Mt. Rainier National Park has much more that its majestic mountain to offer visitors. Ancient forests, glacial rivers and tumbling waterfalls are found throughout the Park.
At 14, 410 feet (4,392 meters), Mt. Rainier is the tallest volcano in the Cascade Mountains, a range that starts in northern California and works its way through Oregon and Washington before ending in southern British Columbia. The range is part of the famous, or perhaps I should say infamous, Ring of Fire that surrounds the Pacific Ocean and represents the epic crashing of oceanic and continental tectonic plates. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis are its legacy.
Starting at Mt. Shasta (shown here) and Mt. Lassen in northern California, the Cascade Mountain Range of volcanoes works its way northward into southern British Columbia.
Rainier is an active volcano, which means it is capable of blowing its top at any time. Every volcanic eruption in the last 200 years that has taken place in the contiguous United States (outside of Hawaii and Alaska) has happened in the Cascade Range. The most recent was Mt. St. Helens in southern Washington, which exploded in 1980. I flew over the mountain a few weeks after the eruption. The destruction was unimaginable.
Mt. St. Helens today, its once majestic peak now a crater. The river has carved a canyon through the mudflow the volcano left behind. I took this photo two years ago.
Jet stream driven storms coming off the Pacific Ocean bring the rain that the North West is justifiably famous for. During the winter, this rain turns to snow as the storms are forced up and over Mt. Rainier— lots of snow. During the winter of 1971/72, 1,122 inches of snow fell. This translates into 93.5 feet or 28.5 meters. It set a world record at the time. The snow is responsible for the 14 named glaciers that slowly work their way down from the top, grinding up rocks as they go, and creating several rivers.
Fourteen named glaciers make their way down Mt. Rainier.
Fed by the Emmons, Frying Pan and Winthrop Glaciers, the White River is given its color by ground glacial rock dust. BTW: Ancestors of my mother barely missed being massacred by indians on the White River around the time Seattle was founded.
Peggy and I, along with our son Tony, worked our way clockwise around the mountain from the Sunrise Visitor Center to the Henry (Scoop) Jackson Memorial Visitor Center, covering about a third of the mountain. The road has enough twists and turns to hassle a snake and has more picturesque scenes than a National Geographic photographer could capture in a month. Misty waterfalls and an ancient forest competed with the snow-topped mountain for our attention. We finished off our exploration of Mt. Rainier with a breath-stealing hike that climbed up 1400 feet behind the Jackson Memorial Visitor Center.
You would expect to find large trees in an area called the Grove of Patriarchs. We weren’t expecting this. Peggy is perched inside the roots of a downed patriarch. Or maybe it was a matriarch.
This creek flowing through the Grove of Patriarchs immediately made me think of a Claude Monet Impressionist painting.
Since we were in the Grove of Patriarchs, a photo of big trees is required.
Whirls of wood grain appeared on a downed tree in the Grove. I was reminded of a 3-D topographic map.
We came across a saffron robed monk throwing snowballs as we hiked on the trail above the Jackson Memorial Visitor Center. “Throw one at me,” I urged with camera poised.
One of many views we had climbing up the trail. As I recall, Peggy broke out singing Climb Every Mountain. It was a Julie Andrews’ moment.
Looking around we saw several waterfalls tumbling off the mountain.
Peggy captured Tony at our turn around point on the trail. He wanted to keep going to the top of the green hill but was outvoted by Mom and Dad. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
I took time to photograph these cheerful Phlox flowers on the way down.
And this wonderfully wild corn lily.
A final goodbye view of Mt. Rainier. Next Blog: We begin our kayak adventure and search for Orca Whales off the north coast of Vancouver Island.