Mia and I spent Sunday of 2013 Labor Day Weekend checking out Mt. Rainier. Just over 2 hours from Portland, Mt. Rainier is an easy day trip, and a highly worthwhile overnight (or two).
The first 100 miles or so is mostly highway and fast state roads. The real adventure begins just after Ashford, WA as you enter the Southwest portion of the park. The cost is $15 a car ($5 for cyclist or hikers) and is good for 7 days from the date of purchase.
We may have slightly under estimated how busy this holiday weekend would be. We hit up Besaw’s for breakfast for 8AM and were on the highway just before 9AM. Approaching the entrance gate we ended up queued up in traffic for about 15 minutes, paid our entrance fee and were quickly on the way to Paradise (both literally and figuratively).
From the SW gate it is about 15 miles of steady climbing to get to Paradise and the visitor’s center. Along the way there were a couple pull outs and scenic view points. Needless to say we had to stop.
After this stop we headed up to the first parking area and the Paradise Inn……it was FULL, and there was a bunch of traffic. We had to drive almost a mile down the road before we could have found a parking spot, however from this point we decided to keep going and head for Sunrise on the eastern side of the mountain and hope for a little better luck over there.
it’s probably another 30ish miles from Paradise to the entrance of Sunrise, which is an 11 mile climb up to 6500 feet. The views along this stretch of road are absolutely stellar. We stopped at Box Canyon for a short walk around a 180′ deep chasm with fast moving glacial waters surging through it.
There were some nice views of the mountain from here too.
Also along the road to Sunrise are a few interesting tunnels bored right through the mountain
We finally got over to the entrance of Sunrise and were all ready to make the drive up. Then we hit dead stopped traffic. We initially figured it was just busy like Paradise, however after about 10 minutes of waiting a ranger came down the line of cars and told us there was a rescue operation happening up on the mountain and that they had stopped the flow of cars up to Sunrise.
We decided to wait it out and see what would happen……Well, after an HOUR of waiting the ranger came back down the line of cars and informed us that the “air operation” had closed down the road and they had no idea when it would reopen. This is when we decided to head back to Paradise and perhaps luck out with the parking lot there.
Long story short……….no dice. Parking lot at Paradise was totally packed still and even more cars were along the side of the road.
Along the way back to Paradise, we did stop at the “Grove of the Patriarchs” a short 0.75 mile (each way) jaunt into the woods to some of the largest and oldest trees I have ever seen. The photos just don’t do it justice, but hopefully they show the size and awe of the trees.
It was pretty awe inspiring and a bit humbling being among these giants of the forest.
A few more shots of Mt Rainier.
And finally we were starving so we stopped at this little place just outside the park entrance called Wild Berry. The two women inside were both Nepalese and this restaurant served genuine Nepalese food. Both Mia and I decided “what the heck” and decided to give it a shot. It was really good. Mia even got a beer brewed in Nepal that she said was really good.
So even though we were denied from trying either of the hikes I had in mind, we still had a great day exploring this beautiful mountain, and we are totally ready to head back!
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