Saturday, May 31, 2014

On the Road

Friday morning dawned clear, and a glance out our bedroom window revealed a bright blue sky and a mighty white peak.
No cloud marred the view.  I took photos before breakfast and several times before we packed the car,  just to compare our view with the postcards in the gift shop.  We watched as about 30 hikers lined up with impressive gear, ready to scale the heights.  
As we left we decided to drive by Reflection Lake to see if we could duplicate that postcard. Alas, the lake was buried in snow, but the mountain was just as lovely.

We drove out of the park, glancing back from time to time to glimpse the peak over the farm fields until we turned our sights northwest to the Olympic Peninsula. We followed Rt 101 which winds around the coastline.  It was a beautiful drive. We stopped from time to time, and picnicked along the way.
We glimpsed the huge series of snowy peaks, not as high as Rainier but more massive and compact.  The signs pointed us to Port Angeles, which is a port for several cruise lines. We saw the large ships at berth in the port, but our goal was the Olympic National Park.  
We wound past Crescent Lake on our way to the Sol Duk Hot Springs Lodge.  As we turned down the road and followed the Sol Duk River, the trees soared on either side. It felt like we were driving through a city block lined with tree skyscrapers.  

The lodge was relaxed and welcoming. We checked into our little cabin, and went for an informal dinner.
Then we pulled on our swimming suits and went for a relaxing soak.  An hour in the medium pool and we were ready for a good night's sleep. The beds were wonderful.

The Miracle in the Sky

The weather the next morning was just as bad.  Snow had fallen overnight. But we had slept well and the breakfast buffet was sumptuous.  We were glad that we knew how to layer our clothes.  We filled our backpacks with sweaters, jackets and fleece and headed for the Grove of the Patriarchs.  The rain had stopped, but the air was cold and a thick layer of clouds stretched across the sky.  We stopped at one spot that proclaimed itself to be the best view of the mountain.  The view was a solid bank of gray.

We found the trailhead leading to the Grove of the Patriarchs.  They are 1000 year old trees, Douglas Firs that reach up for 200ft.  As we entered the forest, it was the profusion of green that amazed me. There was lichen and moss, ferns and grass, fir and balsam with tiny pink or white or yellow flowers like dots on the green.
 The Ohanapecosh River flowed along our path and murmured gently as we walked. It is a river flowing from an inactive glacier so its water is clear and turquoise blue.  
We reveled in the small leaves, the enormous trees, the smell,of pine and the smiling water.  
When we got back to the car our mood had lifted, and we were feeling less discouraged by the weather.
We drove to the Ohanapecosh campground where we found a picnic table and made a meal from the groceries we had picked up the day before.  Then we followed the trail through the hot springs there.  We knelt down to feel the warm water flow over our fingers.  It was an easy, quiet stroll.
Our next stop was a trail that lead to a place called Silver Springs. The trail followed the Ohanapecosh River as it descended.
The forest was similar but the trees were smaller.  
The trail was higher, but we could still hear the river on our left.  As we continued the trail began to drop, and we could see white water down below.  Finally we came to a bridge which crossed the river at a rocky shelf. A mass of splintered logs lay beneath the flow as the river crashed down on the rocks.
The sun dappled the forest as we hiked back to our car. We didn't realize it until we drove along and looked up to see a wall of snow covering the sky. Is it possible?  Are we looking at Mount Rainier?
Yes, without a doubt that is the grand lady herself.  We drove to the spot where we had seen only a mass of gray earlier in the morning. We sat on the wall for a long time watching the shy lady peeking out from her veil of clouds. 
Finally we looked down to see a magnificent falls pouring down below, and we decided to explore further.  This was Narada Falls, a drop of 160 feet.  We looked at it from above for a while until we noticed a spot at the base with what seemed like the end of a trail.  It started out easy, but the trail soon turned to a slope of slushy snow.  Not to be deterred we dug our heels in and climbed down. 
We ended the day at Paradise Lodge where the mountain peeked out once more after dinner.  We depart tomorrow.

Snowing in Paradise

Our adventure began smoothly:  an easy flight to Seattle; a comfortable rental car; a fast food lunch; and a route following the signs to Mount Rainier. The landscape was lush and green and the sky partly cloudy. To the east a mass of gray clouds hid the mountain.  On our approach to the airport we had glimpsed Rainier's summit with star points of its many glaciers radiating in all directions, but as we drove there was only a hint that something huge hid behind those angry clouds. 
It began to rain as we approached the park entrance, and the temperature dropped steadily. And we were welcomed by a friendly park ranger at the Nisqually Gate. The road was good at first. The trees morphed into giants, straight, tall masts with almost no undergrowth. Moss and lichen carpeted the forest floor, and a doe and her two fawns watched us pass.  
As we climbed the rain began to freeze until large, wet flakes landed on the windshield.  We could hardly believe that we were driving into a snowstorm. We thought we had left that behind in March, but here we were.  When we arrived at the Paradise Visitor Center we couldn't even see the Inn on the far end of the parking lot.  The main attraction, Mount Rainier, was hidden in thick, gray clouds. 

Fortunately Paradise Inn knows how to welcome visitors.  Our room was warm and clean with plaid blankets and wood paneling. The main lounge in the Inn is huge, rustic and historic with enormous stone fireplaces burning crackling fires.

The lampshades hanging from the ceiling are hand painted antiques featuring water colors of the wild flowers for which Paradise is famous.
 The excellent dinner  put the thought of snow out of our minds, but when we fell asleep we had little hope of actually seeing Mount Rainier.  

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Northwest Passage 2014

Tomorrow we start a new adventure.  This time we are heading west and exploring the American West Coast.  My suitcase is packed, although I've thought of a few changes to make this evening.  Our boarding passes are printed, and the refrigerator is almost empty.  I have crossed out almost all the items on my to do list.  The list has been going for a few days and looks fairly disorganized, but it is working, and most everything is complete.  The garden is mulched, the lawn is mowed, the potbound plants have been repotted, and a list of friends have signed on to water and mow in our absence.  I saw the mailman at the box and stopped the mail.  Tomorrow morning we leave at 5 a.m. for Logan Airport.  Alaska Airlines will carry us to SeaTac airport where we will rent a car to take us, by a scenic and circuitous route,  all the way to Los Angeles.

Tomorrow night we stay at Paradise Inn in Mt. Rainier National Park.  There is neither wifi nor cell phone coverage, and I think there will be snow nearby, but I am hoping for spring wildflowers on the edge of the snow cover, and a stunning view of the mountain.  So I will begin my blog with a couple blank days.  But I'm hoping that the photos I take will make the wait worthwhile.

This trip is about East Coast dwellers discovering the West Coast.  Of course we've been to LA frequently, but the northwest states, the stunning wilderness, the great mountains, will be full of adventurous discovery.

We hope to sight several mountains:  Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, Mt Olympus, Mt. Hood, Mt. Baker.  And between the lakes, the Pacific Ocean, the giant trees and rain forests, hot springs and waterfalls, we hope to glimpse birds, fish and wildlife.  We have packed for all weather, from hot summer to cold nights.  In Seattle we will go to the ballet and in LA we will take the family to a baseball game:  Dodgers vs. Cardinals.  There will be museums, hikes, fishing and food.  We will stay with family and friends.  Join us on this trip.  We hope you can share our adventure and discovery.