I think I left you all stranded after my visit to Mt. St Helens! I had gotten behind in posting (what’s new?), and did up several posts at once, for delayed publishing. So I thought I was good for a while. But here I am, well behind again.
So, after spending a few very enjoyable days in the Mt St Helens area, it was time to move on. It was time to check out Mt Rainier National Park. We headed north on National Forest Road 25. It was mostly treed along the way, but the bumps and hills and ridges made me think I was on permafrost in the Yukon or Alaska. In Randle, at the junction of SR 12, I found good wi-fi at the library, and likely caught up on blog posts up to that time. I was sure that GasBuddy.com had promised me relatively cheap fuel in Ohanapecosh, near the south east entrance to Mt Rainier. When I got there however, I discovered that it was only a National Parks visitor centre, with no store of any sort. In the visitor centre, I also learned that my planned route through Stevens Canyon was a no-go, as it was closed for some major repairs and reconstruction.
Therefore, I reluctantly retraced my steps back to Packwood where I filled a propane bottle and added enough fuel to get me to a cheaper fuelling location. Heading west along Skate Creek Rd was through National Forest, it was getting late in the day, so I thought there would be no problem finding a camp spot along the river paralleling the road. Well, there were plenty of spots, many occupied, but each of the ones I checked had a disturbing amount of garbage, junk, and abandoned camping gear – not very inviting place to spend the night. I guess the area is just too close to the big metropolitan areas of Seattle, Tacoma, etc? Eventually, I found a spacious spot well up on a logging road above the valley bottom.
In the morning, it was time to re-enter Mt Rainier park; this time through an entry gate, unlike the entrance on the other side of the park. I’m always amused when they ask to see ID at the gate – to make sure you are the owner of the annual park pass!
From here it is a relatively short drive up to visitor centers at Longmire and Paradise. While chatting to some rangers at Paradise, I learned that it had been a busy morning already with two separate fatalities in the area. Reminded me of work back in Banff.
The brand new visitor centre had a unique map laid into the floor (!), which showed the affected areas, should Mt Rainier decide to erupt again. I paid attention, after becoming somewhat of an armchair expert on volcanoes, mud and debris flows and lahars at Mt St Helens.
Once higher on the mountain, I could look back south and make out Mt St Helens in the distance, as well as Mt Hood further to the east, as well as a panoramic view of Rainier itself.
There came a time when I realized that I was not exactly wearing appropriate mountaineering footwear, but I persevered across snow patches, and up the rock steps.
On the descent of the loop trail, much of the trail was snow covered, so I decided to try glissading – in Crocs!
It actually worked out fairly well, and it was refreshing to rinse the snow off my feet in several of the creek crossings .
Once back at Paradise, I poked my head into the lodge of the same name, then decided to head out on the Stevens Canyon road, to see what I could before encountering the closure.
Hailey had been locked up so far, so I took her for a short hike at Box Canyon, where she enjoyed walking on the rail while looking down into the canyon. It wasn’t till exiting the trail that I saw the ‘no pets’ sign!
Soon it was time to retrace our steps, and head back down the road. Cougar Rock campground had a sign at the entrance warning of the dangers of flooding, mud flows, and rock fall. I also noticed an ‘air raid’ type siren near the entrance! Hmm?
In spite of the obvious risk to life, limb, truck, and cat, we decided to risk spending the night there, before setting off to run the traffic gauntlet in Seattle in the morning.
I think it was then that I discovered a new, free feature of Google Maps on the iPhone. It overlays your route with a colour code to indicate the relative speed of traffic in the area! Cool! I hope you are taking notes, Wandering Willy!
I know it looks like all these devices are blocking my view out the window, but they don’t. In fact, back in Alberta I saw the sign that said ‘Distracted Driving Law now in effect’. I was so impressed, that I whipped out my camera and took a photo of it …
Next: North Cascades National Park (when I get around to it!)