We’re coming big fella. We just want to see you in all your astoundingness.
Dear readers, have a seat and get out your crying towel and weep along with us.
Twenty-one years ago in the summer of 1995, with our three kids, Molly, Robyn, and Will, Hannah and I drove 4500 miles from York, Maine to Fairbanks, Alaska, hiking and camping along the way. During our entire time at Denali National Park, we never once saw Denali, the highest peak in North America. Low clouds kept us from seeing her even half way up.
Well it’s crying time again. Three years ago we journeyed to Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Park and it rained; we never saw what was left of the mountaintop. Last year, there were more tears on our pillows as rain and low clouds kept us from seeing Mount Rainier in all its grandeur. In addition, a trip to Olympic National Park that same summer left us without seeing the summit of Mt. Olympus due to low clouds. Are your eyes as red and puffy as mine?
So we are back. We’ve come to the Northwest to hike the waterfall trails of the Northwest, explore the coast of Oregon, and complete the trifecta by seeing Mount Rainier.
After an overnight with our niece Corrie and nephew Karl, we spend our first night in the state of Washington at the Crest Trail Motel in Packwood, WA, the gateway to Mount Rainier National Park. Besides providing two evening glasses of wine from the local Two Vines winery, the Crest Trail has biscuits for Dan and biscuits and gravy for Hannah. Carbs with a cup of joe is my recipe for starting a hiking day in the mountains of Washington.
On this Memorial Day Monday, only three days since my Achilles event, I use the motel ice machine to ice my left Achilles 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off in preparation for the hikes today.
Taking route 12 east, then route 206 north, we have a morning sky without a cloud; an excellent sign that today is our day to see the still active Mount Rainier in all its 14,410’ of awesomeness.
At the Stevens Creek Entrance on the east side of the park, we get maps for the day’s hikes and take to the serpentine 21-mile drive to the Henry Jackson Visitor Center in the center of the park. (HJ was a US Senator from Washington.)
The road is heavily forested as we climb in elevation towards the base of Mount Rainier with its 25 glaciers, just 54 miles southeast of Seattle. After five miles of driving we catch a glimpse of the Big Kahuna itself. Pausing, we snap pictures hoping to get the one that will go on my Instagram and Facebook account to capture today’s triumph.
Pulling over with others at Reflection Pond, which is 90% covered in snow this late May day, we catch a small slick of open water that reflects Mount Rainier’s stunningness.
Once at the Visitor Center, we park with other hikers sporting ice picks, snow shoes, crampons, and backpacks full of camping gear preparing for an assault on the mountain. We smile, nod our respect. Ice climbing has never been on our bucket list.
With others, we gawk at the snowy dominance of Mount Rainier on this festive Memorial Day Monday with so many of us thankful for the service of our veterans.
For me it is our daughter Robyn, stationed in Afghanistan ten years ago with the US Army, my Dad in WW II, both in the European and Pacific Theatres as part of the navy that was planning to invade Japan in 1945, my Mom as a Red Cross staff work in the Pacific in Guam in 1945, and my Uncle Harry who died on April 4, 1945 (the war ended May 7!) during the final Allied push to Germay. On a side note, Dad always contended that there was not a single sailor or soldier who was against dropping the Atom Bomb on Japan.
Hannah captures the half-mast flag at the Visitor Center with her iPhone. The park rangers have excellent maps and suggestions for hiking based on our love of waterfalls.
We have zeroed in on two good hikes for today. Carter Falls and Madcap Falls are part of a two-mile round trip hike with 500’ of elevation. Then two miles further down the park road towards Longmire, we will take to the trails of the 4.6 mile Rampart Ridge Loop Trail with its 1300’ of elevation gain to test my Achilles fully.
First Mission Accomplished: We have seen Mount Rainier in all its mind-blowingness.
Second? To see if my Achilles is up for this serious mountain hiking challenge.