Friday, February 25, 2011

Mount Rainier

In early February, we found ourselves in one of the snowiest places on earth, Mount Rainier National Park. Last winter, a location called Paradise (which sits at 5,400 feet and has a summer-only lodge and visitor center as well as access to alpine hiking and climbing), saw 650 inches of snow. In the winter of 71/72, 1,122 inches of snow fell!

We spent two nights at the National Park Inn, which is located in Longmire (elevation 2700 feet). On the first afternoon of our stay, we snowshoed on Rampart Ridge Trail and the Wonderland Trail. The lower slopes of Rainier alternated between sunny and snowy. The summit was covered in a thick blizzard of snow. We got back to the lodge right as darkness fell and quickly huddled up by a roaring fireplace.

On day 2, we left Longmire under foggy conditions but drove up to Paradise under piercing blue sky. The snow was so deep, that cars were dwarfed by the drifts. We spent the morning xc skiing out to Reflection Lakes. Once out to the lakes, we sat down in the snow for a winter picnic. As soon as we opened our backpacks, several Gray Jays came swooping in, hoping to steal some food. They landed on our ski tips and watched us closely.

In the afternoon of day 2, we snowshoed through some fantastic powder on the slopes of the mountain. We left Paradise near sunset, as fog began to once again envelope the mountain.

On the morning of day 3, we watched the glorious pink alpenglow from our lodge room window. We then spent the morning snowshoeing up Christine Falls Trail, before leaving the park en route to the Olympic Peninsula.

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