Mt. Rainier, standing 14,410 feet tall, encompasses dense forests, wildflower meadows, snowfields, and glaciers. All this makes it one vast snowy show-off! The National Park Service protects approximately 250,000 of its acres.
|Summit seen from Cougar Rock Campground|
The mountain's looming bulk dominates the landscape to such a degree it’s almost impossible to take in. I’ve learned that it’s one thing to be surrounded by a mass of 14-ers like the majestic Rockies, but quite another to have an intimate encounter with just one lone monolith. With the Rockies, promiscuity is permitted; Rainier requires commitment. Even if it's short-term like mine was.
Mt. Rainier National Park is two things: 1) spectacular and 2) crowded.
|And this was hours after the first crush at Paradise Visitors' Center|
And why shouldn’t it be? Crowded, that is. Almost 300-feet of annual snowfall makes the park inaccessible much of the year. And the summer vacation season is in full-swing. When I feel cramped and impatient, I try to remember to balance this with gratitude that so many people visit this treasure.
One day, this will belong to all those bored-looking teenagers.
I spend the night at Cougar Rock Campground. It’s a lovely enclave of trees, rocks, and flowing water. It offers a variety of trails.
|The GDB peeks shyly out from our campsite on the right.|
As blog readers know, I have become somewhat squirrely about hiking alone. But I manage not to psych myself out over the next 2 days. Maybe I’m cured? (she said hopefully). I spend an agreeable couple of hours exploring the Longmire Trail.
In the evening, I attend a Park Service program where Ranger Steve makes a masterful case regarding how nature enriches all of us.