Tuesday, September 14, 2010 Sunny and 63 degrees
Just inside the Stevens Canyon Entrance is the Grove of the Patriarchs. This is an old growth forest of enormous cedars and Douglas firs. These trees tower to a height of 300 feet, and some are 1,000 years old. They create a thick canopy that darkens the forest floor. Yet there is vibrant life below. Ferns, lichens, and mosses are growing on fallen tree stumps, creating a rich environment for the next generation of trees. This was a short loop hike that included a suspension bridge over the Ohanapechosh River. It vibrates and sways so much that only one person can cross at a time. But I bet kids make it into quite a ride.
Mount Rainier was reigning over the park again today. Driving into the park from the Stevens Canyon Entrance, we rounded a corner to see it glistening in the morning sun. As we climbed into the park, we stopped at many pull-outs. One was Box Canyon. Glaciers had cut a very deep, narrow gash in the rocks, and a small river was racing through it. Looking to the southeast beyond the canyon, we saw another glacier-covered mountain. Later we learned it is Mt. Adams, rising to a height of 12,276 feet. We also stopped at Reflection Lake, and with the clear skies, Mt. Rainier was perfectly reflected, just as we've seen in so many pictures.
We climbed on to the Paradise Visitor Center where we watched two films about the park and viewed the exhibits about indigenous plants and animals. Then we headed out on the Deadhorse Creek Trail. It wound through a lushly flowered sub-alpine meadow, another brook tumbling over rocks. Near the trail a marmot held flower stems between his paws and munched on its blooms, fattening himself for winter. This trail merged with the Skyline Trail, and we followed it to the Glacier Vista overlook. Nisqually Glacier is dusty colored on its flat surface, but in its deep crevasses, blue, typical of all glaciers, was visible. Below the glacier, Nisqually River was littered with boulders and trees, the evidence of a massive flood six years ago. Twenty-seven inches of rain had fallen over five days on top of five feet of snow, causing the watery disaster.
Clouds began moving in from the west, wrapping themselves around the mountain, obscuring the summit. As we descended Alta Vista Trail, the clouds followed us down the sides of the mountain. Also coming down from the mountain was a group of men who were returning from climbing to the summit of Mt. Rainier. Even after five days, they were still exuding a lot of energy. Accomplishing this feat must be quite a high.
We have now seen two of North America's highest peaks, Denali and Mt. Rainer. Many people travel miles to view these mountains and most leave never having seen them because of clouds or other weather phenomenon. We feel very blessed.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS: While the Visitor Centers are closing, a frenzy of work is going on in other places. Roads are being resurfaced, creating traffic back-ups. All afternoon a helicopter ferried supplies and materials into the camps and transported trash and waste out. Along the sides of the roads, Park Rangers collected flowers and seeds which they take to the park greenhouse to germinate. As part of the park's ongoing restoration project, after three years these new plants are reintroduced to the park.
TODAY'S ROUTE: From Packwood, US 12N to WA 123 through the park to WA 706 to WA 702 to WA 510 to Lacey, WA.