Thursday, June 23, 2016

Mt. Rainer National park

June 14 - 18, 2016:

The ride to Mt. Rainer National Park was a wild one, going from clear skies at Yakima to gusty winds, clouds, rain and snow with temperatures dropping to the mid 30’s at White Pass.  We arrive at the Ohanapecosh Campground located near the southeast park entrance in early afternoon.  As usual, Twinkles had arrived earlier, had scouted out the campground and picked a good campsite, she is getting really good at this.  The majority of the campsites were either too small or far from level and we were lucky to get a good one.  This campground is first come, first served for another week, then it becomes reservable and will most likely will be booked solid all summer.

Clouds, rain and finally snow !

The White Pass Ski Area

A cold light rain fell intermittently all afternoon and evening and the forecast for the rest of the week doesn’t look so good.  This is a lush green mossy rain forest formed as a result of the moisture laden Pacific clouds releasing their moisture in the mountains.

The Ohanapecosh River

The Ohanapecosh hot springs, there was a resort here in
the 1930's and spring water was bottled for sale

The Lichens are covering everything, that is a rock

We aren’t going to see much sun with the forest cover here, even if it gets sunny, so we be back to running the generator to keep the batteries charged.  We will also will be back into our winter clothes and under several quilts at night.  In other words, it’s cold, dark and damp here.

Water was dripping from the trees onto the RV roof like
a Chinese water torture all night

On Wednesday morning it is cloudy, but not raining, so we headed west on Stevens Canyon Road to the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitors Center.  It is about half way across the Park and a most scenic drive.  We made several scenic stops along the way and surprisingly the weather improved with periods of sun breaking through.  At about the 5,000 foot elevation level we came into the freezing zone where it had snowed on Tuesday.  It was really beautiful with the fresh snow cover accentuated by sun, clouds and patches of blue sky, but Mt Rainer remained obscured by the clouds.  Shortly after arriving at the Visitors Center, we lucked out, as the clouds opened up on the Mountain and the peak became visible.  We were told that some visitors never see the peak, it can be in the clouds for weeks.  The Glaciers on the Mountain, all 25 of them, are very impressive and in clear view from the Visitors Canter.

The river was roaring down this narrow chute

A rock face where you can see scrape
marks left from the glaciers

All morning the clouds were moving and the peaks
were going in and out of view

Fresh snow overnight made the views spectacular

Another great Mountain view

The clouds lifted exposing Mt. Rainer's peak

Snow shoes needed to go further

Reflection Lake lived up to its name

On the return ride, we stopped for a hike to Stevens Creek which was only a half mile but all downhill, (the worse kind) as that means the return it is all uphill.  The view on the Creek was of a waterfall, but a pile up of downed trees sort of obscured the view.

This is a hikers paradise, there are so many trails of all ability levels but the best ones are still covered by snow.  Twinkles is excited about hiking the 100 mile “Wonderland Trail" that skirts around the glaciers of Mt. Rainer, some day, she even bought the guide book.  I do sometimes wander about her ?  This is a special place for wildflowers, we saw some great ones, but the spectacular flowers come in July when on good years the alpine meadows are carpeted.

The trail profile of Wonderland Trail

Avalanche Lilly

Beautiful, but don't know it

One of the most popular short hikes is the trail to "Grove of the Patriarchs", but unfortunately the bridge prior to the grove was closed, so you don’t get to see the oldest trees.  It was still worthwhile as the trail was lush green and dripping wet with many huge trees.

I love these huge Red Cedar Trees

We do another hike near the campground to the Silver Falls, which was a beautiful waterfall and trail.  This area has so much flowing water, there seems to be a waterfall around every bend. The hike started off cloudy, then periods of sun, then light rain and then back to clouds.  This seems to be the normal climate here, you need to dress in layers so you can remove or add clothes as needed.

A trail view

Silver Falls

Lichens along the trail

The nearest town for gas or supplies is Packwood where we found a good coffee shop, The Mountain Goat Coffee and Bakery, with working internet.  Packwood was established in 1899 by a trailblazer named Robert Packwood.  A huge lumber Mill operated in town until the 1990's, but these days it's mostly all tourism, wood carving, guide service or living off the grid living in the back woods.  There are several motels, stores, a market, a gas station, a library and the "Blue Spruce Saloon".  The Blue Spruce even has live music on Saturday nights. 

I think I saw this guy at the Blue Spruce

Mural at the downtown market

I return to visit the “White Pass County Museum” with tons of local historical artifacts and many interesting stories.  My favorite exhibits were about "Virgil Jeffries" who was a town character, presidential candidate and honorary mayor, who met his demise by getting hit by a garbage truck and about "Mary Kiona" a renown Cowlitz Indian basket maker who lived to be 107 years old.  This is “Bigfoot” country and the museum people tell me I should come back at 7 PM for the Bigfoot talk, it sounded great, but Twinkles didn’t think she could sit through it without giggling.

Totem Pole in front of the Library

How Packwood came to be

Virgil and his famous Budweiser Hat

Mary was a great basket maker and beader

The Blue Spruce Saloon doesn’t look like much from the outside, but it’s kind of nice inside though the bar is somewhat weird.  It is U shaped but the opposing sides are about 4 feet apart, I felt like I was sitting at a dining table, no way to have a personal conversation.  I saw a poster for “The annoying Rouges Band” who were playing there on Saturday night and put that in my calendar.

The Blue Spruce Saloon and Grille, I think all the old
clunkers and pickup trucks are on the side lot

We have somehow managed to catch head colds, the climate here may have something to do with this, and we are now looking forward to getting somewhere warm and sunny.  It rained Friday night, all night long, and with the water dripping from the trees loudly onto the RV roof, needless to say, we didn’t sleep well.  

Saturday morning, the tent campers are not looking so cheerful as they sit all bundled up around their camp fires in the drizzling rain.  I start the generator and crank the heat up to 70, I’m sure they hate us.

Afterwards, we decide to take a ride, at least we will be warm in the Jeep.  We take Stevens Canyon Road all the way to Longmire where there is the historic “National Park Inn”, the Longmire Museum and General Store.  The rain had stopped but the fog was heavy for a few miles, then we had mostly just clouds with a few briefs flashes of sun and rain drizzle.  We stopped and did a short walk to the most impressive Narada Falls.  We came upon a vast rock strewn glacial area with the fast flowing Nisqually Creek which discharges right out of the Nisgually Glacier.  We took a cautious walk across the rocks to a Log Bridge where we caught a decent view of Mt. Rainer in the distance.

A misty view of Narada Falls

The National Park Inn

View of Nisqually Creek with Mt. Rainer
peaking through the clouds

Twinkles on the log bridge

Christine Falls

Dark clouds moving in fast

I couldn’t leave Packwood without a visit to the Blue Spruce Saloon on Saturday evening.   It was a packed house at 7:30 PM when I arrived and it is definitely the hot spot in town, actually it’s the only spot in town.  The locals were there in force, there was a young guy across the bar who was so dirty, looked like he just crawled out of an engine and another guy who looked like a combination of John Muir and Robin Hood.  The hip locals all were wearing these black “Straight out of Packwood” tee shirts  The Annoying Rogue Band played early Rock and Roll and did so fairly well, the vocalist did justice to Johnny Cash and I loved his rendition of “Six days on the road”.  That was written by Dave Dudley, never heard of him, but what great lyrics in that song.

The Annoying Rouges were alright 

Next stop is Carnation, Washington;
Twinkles and Slick

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