Rolling into Washington, my only expectation was to see Mt Rainier
rising from the plains, towering over everything, as depicted by
often seen photos. I also thought that maybe we could get a clear
day in Seattle and actually see the mountain from a distance.
We did ! And that was nice, but that’s not all there is to Mt Rainier!
When Jo booked us into a campground in Packwood, WA, I didn’t know
what to expect. What a surprise to find myself near the base of Mt
Rainier, next to Mt Rainier National Park. I didn’t even know there
was a Mt Rainier National Park, even though it is one of our oldest
Our first drive into the park totally changed my expectations
about Washington. We drove through mile after mile of dense, dark,
old growth forests, growing from some of the steepest mountain-sides
I have ever seen.
We drove along glacial streams with their cloudy,
gray, water, typical of water melting off of glaciers. At one point
an elk ran across the road in front of us.
One turn of the road with
Mt Rainier coming into view, almost blew us both away. Instantly the
peak changed in our perspective from something rising out of the
plains, to one of extreme dominance.
Mt Rainier is a huge mountain, in more ways than height. Many
Alaska mountains are taller. Many in Colorado are right up there
with it. The main difference is in the base to summit height.
Rainier has almost 12,000 feet showing above the base, while the
mountains in Colorado, for example, have only 5,000 to 8,000 feet
showing above their bases. Add to that the fact that Rainier has
many times the distance around it’s base as most Colorado mountains,
and you can see why it looks so big. IT IS BIG ! Base circumference
is about 93 miles.
The first drive took us to Paradise, a well named visitors center
at the summit of a nearby peak. (Nearby Mt. Rainier means it’s just
30 miles to the peak from Paradise.) Mt Adams, and Mt Hood are also
viewable from the visitor’s center parking lot. (Parking lot is also
a loose term.) I had to drop Jo off and drive around the busy
parking area while she picked up maps and literature. I never did
find a place to park. There are several parking areas a short
distance down from the main lot. Some of those were not yet full on
a Sunday afternoon.
Our next visit took us to Sunrise, a visitors center from the
northeast side of the park. A long and twisting road through the
forests and along streams, finally opened up to a large area where
you can pull off into the middle of a large switchback, park and
walk around. Of course, Mt Rainier dominates the scenery.
degree view also shows off numerous other peaks and vast deep
valleys. This is the area we returned to at sunrise on our last
morning in the park. A few miles further up the road brought us to
the Sunrise visitor’s center. A beautiful lodge and a log visitor’s
center building, seem to fit right in with the scene.
Longmire was last on our list of stops. This beautiful area is
located off of the west entrance. It has a very nice, lodge
(National Park Inn) and miles and miles of hiking trails, some of
which give you views of “the mountain”.
While staying at our nice RV Park in Packwood, we also took a
drive to Mt St Hellen’s, to it’s Windy Ridge viewpoint above Spirit
Lake. (See Mt St Helens)
The town of Packwood seems to be a gathering place for elk. We
were blessed to see numerous elk wander through our site most
mornings and evenings. The elk seem to feel at home walking around
Our impression of Washington has been lifted as we travel, due in
part to Mt Rainier and it’s National Park. This is truly a special
part of our great country.