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.