Experiencing Mt Rainier
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.
Mt Rainier – Visitor’s Centers
The first drive took us to Paradise, a well named visitors center at the summit of a nearby peak.
It is about 30 miles to the peak of Rainier from Paradise. Because of it’s size it looks much closer. Mt Adams, and Mt Hood are also viewable from the visitor’s center parking lot. (Parking lot is 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 found 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. On return trip the following Wednesday, parking at the main lot was no problem.
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, the mountain dominates the scenery.
The 360 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”.
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 town.
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.