Rain Forest Resort to Sunshine Point Campground, Mt. Rainier NP, OR
Wednesday, September 27, 2006 … 160 Camper Miles – Total 8,669
Clear, sunny and warm, mid 80s
We were running short of socially acceptable clothing so we started our day by doing a couple of loads of wash. While the machines were doing their thing, we worked on updating our notes for this log.
Before leaving the campsite we walked to the end of our campground to look at the world’s largest Sitka Spruce. We’d known it was in the area but didn’t realize that it was actually in view from the Tin Tent! The tree is huge! We’re sure there are still a few sailing ship masters or builders who would eye the big tree to make a new mast.
Our next stop is Mount Rainier. We left the campground about 2:00 and drove to the Sunshine Point Campground, just inside the park’s south entrance. It was a beautiful, clear evening. We made pasta and a salad for dinner and retired to rest up for a big day tomorrow.
Sunshine Point Campground to Cougar Rock Campground, Mt. Rainier NP, OR
Thursday, September 28, 2006 … 6 Camper Miles – Total 8,675
Sunny & clear, low 70s
We started the day by moving the camper to nearby Cougar Rock Campground. From there, we drove further across the park to the area called Paradise. Paradise is a sub-alpine area that adjoins a couple of glaciers and gives clear views of the mountain. The weather was super, crystal clear with deep blue skies. We’re really lucky. Many visitors to Rainier never get to see the peak.
A surprise for us was that Rainier gave us better views of glaciers than any other park we’ve visited. We’d been mildly disappointed during visits to a few other parks at how very distant the glaciers were. Not so in Rainier. Actually getting to the nearest glacier edge would have been a rugged, all-day hike; one we were not prepared to take. A few days after our visit we talked to Bill’s parents and they said that they were able to easily walk right up to a glacier’s edge when they first visited many years ago. Obviously, the glaciers have receded quite a bit. We chose to hike the five-and-a-half-mile Skyline Loop Trail. It involved a significant 1,600-foot climb, but it rewarded us with spectacular views of the mountain and many of its glaciers.
As Sandy so eloquently put it, however, “We came for the mountain and its glaciers, but it was the meadows that stole our hearts.” It’s true. The meadows were in their full fall colors. There were no deciduous trees but the brush was brightly colored. Most spectacular were the dense thickets of huckleberry bushes which were bright red in color and often back lighted by the sun. Bill just couldn’t stop taking pictures!
We should also mention the bathroom. “Who cares?”, you might ask. Situated high on the loop trail, it was beautifully constructed of heavy stone, had an immensely heavy wooden door bound with stout wrought-iron hinges and was equipped with an elegant toilet and pretty chrome toilet paper holders. You don’t usually expect such elegance in places like this!
Continuing on from Paradise, we took a short walk around Box Canyon. This is a slot canyon well over 100 feet deep with almost perfectly vertical sides that contain a rushing, glacial stream. We finally returned to the Paradise Visitor Center where we took refreshing and much needed showers.
We celebrated the end of another spectacular day with a dinner of Moroccan Chicken accompanied by fresh, steamed green beans.
Cougar Rock Campground to Ohanapecosh Campground, Mt. Rainier NP, OR
Friday, September 29, 2006 … 28 Camper Miles – Total 8,703
Bright sunshine, low 50s but high 50s by afternoon, clear as a bell
We woke up to another perfectly clear day and were determined not to waste it. That meant it was time to move yet again! This time we pulled the camper the rest of the way across the park, passing by Paradise and heading toward the southeast corner of the park to the Ohanapecosh Campground. Along the way we stopped at Reflection Lake and got a couple of almost perfect photos of the mountain reflected in the lake’s surface.
After setting up we headed north, up the road to the Sunrise area. This area is nearly 180 degrees around the mountain from Paradise and gives you a completely different perspective of the mountain. While we could see lots of glaciers yesterday, this view reveals the top of the mountain as being almost completely covered with an immense glacial ice cap.
We hiked the Shadow Lake and Frozen Lake loop. The area is on the dry side of the mountain so there were not nearly as many plants and, therefore, not much color. Instead, we got to view lots of fragile, arctic tundra and a couple of pretty lakes. Also, part of the trail crossed a large, barren talus area where people had “excavated” a flat area, protecting it with a dry-wall retaining wall. We think the trail was probably a road built to service the small lake used for a water supply for this side of the park. Whatever the original purpose, it was a lot of work to build a trail!
Back near Ohanapecosh we walked the Grove of the Patriarchs Trail. This trail explores a stand of very large trees in a rainforest-like setting on a small island. It is a lovely area with a boardwalk with built-in wooden benches; perfect to reflect on yet another wonderful day.
You can tell the tourist season is drawing to a close and that winter snows are near at hand. Informational signs are being removed, many Visitor Centers are closing for the season, poles are being erected to guide snowplows and many campgrounds are now closed. Winter comes early here and at many other parks. We are among the last of the year’s visitors to many areas of these last few parks.
Back at the O-hań-a-pe-cosh Campground, (We love that name!) we put together a stir-fry for dinner; heavy on the fresh asparagus.