Photo Essay: Camping Out for a Meeting at Mt Rainier

First posted in September, 2012

Last Wednesday, I had a meeting down at Mount Rainier National Park that I had to go to. I know, "had to go to" is really not the right phrase... Anyway, I could have just gone down for the day, but a colleague convinced me to stay a bit longer and experience the park, so as to understand it a bit more. I work closely with the managers of seven other national parks in our part of the world, and it's good for me to know what their issues are, what they're dealing with, how we can help each other out, share resources, etc. So the idea of sticking around was a practical one, and I needed a hit of being outside the city, and Sam hadn't yet seen the park at all, so I rented a car and we headed up there together last Tuesday evening, camped a couple of nights, and we both got to see a bit of the park.

We drove up Tuesday night after work, arriving at half past nine. We were both pretty wiped, so we just set up the tent in the dark and went straight to bed, having been suitably nourished by the bag of potato chips we'd split during the drive that evening (not really, but we were too tired to deal with cooking and cleanup).

The next day, I went to my meetings and Sam spent the day hiking alone along a portion of the Wonderland Trail, a ninety-mile loop he's hoping to hike in its entirety at some point while we're living in the area. That evening we played cards and just enjoyed being outside. I didn't really even dig my camera out until the next morning, on Thursday, the day I'd taken off from work to just hike and drive around the park.

Photo of our camp stove.

Above is our little wood-burning camp stove, which we quite like.
It's a lot easier than a full-on campfire because it just runs on twigs,
it doesn't use fossil fuels, and it generally does a great job of cooking,
though it does leave things sooty. If you're interested, check out their site:

Photo of our breakfast.

We had a hearty, health-giving portion of plain oatmeal with raisins each morning.
(The other end of that fork is a spoon, by the way.)

Photo of Sam eating breakfast and annoyed because I am taking a photo of him eating breakfast.

Sam likes to eat his oatmeal in peace, and does not appreciate being photographed.
(Click on the image if you'd like to see his adorableness at a larger size!)

Photo of our tent.

Here was our campsite. It was lovely to lie there in bed, staring out into the woods.
While I really do love living in Seattle, I can still see going back to more remote living

Photo of a bridge.

After breakfast, we broke camp and drove back across the Nisqually River,
with a plan to drop off my laptop at the ranger station for safe keeping
before heading up to Paradise for lunch and then out hiking to Comet Falls.
This is the really cool bridge between the campground and the ranger station

Photo of a welcome sign in many languages.

The 'new' visitor center at Paradise is pretty impressive. I never saw the previous
visitor center, but I understand that it was three times larger than this one. Which is
something, because this one is fairly substantial. We enjoyed the exhibits. We played
with one exhibit where Sam and I were both plants trying to gain a foothold in the high
country, but we both kept dying. I got stepped on by hikers, for instance. Multiple times.

I took a photo of the welcome sign, because it's the first one that I've seen in a national
park that takes the time to let you know in which languages they offer information.
I liked the approach and wanted to be able to keep the idea for future reference.

Photo of a view from the windows of the visitor center.

The visitor center has lots of windows, which allow for a great deal of natural light,
at least at this time of year. It also provides incredible views of the surrounding
mountains. Oddly enough, I didn't take a single photo of Mt. Rainier itself. But I
did note one of the exhibits which detailed a beautiful way of honoring the mountain:

Ta-co-bet, Majestic Mountain,
Silhouetted against the eastern sky
Guardian over the land of the Nisqually people
Who sends the rains to renew our spirits
Who feeds the river, home of our salmon,
Who protects our eagle in her flight,
Who reaches upward through the floating clouds
To touch the hand of the Great Spirit.
We honor you.

- Quoted by Cecelia Svinth Carpenter,
Nisqually historian

Photo of trees against a blue sky, looking uphill.

Then we had a really nummy lunch at the Paradise Inn. We would both later wish we hadn't,
because hiking straight up hill in intense sun with a lot of fries in your belly isn't fun.
But the food was good, and hey hey: we worked off most of the calories immediately!

It was a very, very sunny day, and while much of the hike was in the forest, a good portion
of it was on exposed rocky areas without the benefit of shady hemlocks and cedar.
Sunscreen and water were key. I'm not complaining, of course - while the harsh light
made for less-awesome photographs, it was far preferable to rain and reduced visibility.

Photo of some berries.

This next bit isn't so much a hiking narrative as it is me sharing photographs from the hike
in no particular order. Suffice it to say, the hike is not long (1.6 miles each way), but a/BR> consistent climb. Much of it is along a river, which you can't always see but can generally/BR> hear and sometimes you're rewarded with cool blasts of air when the wind blows just right./BR>

Photo of a cascade.

There's some of the aforementioned water.

Photo of a foot bridge.

And a bridge across the aforementioned water.

Photo of another cascade.

And then some more water.

Photo of some ferns.

And here are some ferns that were growing alongside the trail.

Photo of SUBJECT.

The whole trail is very green, climbing through cedar and hemlock forest.

Photo of a very tall hemlock.

Lots of big ol' hemlocks. It's hard to convey the size without a human in the photo.
But trust me, they are big and lovely. And, from what I hear, not so big as trees elsewhere
in the park. Unfortunately, we ran out of time on the way home and we were unable to stop
at the Grove of the Patriarchs, which has some of the largest trees in Washington state.

Photo of a scree slope.

Some of the trail travels through scree country. Fortunately, the trail is solid throughout.
I am not really very fond of negotiating scree slopes.

Photo of a glacial valley.

It's quite striking, the U-shape of the valley. Glacier country for sure.

Photo of a view from the trail.

Lots of high country views, which is interesting, because it doesn't seem like the trail
starts at a very high elevation, and while it does climb steeply, it doesn't feel steep
enough to put you up so high. But it does that nonetheless, as evidenced by the vistas.

Photo of another lovely waterfall.

And this pretty cascade was just below Comet Falls, on a different tributary of Van Trump
Creek. When you get to this lovely spot, there's a bridge, and the remains of what appear to
be one or more completely smashed bridges. You get a sense of just how brutal the flooding
can be in the park. From here, it's just a couple hundred feet over a little ridge to where
you can see Comet Falls, so named because the water spreads out like a comet's tail.

Photo of Comet Falls.

We couldn't get too close because of the avalanche debris closure,
but I thought the view was fine from a quarter of a mile away, myself.