Hiking around Mt. Rainier, WA - August 2014

While up in Washington for my sister's wedding we took a side trip to Mt. Rainier. Definitely something not to miss!

According to the National Park website, "Ascending to 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier stands as an icon in the Washington landscape. An active volcano, Mount Rainier is the most glaciated peak in the contiguous U.S.A., spawning six major rivers. Subalpine wildflower meadows ring the icy volcano while ancient forest cloaks Mount Rainier’s lower slopes. Wildlife abounds in the park’s ecosystems. A lifetime of discovery awaits."

I was really stoked about the possibility of fields of wildflowers. I was turned on to them back in 2010 and went on many wildflower excursions with V & T, but since Southern California has such a bad drought, the blooms haven't been as impressive in the last few years. There's something magical about standing in a field completely covered with flowers. The smell is divine.

We stayed the night at a Lodge right outside the Nisqually entrance. In the morning, we drove up the mountain. Here's where we were:

As we drove we got some great views of the mountain. Glad I took some photos too because you'll see later that clouds covered the peak as we were hiking up.

After a stop at the Visitor's Center (which is beautiful by the way) to get some info from the staff, we set out to hike among the wildflowers on our way up to the glacier. Here's a trail map:

Right away we were in a sub-alpine wonderland of lupines and many other wildflowers I'd never seen. Cue Sound of Music theme. This is pretty much my idea of heaven.

Broadleaf Lupine (Lupinus latifolius)

American Bistort (Bistorta bistortoides)

Explorer's Gentian (Gentiana calycosa)

Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium)

I don't think I've ever been so warm with snow underfoot. It was great.

It was my first time seeing a glacier and it was a bit dirtier than I thought it would be.

Photo by Thomas Horvath
Not sure if that's related to the west coast drought or how it normally looks. I imagine what we're seeing is dirt on top of the ice and not the bare mountain. You can read more about this specific glacier - the Nisqually Glacier - here. One of the coolest things about the glacier was all the waterfalls on it. I didn't expect that.

Once we got up to Panorama Point at 6,800 ft we'd climbed 1,400 feet in elevation from the Visitor Center.

Photo by Thomas Horvath
At this point, if we wanted to continue, we had to hike farther up or cross a snow-covered, slippery area. Both because my nose wouldn't stop running (I'd come down with a head cold the day before) and because we didn't have the right footwear, we decided to head back down the way we came. I was glad to have another jaunt through the meadows anyway.

As we were ascending, we heard other visitors saying they'd seen marmots. We didn't see any, but there were very friendly ground squirrels (they look a bit like chipmunks).

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel (Callospermophilus lateralis)
After we got to the bottom we decided to hike around the other side a bit to Myrtle Falls. It was much more crowded down there but nice falls all the same.

Of course, I'd love to go back sometime and go on a longer hike. Honestly, I could spend a week hiking different parts of the mountain. But for now, I'll just savor my memories from the trip.

For more photos from Washington, see my Flickr set.


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