Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington

Time was running out on the opportunity to get up to the Sunrise Visitor Center in Mount Rainier National Park. The road that leads up to Sunrise will close for the winter on October 12. We had planned to drive up there a week ago, but the weather got yucky. We'd been checking on the weather site daily to find another good day....and today was that day! The forecast was for clear, sunny and cool.

The road to Sunrise is in the north east section of the park and we got there via Hwy. 410 from the town of Puyallup (say: pew al up). From Tumwater, where we are living, it was a 105-mile drive to our destination. Hwy. 410 near to the park entrance, is closed to all traffic during winter months, due to very heavy snowfall. Admission to the park is $15.00 per car, but we paid ZERO because of the Senior Pass Bruce now has.

This is the White River/Sunrise Road leading to trail heads and the visitor center. In just a few days, it will be closed. The view from the road was magnificent.

Mt. Rainier is a towering, ice-clad volcano that rises 14,411 feet above sea level. Although currently dormant, it is not extinct. The 35 square miles of glaciers constitute the largest single-peak glacial system in the contiguous U.S. Impressive no matter how you look at it. Up at the Sunrise Visitor Center we got a great, clear view of the mountain and the dry meadow in front of us.

To the left of the mountain in this photo, you can get a good view of the Emmons Glacier.

Heavy growth forests cover the mountainsides up to 5,000 feet. Sunrise is above that level at 6,400 feet. You will find smaller trees and fewer trees here. The timberline is at about 6,500 feet. Alpine meadows are lush and green in early summer and wildflowers abound at that time, too. By now, the heat of summer has deadened the meadow grass.

From the parking lot, we walked up a short path to the Sourdough Trail. From there you could take a couple of hiking trails...but we aren't hikers so we just went so far and then stopped to admire the view. From this level we could see the parking lot and ranger station below us. More peaks of the Cascade Range are in the distance. The ranger station and the visitor center are closed already but the parking area stays open until mid-October (12th this year).

This is the path we took from the parking area up to the trail heads. There is a trail called The Wonderland Trail that you can access from up here. That trail encircles Mt. Rainier and totals 93 miles in length if you were to hike it completely. There are many other short hikes suitable for leisure hikers, too. (none of these areas were handicapped accessible)

Here I am with more of the Cascade Mountain Range behind me. This would be looking off toward the north west section of the national park.

I had Bruce pose for me with the majestic Mt. Rainier behind him. You can easily see the tremendous snowfields and glaciers, too. It was only 48 degrees up here on this brilliant, sunny day. The Cascade Mountain Range has been volcanically active for millions of years. This mountain is "young" at only 500,000 years old.

Although this part of the national park will close shortly, the Paradise Visitor Center in the south west corner of the park stays open year round....except when extreme weather causes closures. This happens a couple of times each winter, but park service folks and state road workers get the roads open asap. We have been to the Paradise Visitor Center a couple of times, but had never driven up here to Sunrise. Had to do it! From this area at Sunrise, you have the closest view you can get by driving in your vehicle. The only way you can get closer is on foot.

Here you can see the boarded up Visitor Center building. The lower windows get covered with heavy sheets of plywood in preparations for the upcoming, harsh winter. The snow level will come up past those lower windows. It has already snowed up here a couple of times during the night. Temps during the night are below freezing, as fall is getting ready to pass into winter up on this mountain.

After we left the Visitor Center area, we drove back out the way we came (only road) and stopped at Sunrise Point. From here we could look down at the beautiful Sunrise Lake. We let Annie get out of the car here as it was a short walk to view the lake. When we were up at the Visitor Center we walked on the path for quite a while and there were many steps, so with her heart condition, we felt it was in her best interests to leave her in the car with water and her cozy dog bed to wait in.

Mount Rainier National Park is just one of the beautiful natural areas in our great state of Washington. If any of you get the opportunity to come here, please check out this wonderful, national treasure.

Until next long for now!



That whole area looks just like our kind of place. Hope we can make it there one day. Great pics.

Jerry and Suzy said...

Margie, a wonderful post about a wonderful place, with great pictures. We've been to Rainier a few times, most recently a couple of years ago. It was summer, so the mountain wasn't as ice clad as now. We were lucky that the clouds kept moving and we did get to see the entire mountain once in a while. Got some great pix that time, and had a lovely day. Thanks for bringing us back in Fall to see this treasure.

Jerry and Suzy said...

Follow-up on previous comment -- thanks, Margie, for mentioning accessibility. You're a true friend -- we'll have to meet you someday down the road, in ... Our Life on Wheels!

Gypsy said...

Beautiful pictures and a great blog!

Margie M. said...

Thanks Gypsy! I enjoy your blog very much and check it often.