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Circling Tahoma – In Search of Fall Colors

Weather wise there isn’t much better than right after the first snow storms of early October blow through – and the sun comes back. I woke up this morning before dawn and knew it was the day to do the ‘loop’ around Tahoma. Stevens Canyon Road had been fixed so why not? Who knows what November will bring. You have to take the time when you can, before the first fall rains blow out roads at Rainier.

I have a ‘back roads’ way I figured out a couple years ago that for the most part avoids all commuter traffic. Some of the roads are lumpy, bumpy and pot holed wonders yet I wouldn’t trade it as I drive along the wastelands of the Carbon River. Little traffic – a couple logging trucks and work rigs. The mist was still burning off the lakes and meadows as I cleared Orting and onto Eatonville.

I stopped in Ashford at Whittaker Mountaineering and picked up a new toy (will talk about soon!).

Fall is so here – the Nisqually gate of Mt. Rainier NP was unmanned being that it was so early an hour on a midweek day. I stopped at the old channel of Kautz Creek for a view of Tahoma:

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The meadows at Longmire still held some morning mist that was burning off – it was 39° or so but warming up under blue skies. I drove on and crossed the Nisqually River bridge and headed up the hill. The road work there is done and should be great for traveling on this winter for snowshoeing. I took the one way loop, something I don’t think I have done since I was 12! (Not sure why…but often I only get up to this area in winter and the road is closed due to avy slopes….)

Looking at Tahoma from a pull out:

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As you might notice, this side of The Mountain is bare. The biggest glacier is the Nisqually (which in the 1960’s was a mile longer!) The side I live closest to has more glaciers giving a more pleasing look. July brings the prettiest time to hike if one wants a snowy peak and flowers. October brings bare rock looming high…..

See, I can shoot truck ads as well!

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I drove up into Paradise and smiled as I saw the old visitor center finally gone. The paving is done as well. Three+ years of work done! The new parking lot is now the overnight parking lot (and also for cars that will be there for more than 2 hours year round). I parked in the main lot, near the new center and strolled up to the trail system (which is pretty easy – you aim for the Mountain).

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I didn’t have big plans today, my goal being Edith Basin to see where the fall colors were. I was not disappointed though they haven’t quite hit prime.

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The creek that runs through Edith.

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Yes, many of the trails for the first half mile (or longer) are paved at Paradise. Considering that Paradise gets the bulk of the parks visitors it is understandable. The terrain is very fragile and the wide paved paths do keep people where they should be…..

Looking at the Tatoosh Ridge:

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Closeup of colors:

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The day was just pleasant weather wise. No bugs, no cold winds, blue skies….I was going to cook and then I wandered into the visitor center on the way out. One thing to be said about the new(er) center is that the deli area is quite nice. The employees are friendly and fast. And the food has improved much over back in the day (the old center always smelled of chili and mold in the walls!). I splurged and had a tasty turkey/cream cheese/cranberry sauce sammie on a croissant roll that honestly tasted better (and looked awesome) than most delis.

I ate my lunch down in Paradise Valley:

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Since Stevens Canyon Road was open the whole way I headed that way. I stopped at Reflection Lakes for some photos:

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The lake was very clear, with fish jumping even.

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As I walked down the lake on The Wonderland Trail the wind did show up finally:

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Of all the roads in the park, I have to say Stevens is my favorite. It reminds me in ways of Glacier’s Going To The Sun Road for the sheer ‘scary’ factor (the top half of the road is mostly a straight drop off – but hey that gives never ending views!). Just after you pass Lake Louise you come to a hairpin turn where you have this view below you:

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The road shoots down, wraps around and then heads down, down and more down to Box Canyon, through a couple tunnels and then down to Ohanapocesh River. Out to Hwy 123, heading uphill to Cayuse Pass, zipping through the tunnel as the road horse shoes. Hit the junction and head down to White River on Hwy 410. Was so tempted to head to Chinook Pass for a few but I was running out of time. Oh well!

Stopped at the lookout above White River to give a good show on different the Mountain looks from this angle. This is what we see from our house in the foothills:

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The view of Tahoma from above White River is classic Rainier eye candy.The Mountain pretty much drips white glaciers and Little Tahoma’s spike shapes the view.

I could see early snow still holding on Burroughs 1 and 2 as well. Being above 7K helps, Sunrise’s road closes after this weekend as well.

I drove down the mountains, with that feeling I get every fall – knowing it will be 6 long months till I walk there once again. Not a loop I do often, but always worth every mile it takes to do it. All one needs is a couch on wheels, a latte and an iPod full of good music – and a camera ready to go 😉

~Sarah

One thought on “Circling Tahoma – In Search of Fall Colors

  1. I’ve actually never been on or around Rainier in the Fall.Great Fall pictures of the area
    Paradise is such an amazing place.The views are all good 🙂

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