persisted. We found a parking spot in the visitor center parking lot, ate our picnic lunch in the sunshine, watched the park’s overview video, and headed off up Deadhorse trail towards the glacier-covered mountain.
If I ever take a photography class, it will be “How to Photograph Lush Wildflower Gardens With Your Little Pocket Sized Digital Camera”. Photographing the massive bulk of Mt. Rainier, shining (and melting) in the warm sunshine was easy. Capturing the beauty of the multicolored, multilayered wildflower gardens was impossible (for me). Small creeks burbled through moss and flowers; tiny waterfalls trickled down rock faces through hanging gardens. We crossed crusty patches of snow now and then, and stopped frequently to exclaim at the incredible views of Mt. Rainier.
At the end of our trail. close enough to the glaciers to hear the sounds of distant ice chunks falling, we caught our breath and turned back. Behind us, unseen as we huffed and puffed our way up the trail, snow covered Mt. Adams shimmered in the bright sunshine like a mirage in the far distance, another of the great volcanic cones of the Cascades (Mt. Adams is the second highest mountain in Washington; Mt. Rainier is the tallest).
Since I heard from so many readers about the layout my photographs from Astoria, I thought I’d also post the Mt. Rainier photos as an album – this time, in a slightly different format. I like it.