The title of this post I borrowed from this photo:

john muir

Now I haven’t wandered as many mountaintops as Mr. Muir, but I think that if I had I would still agree with him. Mount Rainier is the most amazing, awe-inspiring, beautiful place I think I’ve ever been!

I visited here last year while I was in Seattle for work and vacation. My friend, Teresa, and I had returned to Seattle the previous evening after spending a few days exploring Vancouver, BC.

We got an early start to our day and picked up breakfast to eat in the car on the way to Mount Rainier. On a clear day you can actually see the mountain from Seattle. And this was a perfectly clear day! We caught many glimpses of it during our drive. It took us about two hours to drive from our accommodations in the Green Lake area of Seattle to the Nisqually entrance of Mount Rainier National Park.

Driving through this national park was just beyond beautiful. And the views of Mount Rainier from inside the park – stunning!

mt ranier & road

Our first stop was Narada Falls. We walked the short path to a viewing area and took some pictures; then it was back in the car to navigate the very winding roads. We kept stopping at various points to take pictures – everywhere we looked we saw spectacular views!

narada falls

We finally made it to the Paradise Jackson Visitor’s Center located at an elevation of 5,400 feet. This area receives a yearly average of 641 inches of snow! Little did we know that what seemed like half of those inches was awaiting us on the trails we were getting ready to hike.

paradise visitors center

We decided to start out easy and hiked to Myrtle Falls which is one mile round-trip. And this is when we first encountered what we thought at the time was a boatload of snow. It’s always exciting to see snow when you’re a native Floridian! And we were getting ready to be some darn excited native Floridians!

myrtle falls

After this short trip we went back to the Visitor’s Center to grab some pizza and salads for lunch before setting out on some longer trails.

Considering we hadn’t hiked in a while, were wearing worn out running shoes, and had already encountered some snow, we decided to just stick with the easy to moderate trails. Yep, that’s what we decided. So…I’m not sure how it happened that we ended up on one of the strenuous trails.

strenuous trail

We left the Visitor’s Center again and headed toward the Deadhorse Creek Trail. Wow. Hiking along these trails was just indescribably amazing! The incredible 360 degree views, the strong aroma of pine, the beautiful, treacherous, gloriously white snow…just amazing.

hiking 1

We travelled along Deadhorse Creek Trail for a while, parts of the trail covered with some snow, but we were feeling confident in our ability to traverse these sections with relative ease. Until we came to a portion of the trail that, well, disappeared completely beneath the snow. With no visible sign of it’s reappearance. And a steep drop off on one side.

Left: first snow covered part of the trail we came across; Right: what was awaiting us

Left: first snow covered part of the trail we came across; Right: what was awaiting us

We debated, then decided to gingerly make our way across this frozen tundra (reminder: we’re both native Floridians). Not to be overly dramatic or anything, but this was seriously one of the scariest things I’ve ever done! We felt like we were walking along the slanted side of a mountain, across slippery snow, where one misstep would send us toppling to our deaths.

But we both made it across alive, found the reemerged trail and happily continued on. Until we came to another unending snowy portion and realized we were most likely not going to survive this entire hike and should probably head back and take another trail. Of course this decision required us to face our fears again at the previous snowy path but we made it again. Whew!

We came to a junction in the trail and decided to take the Skyline Trail for a while and see where it lead. Well, it lead to more snow than we had seen yet! But we stuck with it this time.

I cannot begin to describe what it was like to hike through all of this snow. Deep snow!

snow

Left: notice the bench Teresa is sitting on; Right: those are trail signs!

I don’t think we passed one person who wasn’t wearing hiking boots and carrying a hiking pole. And there we were in our treadless running shoes. Such amateurs. 🙂

sneakers

This was a tough hike! It would have been tough without the snow, but with the snow – oh my goodness! We hiked to Panorama Point and I must say, it was well worth it! Incredible!!

panorama point

We rested here for a few minutes and then Teresa suggested we should continue on for a bit before heading back. What?!? I think the altitude was getting to her. But then it affected me too because I agreed.

More breathtaking views awaited us the further we climbed.

hiking 2

We finally decided that we should probably head back while we still had a small reserve of energy left. The hike back was slightly easier but still a bit treacherous.

We arrived back at the Visitor’s Center exhausted and sunburnt! The hike along Skyline Trail to Panorama Point was 4 miles round-trip, with a 1700 foot elevation gain.

We left the park and drove back to Seattle where we treated ourselves to some ice cream while walking around Green Lake as the sun set. Hey, we deserved it! 🙂

Tips:

  • Wear proper shoes! If you are planning on doing any kind of hiking, or even walking, along the trails on Mount Rainier, particularly in the higher elevations, make sure you wear hiking shoes. Trust me, sneakers don’t cut it in the snow. At all. And just a reminder, we were there in July. This mountain doesn’t care what season it is – it loves snow.
Trying to dry our shoes in front of the air vent :-P

Trying to dry our wet shoes in front of an air vent 😛

  • Bring hiking poles. If you are going to be doing any serious hiking, especially on the non-paved trails, especially in the snow, hiking poles would be a good idea. I would have felt so much safer walking across the often slippery, icy snow if I had hiking poles with me.
  • Don’t forget sunscreen. For some reason I don’t really think about wearing sunscreen unless I’m going to the beach. Well you can definitely get sunburnt when not at the beach! We hiked for hours and got fried. Not fun at all. So, I’ve learned my lesson and now I’m advising you – sunscreen is a must!
  • Wear layers. Our day in the park started out pretty chilly. But once we started hiking we quickly warmed up – to the point where we both wished we had worn shorts instead of jeans! It was a clear day and the sun was very hot. So even though we were surrounded by snow, we were sweating buckets. So make sure you have something cool to wear while hiking, and something a bit warmer for less strenuous activities. 🙂
  • Give yourself adequate time to hike. You can pick up a hiking guide at the visitor’s center which will provide you with trail distances, hiking level, elevation gains, and average hiking times. Those are averages though, and factors like SNOW can play a role in how long it will take to traverse a trail.
  • Carry the “10 Essentials” (which we did not but should have): a topographic map, compass, extra food, extra clothing/rain gear, emergency shelter, first aid kit, flashlight and extra batteries, sunglasses and sunscreen, pocketknife, and matches (for emergency use only).
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