Yesterday the skies looked clear and I was in the mood for some mountain adventures. My day was free of any scheduled events, and I wanted to head off to Mount Rainier National Park. Not the National Forests, much as I normally love them, as it’s the start of deer season and hiking, in my view, just isn’t compatible with hunting. Multiple use land management philosophy once again falls apart.
In past years, when we had a dog that prevented us from hiking in the National Parks, I’d find myself on mountain trails in glorious fall weather and realize that the others on the trails were in hunting garb carrying guns. I worried enough about someone thinking my dog (a very furry white American Eskimo) was a mountain goat and shooting her that I clothed her in an bright orange dog vest. I also worried that Dave or I would get shot. Now that we don’t have a dog anymore, we can once again hike in the National Parks, so that’s where I choose to head at this time of year. We headed out yesterday morning prepared for cold weather. I admit also to being a gawker/ rubbernecker and wanted to see the site of the landslide that recently closed off a state highway. The temporary detour is now open to the public so that’s the route we took up to Mount Rainier. We didn’t see the landslide as the detour took us out of view of the highway at that spot, but it was a pretty drive with colors changing and blue skies. Or, blue skies just until we reached Chinook Pass, and a cloud of winter weather engulfed the area. We stopped at the parking lot to use the restroom and ponder our next steps. Our trail of first choice looked like it had a new layer of snow on it. Some other hikers were venturing out in winter wear, but there was a ferociously cold wind and treacherous footing, not what I savor for safe hiking. So we decided to head on further.
As I headed down the other side of the pass into the park, on one of my least favorite mountain roads with hairpin turn after hairpin turn, the forest was a winter wonderland. Very pretty, but not what I really wanted yet. So we continued to drive, heading to the southeastern portion of the park. That’s the land of rain forests and large, old growth trees. And also temperatures at least 25 degrees warmer than at the pass! So we chose a lowland forest hike, leading us past the roaring waterfall of Silver Falls and into the Grove of the Patriachs. This photo isn’t mine, as I neglected to pack the camera for the hike but gives a good idea of what the area looks like.
I like the description of the hike on one of the park service web pages. “This is, perhaps, one of the most memorable hikes in Mount Rainier National Park because it’s like entering a magical kingdom. This is rare, even in a region with so many really big trees. Think about it. Doesn’t “the grove of the patriarchs” have that special ring to it? Like a Tolkien ring? You’ll walk through a forest of old growth trees, some a thousand years old, onto an island in the middle of the Ohanapecosh River. Better than some new world created for a virtual reality game, it’s all there for you to enjoy again and again.”
As we hiked, I was reminded of our family calendar from a few years ago (November 2003) that includes a photo of Dave , Kristin, Neil and Carrie circling the front part of one of the large trees in the Grove of the Patriachs.
Along with giant trees, we also enjoyed seeing lots of fall mushrooms, including a purple translucent looking one like I’ve never seen before. I especially liked the minature orange pixie caps, all just waiting for the forest pixies to come out cap shopping.