Mount Rainier National Park ~ August 19-21, 2014

The immensity of Mt Rainier dominates the landscape from every approachable vantage point.View of Rainier from Sunrise Road2

After connecting up with US-12 in Yakima, we entered the park’s east border via state highway 410.

The 14k+ mountain also dominates its national park. Within the park, it is not possible to traverse around the mountain by car. Getting from one area to another takes time and planning.

map_driving_tours
Photo source: http://www.visitrainier.com

After much research, we chose White River Campground located more centrally within the park along the northeast facing slope.

White River Campground 

White River offers convenient access to the hiking trails that attracted us. Plus, it sprawls along the bank of the White River, a raging storm of a river furiously fed by three glaciers.

White River from campground

We loved the non-stop sound of water forcing its way down Rainier’s slope, tossing boulders out of its way.

Mart among the gian fir trees
Excitement could not be contained at the sight of these giant Douglas firs!

Because White River campsites are issued on a first-come-first-serve basis, we had a “Plan B” reservation at a campground an hour and half away in the southern end of the park. We were able to cancel that reservation after securing site D17…

 

located directly across from the Glacier Basin Trailhead and a short walk to the Wonderland Trail.

The nearest supply and grocery store is 25 miles away in the community of Greenwater.

Greenwater outfitters
Greenwater Outfitters — good coffee, breakfast and deli style sandwiches.

Glacier Basin Trail

Glacier Basin Trail - HikingFrom our campsite, we followed Glacier Basin Trail into a thick grove of fir trees and past numerous creeks and waterfalls.

Glacier Basin Trail 2
Glacier Basin Trail

Just shy of a mile, we veered onto the Emmons Moraine Trail:  a one-mile (roundtrip) excursion overlooking Emmons Glacier and a beautiful glacial lake.

Emmons tRAIL
Glacial Lake below Emmons Moraine Trail

Instead of trekking the additional 2.2 miles to Glacier Basin, we headed back to camp for lunch and a nap (I was fighting a cold).

Emmon Trail
Trey on the Emmons Moraine Trail

Re-energized, we hopped on our bikes and coasted downhill for six miles, past the Ranger Station to Highway 410. In hindsight, we both agreed the roundtrip hike to Glacier Basin would have been easier than the steep ride back up to our campsite.

Henry Weinhard Private Reserve
Henry Weinhard’s Private Reserve – NW Style Lager

Sunrise Area & Wonderland Trail-North

Sitting more than 2,000 feet above the White River Campground, Sunrise has a restaurant, lodge and visitor center. It’s accessible by heading north (away from the river) on the Wonderland Trail for three miles, a strenuous hike due to the rise in elevation.

We opted to drive since we’d planned to hike some of the area’s many trails. Sunrise Park Road climbs up from the campground access road, through a series of sharp curves, switchbacks, and outlook points. Gorgeous drive! northwest panoramic from Sunset AreaIt provides many photographic opportunities of Mt. Rainier and its surrounding mountains, valleys, and glacial lakes.

Sunrise Lake, from Sunrise Park Road
Sunrise Lake, from Sunrise Park Road

Sunrise has ample hiking options for every level. From Sourdough Ridge we headed west to Frozen Lake…

 

 

looped south around Sunrise camp and Shadow Lake, then caught the Wonderland Trail back up to the Sunrise parking area.

 

The loop provided varied hiking environments, conditions and wildlife experiences.

Wonderland Trail-South

The Wonderland Trial encircles Mt. Rainier for 93 miles across varied terrains and elevations. It is a popular trail for fit and fervent thru-hikers.

Wonderland Trail Bridge, White River
Wonderland Trail Bridge Crossing the White River

With our tent and camping gear broken down and packed away in the “Escape Mobile,” we had yet to brave crossing the “bridge” over the White River to venture southward on the trail.

 

Trey went first.

Wonderland TrailSince we lacked the time and transportation to one-way hike to an access point along the campground road, we hiked only about 1/2 mile in before turning around and departing the campground.

Sunrise Area Panoramic

Mt. Rainier stands out as a highlight among our camping adventures – it was our first experience among glaciers, and is a truly majestic towering beast of a mountain.

We will be back.

 

Drive Between Yellowstone & Mount Rainier National Parks ~ August 17-19, 2014

After grabbing dinner at the Old Town Café in West Yellowstone, we gassed up the “Escape Mobile” and headed north to connect with U.S. 287 — a highway we had traveled countless times across north Texas, but never across Montana.

Hands down, the Montana portion is more interesting and beautifulLake Hebgenwhile traversing the east bank of the Madison River, between canyon walls, and along the shorelines of several lakes.

Positioned in the lower western sky, the sun provided great photo opportunities of the lakes. (Photo above is Hebgen Lake.)

A particularly long stretch of a lake prompted our curiosity and called for us to stop at its overlook point. Quake Lake, MontanaQuake Lake had been formed exactly fifty-five years prior when the combination of an earthquake, massive landslide, and subsequent rushing, rising water flooded the valley.

Just minutes after the quake and slide, the new lake began forming. In the following weeks, it grew to encompass an area five miles long and 190 feet deep.

 

The formation of the lake came at a great cost – twenty-eight people died the evening of the earthquake, either by drowning or being crushed in the landslide.

For Trey and I to be the only individuals standing above the former campground on the 55th anniversary date of its tragic demise, was surreal and humbling.

Tree tops emerging from Quake Lake
Dead silver treetops emerge from Quake Lake as an eerie reminder of the past.

Before continuing the drive to Butte, where we would spend the night, we said a short prayer in honor of the lost souls.

Spokane, Washington

The 316 mile trip from Butte to Spokane…Montana Landscapeincluded a seventy-four mile trek across the top of Idaho.

As we approached Idaho, the trees grew dense, steep ravines began crossing under Interstate 90, and fall colors dotted the hillsides.

 

We were in Idaho just long enough to realize we should have planned a stay there. Next time.

After settling into a hotel on the outskirts of Spokane, we headed downtown for dinner and a walking tour of the city. Spokane was a pleasant surprise because we had no expectations. No thoughts whatsoever, other than a place to sleep for the night. I think perhaps its location in eastern Washington, and its lack-luster name, conjures up images of dust and doldrums.

Spokane is the opposite — lively and lovely. Spokane, WaThe Spokane River runs through the city’s center. A river walking path was being extended as a part of a larger Riverfront Park renovation plan.

Spokane Riverfront Park Improvements
Part of Spokane’s new river-walk and Riverfront Park revitalization efforts

On to Mt. Rainier…

We stopped at a lookout point outside of Vantage, Washington to bask in our first sight of the immense Columbia River. Columbia RiverGinkgo Petrified Forest State Park lay just beyond the opposite bank and was once home to the Wanapums, an indigenous, peaceful tribe of fishermen who are near extinction.

 

A few hours after crossing the Columbia, and after refueling both the car and our bodies in Ellensburg, we soon caught our first glimpse of the mammoth Mount Rainier. Mt Rainier in the distanceThe sighting renewed our energy and enthusiasm for the remaining two hour drive to our campsite.