Mt. Rainier National Park

Summer must surely be here. After a rather dull early summer, I’ve spent most of the last two weeks in nearby National Parks soaking up sunshine. I spent Wednesday through Friday of last week on Mt. Rainier camping with Tyson and his family. We couldn’t have asked for better weather.

And the mountain was cloaked in its best finery due to a record Spring snowfall. Though the snow made walking on trails more difficult than usual, it seemed like a fair tradeoff when taking photos, and I took photos of the mountain from many different angles, especially since Leslie generally favors the northern approach to the mountain while Jen chose the southern approach, through Paradise.

Wherever we went Rainier’s presence was palpable. We day hiked to Reflection Lake from Narada Falls, the furthest East I got this trip, and despite the distance, the mountain seemed to surround us.

Rainier form Reflection Lake

On our way up and back from Paradise, I repeatedly pulled off at scenic turnouts to try to capture the “best” view of the mountain,

 Mt. Rainier

even though I was perfectly aware from past experiences that there is no “best view” of Rainier.

That knowledge certainly didn’t stop me from constantly trying to get a better picture than those I’d gotten before. This one

seems to me to capture the sheer massiveness of Rainier better than the others.

Strangely, at least to me, my least favorite shots of the mountain itself were those I took from Paradise, the point where mountain climbers regularly start their assault on this formidable peak.

Rainier from Paradise

Ironically my favorite shots of Rainier have actually been taken less than a mile away from my home here in Tacoma. Sometimes you need some distance to see their true nature, which is not to say that I would have preferred to be home than on the mountain. No, it was a delightful three days, and I love the mountain more the more I experience it. Up there you experience the mountain not just see it.

We Are Family

If I’d had the courage to attempt Enchanted Valley by myself, I’m sure I would have enjoyed the flowers, the scenery, and the wildlife, but I wouldn’t have enjoyed it nearly as much I did doing it with “family:” daughter Dawn, son-in-law Rich, Santi (Gavin and Lael’s Spanish big brother), Gavin, and Lael:

Group Shot w/o Me

I’ve taken many hikes with grandkids and loved every one of them, but there’s something very special about going with grandkids to the same National Park that you took your first hike with your own kids.

It’s comforting to know you’re not the only one that needs a break when you’re trudging uphill carrying a 40+ pack.

A Group Break

It’s reassuring to know that it’s not just old age that’s wearing you down.

There’s also something special about working together to fulfill the most basic needs —like having enough water.

Pumping Drinking Water

Of course, it’s only later, when you’re safely home, that you realize how much we take for granted.

It’s also nice to have someone to give you a high-five when you’ve overcome an obstacle,

Santi High Fives Dawn

and I’m not sure I would have made it across this bridge if I’d been alone because I really hate high, narrow bridges, particularly when I’m dead tired from carrying a pack six miles before I got to it.

And you can’t overlook perhaps the most important reason to go backpacking, to take the time to just sit back and do nothing at all except look at waterfalls cascading down high cliffs.

Lael on Moss Throne

This hike was also special in that we got to know several hikers because the valley was crowded with the upper parts of the park inaccessible because of unusual amounts of snow. I didn’t really take pictures of them because I tend to avoid taking pictures of people without first asking their permission.

However, Santi wanted his picture taken with “Kris the Mountainman” who was especially generous to us and shared campfires with us two of the four nights we were out.

Kris and Santi

He’s a park volunteer and hoping to get on as a Park Ranger. I’m sure everyone in our group thought he would make a great one. He certainly knew the area well and was helpful to all of us.

Wildlife, Too

I don’t think that I could justify the Enchanted Valley hike just on the basis of the wildlife we observed, but I did enjoy the wildlife and saw one bird I’d never seen before. Perhaps the most surprising discovery was the high number of Robins and Song Sparrows

Song Sparrow

we saw there. I have a hard time imagining a Robin outside a backyard.

I missed a beautiful shot of a Red-Breasted Sapsucker that Dawn spotted at close range, but I did manage to get a shot of this female Blue Grouse that Santi spotted,

female Blue Grouse

the first time I’ve ever managed to get a shot of one, and perhaps the first time I’ve ever seen one.

The most common butterfly was the elusive Tiger Swallowtail, but this small white and black moth/butterfly is one I’ve never seen before (and can’t find in my Insects of the Pacific Northwest):

Black and White Butterfly/Moth

We never did see the much-sought-after black bear, but we did see two small herds of elk. This shot of the mother and baby (with older brother following closely behind?) was undoubtably my favorite wildlife shot of the trip.


Enchanted Valley

Originally, Dawn had reserved sites higher in the mountain for our five-day hike, but Park Rangers recommended we not try it since there was still six feet of snow in places. Still, Enchanted Valley is part of Olympic National Park, so mountains are definitely an important part of the hiking experience.

This chalet, now used as a ranger station and emergency shelter, guards the entrance to the valley


with clouded cliffs and waterfalls serving as a backdrop.

Even though we didn’t see a bit of rain in our five days there, at times it seemed like we were living in the clouds,

 Cliffs in Clouds

which certainly explains why everything is so green.

Though lined with forests, it’s obvious that the Quinault River is still a major player here,


fed by unseen mountains and melting snow fields even now.


We day hiked another 6 miles up the valley, knowing our way was ultimately blocked by distant, snow-covered mountains fading into the clouds.

Distant Olympic Mountains

Although we were going to try to walk to a damaged footbridge, Pahtah (that’s me) decided after running into one too many washouts that he had better save some energy for the two days it would take to walk out.