Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Shadow Wood

In the shadow of Mt Rainier was a retreat designed for the camping enthusiast. Lori and Dennis have placed a 22' camping trailer on there property where they charge visitors a small fee for the use of the camper, their woodpile and fire pit, the bbq grill with popcorn and coffee thrown in for good measure. We couldn't resist staying in the camper for a night. There were a few other options for lodging but this one caught our attention.

We weren't dissapointed. We slept in very close quarters just like we were back in our pop-up camper. It was a chance for us to get close as a family. We roasted marshmellows until I had a wild hare to try and photograph Mt Rainier in the final glow of the setting sun. I didn't get any majestic shots and I missed the marshmellows over the fire. Lori entertained the children by giving them permission to clean up any sticks and pinecones and throw them into the fire. The children found every stick on the property and within fifteen minutes had high flames raging in the fire pit.

On the way to our camp out we stopped at a motel where all of the rooms were old converted cabooses. We ate our lunch in the dining car restaurant and paid too much for mediocre food and snail paced service. We would have eaten at the little burger stand across the street had we seen the crowd assembled there when we went in to the dining car. There were some fifteen motorcycles parked in front of the place and a line of people getting food the entire time we waited for ours. The whole dining car ambience didn't make up for the price or the food. We did get enough to eat to fuel our adventures for the day.

We took the shuttle up to Paradise on Saturday. The shuttle was an old school bus with a driver who gave a constant oral presentation about the sights along the trek up the mountain. She directed our attention to glacier remnants, waterfalls and historical sites. She was so absorbed in her dialogue I had to constantly check if she was watching the road, a bus that size on the winding roads could get out of hand very easily. Each time I saw her reflection in the rearview mirror her hands were both working the steering wheel while her eyes expertly cased the road for danger. She pointed out the Tatoosh mountains also known as the Sawtooth range. These had jagged edges pointing into the sky and had been around seven million years before Rainier was even a thought. These were the same mountains in Idaho I had climbed into a year ago with some friends. They were receding while Mt Rainier was still working its way skyward.

Paradise was the location where flowers bloomed in open mountain meadows with the white capped peak looming in the distance creating a scene inspiring one visitor to exclaim "This must be what paradise is like." Mt Rainier has some 26 named glaciers on its slopes, the most in the lower forty eight states. This was mostly due to the Pacific Ocean sending moisture laden weather systems across Washington to be trapped against the mountain and wrung out on the mountain top. It was an impressive site.

We learned most of our facts about Mt Rainier by tagging along on a ranger walk. She spoke of the movement of the glaciers and their accelerated retraction over the recent few decades.

Shane, Savannah and Sophie had snowball fights. We heard a blue mountain grouse grumble.

We walked along the paved trails enjoying the bright blue skies.

We went back to the camper to cook some hot dogs and chicken kabobs on the grill. The meal came out good and the fire was started. The kids had fun starting the fire and throwing all of Lori's debris in.

Before going to bed Shane noticed a visitor to our campsite had laid claim to one of Savannah's flip flops. A six inch long banana slug had curled up on the black shoe and made itself at home. It looked quite comfortable on Savannah's foot wear. Savannah was not as comfortable with the slug and sent it on its way in the woods.

We slept. Most of the time turning. Some time tossing. Some bathroom breaks in the middle of the night. I woke a little sore but for the most part healthy. The kids were jubilant. Shane was up and outside first announcing our visitor from the previous night had returned. This time the little cutey had crawled into Savannah's brown shoe, the one she was going to wear all day. Once again Savannah helped the little guy out of her shoe.

We drove around the mountain to the Sunrise area stopping at the Grove of the Patriarchs along the way. This was a section of 1000 year old trees spared from destruction by their location across the river from the mountain. The 3/4 mile trek to the grove followed the Ohanapecosh River and included a suspension bridge. These attractions broke up the hike with little side adventures. We came into the grove and were surrounded by these giant trees. They were impressive. There are two 1000 year old Douglas Firs standing side by side massive in their height and girth. We had lunch on a log in the Ohanapecosh River then walked back to the car.

I thought the drive to the sunrise area was incredible. The views of Mt Rainier and the surrounding peaks were stunning.

We found another ranger walk from the sunrise area joining this one from the start. She pointed out the different glaciers visible from the east side. She described one glacier as being 700 feet deep in some areas, deep enough to swallow the Space Needle. We walked through more flower choked mountain meadows. There were constant reminders to stay off the delicate and fragile meadow vegitation and only walk in the trails. We often saw people walking out into the meadows and picking the flowers. To illustrate the difficulty the meadows have when regrowing the ranger pointed to an old horses trail going up the side of the mountain. The trail was fifty years old and was clearly marcated with sparse growth of grasses and flowers. It was a reminder to stay on the trails. We pulled out of the parking watching an entire family playing frisbee on the meadows.

>We drove home, unpacked our things, argued a little with the children and each other then went to bed. We had seen Mt Rainier in its best summer light. We learned the peak was often so shrouded in clouds it was not visible. We stayed in Shadow Wood the quaint camper in the shadow of the mountain.

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