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When NOT To Visit Mount Rainier

The Embarrassing Truth

It's almost embarrassing to disclose the fact that neither Melissa or I have ever been up to Mount Rainier in the few decades we've lived in Western Washington. We look at Mount Rainier almost daily and admire it's beauty from afar. But have we actually ventured up to enjoy it up close? No. "We should head up there for a hike sometime..." I would say. Well that day finally came.

We're Doing It

I knew that I had to put a date on the calendar otherwise it wouldn't happen. So I picked a weekend that would work for both our schedules, made a campground reservation and it was done. The summer had been unusually sunny and warm so we really looked forward to an amazing trip up to the mountain. After work on Friday we piled in the RV and made the 90 minute drive to Alder Lake Campground just 30 miles from the Paradise visitors center.

Oh No!!

When I woke up in the morning I checked the Mount Rainier Webcam and "Oh No!!" Mount Rainier was totally fogged in. I withheld that information from Melissa at first. "Maybe the clouds will blow over?" I thought. So I waited while we had coffee and relaxed a bit. After a while, I checked the webcam again. No change. It was time to break the news to Melissa.

After a bit of encouragement, we decided to head up anyway. During the drive up...we hoped for a miracle cloud clearing. We didn't get it. The drive up the mountain was beautiful in itself. Large old growth trees lined the windy road up to Paradise. We arrived to find the parking lots completely full. Park rangers had closed the main lot and were directing cars back down the mountain. What? Instead of parking a mile down the road we looped back around and spotted someone leaving from the lower lot. Score! We had a parking spot. We grabbed our gear and headed for the trail head.

The Hike

It was a cool 50 degrees up on the trail. Melissa had packed for warm sunny hike, so she was cold and went in search of a hot beverage to warm her up. The lower trails were packed full of people walking really really slow. We wanted to get some distance between us and the large groups, so we picked up the pace as we climbed our way up. The crowd thinned out considerably and, after a while, we found ourselves hiking into the clouds.

There were several spots that we know, on a clear day, would have had spectacular views of the mountain. Nevertheless, we decided to make the best of the situation and just enjoy being up there. All we could think of was returning with our kids to experience the majesty of the mountain together for the first time.

We realized that all is well that ends with pie and ice cream

Waterfalls and Pie

We hiked around for a while, eventually heading back below the cloud cover enjoying views of the surrounding mountains instead. We jumped back in the car and drove down to Narada Falls (about 3 miles down from Paradise) where we put the day's adventure on video.  With the video done, I suggested we go in search of a good piece of pie. Melissa was all in with that idea. We had seen several small places to eat on the way up and knew that there had to be fresh hot pie sitting around in one of those restaurants. We pulled off at the first place we found and success! Pie and ice cream.

We are already thinking about a return trip with our kids. They are excited. At least now we can now we can say that we've been up to Mount Rainier...sort of.