Saturday, July 16, 2016

Paradise, Mount Rainer National Park, 7/07/2016

After arriving in Packwood, WA, yesterday, we decided to spend the day exploring Mount Rainier National Park (even though it was mostly cloudy). Here's some background on the park and Mount Rainier (once named Tacoma):
  • Highest mountain in Washington and in the Cascade Range at 14,411'.
  • Large active stratovolcano with most recent recorded eruptions (minor) in the late 1800s.
  • Typically 5 small earthquakes recorded monthly below the summit.
  • Most glaciated mountain in the lower 48 states with 25 major glaciers covering approximately 36 square miles.
  • Considered one of the most dangerous active volcanoes in the world (top 10) due to the large amount of glacial ice (with the potential to create huge volcanic mudflows, called lahars).
  • In 1897, the area was designated as the Pacific Forest Reserve and a National Park 3 years later.
  • 8,000 to 13,000 climbers attempt to reach the summit annually; about half are successful as the weather near the summit is very unpredictable year round. Also, traversing the many glaciers is very treacherous. Permits are required for climbers.
  • There are, on average, 2 mountaineering deaths a year.
  • The popular Wonderland Trail circumnavigates the mountain (93 miles). 

We entered the park traveling north on Highway 123. The Ohanapecosh Visitor Center and Campground is located on the left (open seasonally). You can pick up maps and obtain information from the park rangers about hiking trails, campgrounds, etc., in the park. 

This is a small visitor center with displays about the history of Native Americans who lived her for thousands of years. There is also information about the animal and plant life here.

Continuing a short distance north on 123, we followed the park signs to the Stevens Canyon Entrance. Admission is $25/vehicle for a 7-day pass. Of course, our Senior Pass gets us in for free. 

Our plan for the day was to visit the Paradise area, but we stopped at Box Canyon that was along the way. This canyon was formed by the erosive action of the Muddy Fork of the Cowlitz River. The gorge is a half-mile long115deep and only 13' wide at its narrowest point. The source of water is the Cowlitz Glacier three miles upstream. The milky color of the water identifies the river as glacial meltwater carrying abrasive sand and boulders. Great views of the river can be seen from the bridge (where the water rushes 180' below). Sadie got a good look at the river, too!

About 13.5 miles from the Stevens Creek entrance we pulled over at an overlook to the valley. We could see beautiful Martha Falls (150' drop) in the distance., It accessible via the Wonderland Trail, although we did not do the hike (no dogs allowed). 

Our next stop on the road to Paradise was at Reflection Lake. In sunny weather, you can see Mount Rainier from here and its reflection in the lake when the water is calm. In the 1920s, the lake was stocked with non-native fish and boating, fishing and swimming was permitted. Due to damage to the ecosystem, these activities are no longer permitted. Efforts are underway to regrow vegetation around the lake as well.

We followed signs to Paradise and the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center

Due to the cloudy weather, we were unable to see much of Mount Rainier (although this is the closest viewpoint to the massive mountain). We spent a good amount of time enjoying the interactive exhibits here that provide a wealth of information about Mount Rainier. In many years, more snow falls here than in any other location in the continental US!

There is also a cafeteria-style restaurant and gift shop on the first floor. Of course, park rangers are available to provide information about hiking trails, etc. Also located at Paradise is the Climbing Information Center in the Park Ranger Station building for those the many mountaineers that visit here.

Paradise Inn opened in 1917 and was advertised as "the place where flowers and glaciers meet." The architectural style is rustic and is commonly seen in other national parks. It has been designated as a National Historic Landmark. The Inn is open seasonally as the amount of snowfall in the winter sometimes reaches the 3rd floor or even covers the inn!

Because I love these picturesque structures, we went inside to check it out. There were lots of guests sitting around the lobby enjoying the fireplaces and planning their hiking adventures. 

Because of the cloudy weather, we decided to continue our visit to the Longmire District where there is a small museum. From Paradise we continued west on Highway 706 stopping to see Narada Falls after only a short distance. There is a short path to the base of the falls. Paradise River is fed by glacial snowmelt, hence the milky white appearance of the water. The first photo is from the top of the falls. 

Built in 1916, the Longmire Museum is one of the oldest buildings at Mount Rainier National Park. It was originally the administration building. Scheduled for demolition in 1928, Frank Brockman, the Chief Naturalist, convinced the administrator to preserve it. Brockman created the exhibits that are still seen today.

There is a Ranger Station at Longmire and an antique park touring car on display.

The Longmire Service Station was constructed in 1929 in the National Park Service Rustic architectural style. The first automobile arrived at the park in 1907. The remote location of the park made the service station a necessity here. 

The National Park Inn was built in 1917 and currently has 25 guest rooms. The lovely front porch with rocking chairs offers visitors a view of Mount Rainier (weather permitting, of course). 

Next door is the Longmire General Store (built in 1911) by the same company that built the original national Park Inn. Uses of the building of changed over the years; today firewood, snacks, gifts, and souvenirs are sold to park visitors. The interior is warm and inviting. 

We stopped at the Nisqually River Overlook. Because this is a glacial river the landscape is constantly changing depending on weather conditions (snow fall, temperature, etc.) The river is chalky white and boulders and stones of all sizes are strewn along its banks. 

Our last stop for the day (whew!) was the Grove of the Patriarchs Nature Trail. It is an easy 1.5 mile trail through a dense coniferous forest to a small island of the Ohanapecosh River where huge old-growth Douglas firs, Western red cedars, and Western hemlocks can be seen. 

A pedestrian, suspension bridge provides access to a wooden boardwalk trail on the island with interpretive signs. 

Despite the cloudy weather, we had a great day visiting Mount Rainier National Park. We had prepared dinner in the crockpot and packed a picnic lunch knowing we would be exhausted after a full day there. As with all of the parks we have visited, there is lots to see and do. We look forward to seeing more of it during our stay in Packwood. 

For more information about Mount Rainier NP, check out their website:

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