Mount Rainier

July, 2009

We spent a week visiting Mt. Rainier during the middle of July. When we first arrived, the Mountain was clear of couds (see photo # 1, at left). In the afteroon, a few clouds would sometimes form around the mountain, but it stayed remarkably clear for our entire visit.

We joined a Ranger-led walk through the sub-alpine forest near the Paradis Visitor's Center. It was very informative as we learned about the amazing adaptions that are required for plants and animals to survive in this extremely harsh environment. Along the way, Jim spotted a cedar drain pipe that probably dated from the time the Park facilities were first built. It is still there, working the way it was designed to work.

Here are some additional photos of the mountain, taken from different locations and at different times and days:

one   |   two   |   three   |   four   |   five

We went on several hikes within Rainier National Park. Many of the Park trails are strenuous, backcountry routes that were far beyond our abilities. But, there were also a number of shorter trails that we could handle. Even the easy trails were something of a challenge for Jim, as they often included some significant ups and downs, and were at elevations of 2,000 to 5,000 feet above sea level. We limited ourselves to the old-growth forest at the lowest elevations, and the sub-alpine areas at mid-elevations. We did not climb up to the alpine areas above the tree line.

Our most challenging hike was from Reflection Lake on the Stevens Creek Road up to Faraway Rock (photo # 2). It was, for us, a fairly steep climb through heavy forests for over 500 feet of elevation gain. The trail was well maintained and provided good footing, until we reached a long wooden bridge made from a flattened tree trunk. The bridge had collapsed, probably from the winter snow load, and presented us with a difficult obstacle. We made it across, with some trepidation, both going and coming. When we returned to the Visitor's Center we found out that the trail had only recently become accessible as the winter snows melted. We were the first to report the broken bridge.

Another easy trail is Twin Firs Trail which makes a loop through the old growth forest not far from the Park entrance. This is a temperate rain forest which receives a great deal of precipitation each year. This forest area has never been cut down, and is as close to a natural forest as it can be. The trail winds amongst the trees, sometimes almost disappearing where previous hikers have taken the wrong route and created a false path.

The trail crosses a picturesque log bridge as it climbs up and down the hillside and through the trees. There is relatively little undergrowth, as little sunlight reaches the forest floor. We found scattered ferns in small numbers throughout the forest. Wherever there was an opening in the forest canopy, ground level plants would proliferate. Even though we were only a few hundred yards from the road, it felt like we had stepped back in time.

— return to the 2009 Journal Archive.