Fall Colors on Mt. Rainier

Washington State isn’t known as “The Evergreen State” for nothing; most of our forests are made up of Firs, Cedars, or Pines, so we don’t experience the kind of colorful Fall season that states like Vermont do. But that doesn’t mean we can’t experience Fall colors with a little effort — and the best place to do so this time of year is in the mountains, as seen in this shot taken on our recent Rainier trip.


Personally, I feel Fall colors stand when contrasted with our evergreens,


even if the color comes from low-growing shrubs and not trees.

That’s not to say there are no deciduous trees, but they are few and far between since they can’t compete with evergreen forests for light. Here in the Pacific Northwest you’re more likely to see a Vine Maple


than a Maple Tree, and more often than not it will reach out from underneath a fir.

Most of the color, though, comes from colorful shrubs like huckleberries or brilliant shrubs like this


or this.


I was sorry that we missed the meadow flowers this year, but the brilliant Fall leaves helped to assuage my disappointment, especially since my plans to visit Indian Heaven when the huckleberry plants were turning Fall colors fell also through due to rain.

Soon these leaves will all drop or be covered by snow, but hopefully their brilliant colors will serve as an amulet against the grey skies that have begun to envelop the Pacific Northwest, especially since this is supposed to be a long, wet winter.

Trailing Clouds of Glory

After I cut my trip short and missed a trip through Mt. Rainier on my return trip from Vancouver, I convinced Leslie to take a day off from work to tour Mt. Rainier since we hadn’t done so this summer and parts of it were already closing for the year. We usually start our round-the-mountain tour with Sunrise, but Leslie wanted to visit Chinook Pass since she hadn’t been there for years. I don’t think I’ve ever approached the mountain from that direction, so I got a new view of it:


Truthfully, at first I didn’t think that could be Mt. Rainier at all. I can’t remember ever seeing it seem that small.

It was reassuring to see it in its fully majesty when we backtracked and drove up to Sunset, or at least to the major viewpoint leading to Sunrise.


Of course, even this approach doesn’t make Rainier look as imposing as it does from the West Side, from Tacoma or Seattle, but it certainly looks more imposing the closer you get to the Sunrise Visitor’s Center.


This shot was taken a short ways up the trail we usually walk


where you can get an even better view of the mountain, but we didn’t have as much time as usual because we’d first driven up to Chinook Pass.

The weather on the top of Rainier can be dangerously variable, but on this day it seemed to be .


trailing clouds of glory. It was never clear whether these clouds had just got hung up on the mountain or whether they were the result of evaporation from the glaciers themselves. There certainly weren’t any clouds to be seen anywhere else.

Though I suspect I would have appreciated these mountains even more after a day spent in the desert, it would be difficult to enjoy them more than I already do. Living in Seattle for much of my life, we always felt it was going to be a good day when we could see Rainier standing guard over us in the distance. It certainly is a good day when I can hike/drive around the mountain.

A Spring Test Run in Our New Camper

It’s been a hectic few days, pleasantly so, for a change. Leslie and I decided to take a test run in our new Toyota Tacoma and Camper to Eastern Washington and catch a little sunshine in the process. We drove South and over White Pass, the southernmost pass across the Cascades. Unfortunately, it was overcast, if not downright cloudy on the west side of the pass so shots were difficult at best.

I’m not sure any photograph could ever capture the magnitude of these Palisade columnar igneous structures (dacite lava)


but they’re definitely a magnificent sight in real life.

They’re wasn’t much snow in the pass itself, but you couldn’t miss it in the Goat Rock Wilderness to the south,

Goat Rock Wilderness in the Clouds

and it looked like they might get even more snow.

Unfortunately, the snow pack in the pass itself was quickly melting.

melting Snow

It looked more like early summer than early Spring, but it’s hard to complain when you consider the drought this year in California and southern Oregon.

We stopped at the Yakima Sportsman State Park ostensibly to let Leslie decide if she wanted to camp there overnight, but I knew I wanted to stop to get pictures of the Wood Ducks that stay there all winter.

male Wood Duck

Their willingness to pose makes the long drive more than worth it.

I’d intended to spend the night at the quiet campground at Brooks Memorial State Park, but it was closed, despite what it said on my State Parks app I checked the day before we left. I was not happy when I got there only to discover it was closed. After that I didn’t trust the app and wasn’t sure where we were going to spend the night. We ended up spending the night at the Mary Hill State Park, which was pleasant enough except for the long trains that ran most of the night. I won’t be staying there again since the only reason I stop is to sleep.

Mt. Rainier’s Hidden Beauty

One of the best things about receiving a gift of a book like Plants and Animals of Mount Rainier and the Cascades is that it makes you realize how many flowers you have never seen, or, at least, have never taken a picture of. That, in turn, encourages you to start paying more attention than you have before. None of the flowers pictured here standout like the flowers in the previous entry. Several of them are found at lower elevations in dense forest and are easy to overlook unless you are looking for them.

Although this Mountain Daisy was easy to identify, it was a single flower in a bed of lupine and Indian Paintbrush.

Mountain Daisy

Sometimes you find plants/flowers you’ve never seen before, but instead of identifying them quickly you’re left wondering if they’re really what you think they might be. For instance, looking through the book I thought this was probably a Pine Sap, a flower I’m sure I’ve never seen before.

 Pine Sap?

This looked quite different from the picture in the book, but an online search revealed a photo that looked exactly like this, so if whoever posted it identified it correctly it must be a Pine Sap.

I had some of the same problems identifying this flower. These are salal flowers, as noted by Mike and Brighid.

I’ve seen this flower


quite a few times before but didn’t remember it was called Penstemon until I looked it up in the book. If I look it up three more times I might remember its name when I see it again.

I might have seen this flower before

 Sitka Valeria

but i’m sure I’ve never heard the name Sitka Valerian before.

I also discovered this very small flower (the picture is at least two times its actual size)

by a hot springs, but was unable to find it in the book, or anywhere else for that matter.

Beginning flower-watching reminds me of beginning birdwatching where you spend more time trying to find the name of species than you do actually finding them. Still, it adds another dimension to something I love doing so it’s hard to complain.