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A Day At Rainier

If I hadn’t known otherwise I would have wondered if it was September 30th today, not November 30th. As we drove from near sea level to the meadows of Paradise at Mt. Rainier my eyes searched for snow. And little snow was there to be had, even at the end of the road. Just patches sprinkled amongst the flat colors in the meadows.

Still, it was a day to be savored! It is a rare year to be able to hike in the high country the day before December starts.

Kirk, Ford and I spent the day having fun visiting waterfalls and whatnots – basically being tourists.

Having gassed up at $1.78 a gallon this morning, the guilt of using gas was not as painful as this past summer……Paradise for us is the farthest drive for the park.

So off we went!

Now about all that pesky flooding from Novemeber 12th? The park has repaired it fast – you don’t notice the messes unless you pay attention closely.

This is the original creek bed for Kautz Creek. It is still flowing a bit, but the creek has stayed in its new bed since 2006.

Old Kautz Creek Bed
Old Kautz Creek Bed

We stopped at Christine Falls – which I don’t remember stopping at since I was younger than Ford. It is right off the road and one that everyone should see when it is running. The creek comes off of the Van Trump Glaciers up high and is a set of waterfalls as it hurtles down. Comet Falls is one well known one a couple miles up the trail. But for the casual visitor, Christine is perfect. You have a great multi tiered fall, then you turn around and head down a short trail to see the mid part with the road bridge framing it.

Upper Christine Falls
Upper Christine Falls
Mid Christine Falls
Mid Christine Falls

A quick video of the mid section (a bit loud!):

We went up to Paradise after that and got out of the truck to balmy temperatures of mid to high 40’s. After showing Kirk the new visitor center we turned around and went back down a mile or so to the start of Steve Canyons Road, which is closed for the winter. We joined all the vehicles parked there and packed up.

In the winter when you snowshoe a popular route we do yearly is to come to this area. The Paradise River (creek these days) is present for awhile and is always pretty. Its glacier has been dead for a number of years now – which is why the creek is so clear. (No glacial till)

Paradise River
Paradise River

We road walked Steve Canyons Road to Reflection Lakes. There was no snow nor ice to be seen except in a few drainage ditches in cold areas. The walk is quick though and quite gentle. In winter this is often not a safe route due to avalanche potential and the freezing cold winds that shred you.

The view from Inspiration Point, which is about halfway to the lakes. Looking back towards Longmire.

As we approached the lake the mist on top was very eye catching. The lake had a thin sheeting of ice over the majority of it. Just the edges were free.

Reflection Lakes
Reflection Lakes

One of the reasons we had chosen this area was for our next HD film. As Kirk was setting up the cameras Ford and I went exploring.

In all the flat early winter light the sun came out – that was a neat sight. The trees just lit up.

I cooked up lunch (secret don’t ya know! You have to wait till the video is done!) and we got done relaxing. Well, that and the mosquitoes were coming out! I kid not! At 4800 ft…..

We decided to take the trails back, rather than the road. We hopped onto the Wonderland Trail, then onto the one that crosses up and over Mazama Ridge (that trail is steep, be it dirt or snow covered!). At the pass at the top this is all the snow we found – at 5200 ft. The peak barely visible is Pinnacle Peak, part of the Tatoosh Ridge.

At about 5200 ft.
At about 5200 ft.

To give you an idea of what it SHOULD look like, this is a photo of Ford from December 2007:

In the snow, same trail.
In the snow, same trail.

Well, I suppose I won’t complain – I do love being in subalpine as long as I can every year. The mountain was lighting up as it got later – the setting sun shining on her.

As we drove home the alpenglow was vivid pink/purple for just those fleeting few moments. And then we descended into the low lying fog of the foothills and she was gone.

For me that is all I need. To see the alpenglow – even if I didn’t have a way to film it. Life is better than good when you get graced by her.

~Sarah

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