There Is Much More to Mt. Rainier National Park than a Mountain

A waterfall in Mt. Rainier National Park. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

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.

Mt. Shasta in northern California. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

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 in Washington. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

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.

Photo of Mt. Rainier Glacier taken by Curtis Mekemson.

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.

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.

Roots of a downed giant in the Grove Of Patriarchs, Mt. Rainier National Park. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

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.

Creek reflects green of surrounding forest in Mt. Rainier National Park. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

This creek flowing through the Grove of Patriarchs immediately made me think of a Claude Monet Impressionist painting.

Since we are in the Grove of Patriarchs, a photo of big trees is required.

Since we were in the Grove of Patriarchs, a photo of big trees is required.

Wood grains on a downed tree in Patriarch Grove, Mt. Rainier National Park. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Whirls of wood grain appeared on a downed tree in the Grove. I was reminded of a 3-D topographic map.

Saffron robed monk throws snowball on trail above Jackson Memorial Center at Mt. Rainier National Park. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

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.

View from Mt. Rainier above the Jackson Memorial Center. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

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.

Looking around we saw several waterfalls tumbling off the mountain.

Peggy captures Tony at our turn around point on the trail. He definitely wanted to keep on going. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

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.)

Phlox flowers at Mt. Rainer National Park. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

I took time to photograph these cheerful Phlox flowers on the way down.

Corn lily growing on the side of Mt. Rainier. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

And this wonderfully wild corn lily.

A goodbye view of Mt. Rainier.

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.

 

 

“Now, that’s a glacier…” Mt. Rainier National Park

Mt. Rainier National Park. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Mt. Rainier is the most glaciated mountain in the lower 48 states of the US.

It was supposed to be a laid-back summer. Our daughter Tasha would come out from Tennessee with our grandsons Ethan and Cody for a week or two in June. And then we would go to Burning Man in late August. In between, we’d hang out at our home in the mountains, relax, and explore more of Southern Oregon— if we had the energy.

Our grandson Ethan enjoys a dip in the Applegate River this summer a few miles from our house .

Our grandson Ethan enjoys a dip in the Applegate River this summer a few miles from our house.

Then Edie called. Edie is Peggy’s old high school friend who lives in Anchorage, Alaska. She and her husband David had found what sounded like a great sea-kayak adventure looking for Orcas off the northern tip of Vancouver Island in August. Would we like to go? How could we resist? It would make our trip to Burning Man tight, but it was still doable.

Tony, our son who flies helicopter rescue missions for the Coast Guard off Kodiak Island, was next. He had helicopter crash training in Spokane in early August. This is where a huge machine takes a helicopter and dumps it upside down in a large pool of water so the pilot and crew can practice their escape routines. Wouldn’t it be great if we could pick him up at the Seattle airport before the training and head out for a few days of camping and hiking at Mt. Rainier? Yes it would, declared Peggy, doing a happy-mother dance. I wasn’t to worry that the Rainier trip backed up on the kayak trip that backed up on Burning Man.

Then Tasha called. She couldn’t come in June but had found some great tickets to fly out in July for a couple of weeks. Oops, said Mom. The latter part of the trip was double booked with the Tony trip. Not to worry, said Tasha. She’d only stay for a week and a half. If we hurried we could get to Seattle the day before Tony arrived so we could grab a campsite before they all disappeared. We found a campsite, barely. What disappeared was our laid-back summer.

Photo of large slug at Mt. Rainier by Curtis Mekemson.

This slug we found at Mt. Rainier National Park was traveling at just about the pace I had hoped we would enjoy our summer. It wasn’t to be.

Join Peggy and me on my next two posts as we explore Mt. Rainier with Tony. After that, we will zip off on a search for whales with Edie and David.

View from Sunrise Visitors center at mt. Rainier National Park. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Looking up at Emmons Glacier from the Sunrise Visitor’s Center at Mt. Rainier.

Close-up of Emmons Glacier at Mt Rainier National Park. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A close-up of Emmons Glacier.

Peggy and Tony pose fro a picture near the Sunrise Visitor Center at Mt. Rainier National Park.

Peggy and Tony pose for a picture near the Sunrise Visitor Center at Mt. Rainier National Park.

Indian Paintbrush at Mt. Rainier. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A short walk along the Silver Forest Trail from Sunrise Center included fields full of flowers as well as spectacular views of the mountain. This is Indian Paintbrush.

Lupine at Mt. Rainier National Park. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Lupine.

A strange and fuzzy Western Pasqueflower. Photo by Peggy Mekemson.

A strange and fuzzy Western Pasqueflower. Photo by Peggy Mekemson.

Aged tree root near Sunrise Center at Mt. Rainier National Park. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

This aged tree root with its magnificent backdrop caught my attention.

Dead tree outlined against the sky in a black and white photo at Mt. Rainier National Park. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

As did this dead tree.

A final view of Emmons Glacier. Next Blog: A giant forest, beautiful falls, and more views of Mt. Rainier. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

A final view of Emmons Glacier. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.) Next Blog: A giant forest, beautiful falls, and more views of Mt. Rainier.