We went to Mt Rainier in September –

-on a midweek getaway, to a self-contained cabin in Packwood, Washington, with our own food, following all Covid-19 precautions. We have seen the stunning wildflower displays of summer a few times, and had long been wanting to see the the mountain in fall colors.

Mount Rainier area hikes.

September 29, 2020 – Comet Falls/Van Trump Park

This trail, west of the Nisqually River and Paradise, follows Van Trump Creek all the way up to the stunning Comet Falls, then farther up the slopes to magnificent views of Mt Rainier from Van Trump park. (P.B. Van Trump  was one of the first to stand on the summit of the mountain, in 1870). A very challenging and satisfying hike (7 miles, 2500 feet).

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Smaller falls near the trailhead.

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Trail through the woods.

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I first thought this was our waterfall, then continued over the next ridge:

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Comet Falls! About 400 feet, counting smaller tiers above and below the main falls. Snow bank on lower right.

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With rainbows in the mist!

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Our trail continues up, with better views of Comet Falls.

The trail continued upward steeply, into Van Trump Park.

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Above the waterfall, the mountain came into view.

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Fall foliage on the slopes of Van Trump Park, glowing red!

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Mount Rainier from our lunch stop in Van Trump Park.

Views of the glaciers from a new angle:

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The trail down seemed steeper than the trail going up; that might just be my knees talking.

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Mt Adams on view beyond the Tatoosh Range.

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Glacial striations/polish and Mt Adams.

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Uppermost tier of Comet Falls.

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A particularly steep trail section.

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A few late gentians in the upper meadows.

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Vine maples just beginning to turn red.

We stopped at a couple of roadside viewpoints on our way out of the park.

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Highway bridge over the Nisqually River canyon.

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Nisqually River downstream.

We could not resist stopping to see the mirror image in Reflection Lakes.

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September 30 – Naches Peak/Tipsoo Lake Loop, smoke haze at Sunrise, Silver Falls.

We hiked this loop trail (4 miles, 600 feet), with our views increasingly shrouded in haze. Wildfire smoke began drifting diffusely in, creating a grayish white sky that was so startlingly blue yesterday.

We were almost alone as we walked around Tipsoo Lake, admiring the beautiful reflections in its mirror-like surface.

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Tipsoo Lake

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Yakima Peak

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Mt Rainier, slightly obscured by haze.

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Mt Rainier reflected in Tipsoo Lake.

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Yakima Peak – our trail rising along its base.

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Pasque flower seed head

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Meadow of huckleberry and aster seed heads.

Then we hiked the loop around Naches Peak – following the Pacific Crest Trail.

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Crossing Hwy 410.

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Hwy 410, headed down the canyon, to the east.

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A new wilderness area for us!

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Trail up over the shoulder of Naches Peak.

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Naches Peak.

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Looking back.

We passed a small lake with a friendly chipmunk.

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Once over the shoulder of Naches Peak, we could see the Dewey Lakes to the southeast as the smoke haze increased.

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One of the Dewey Lakes.

The trail circles back west,  with stunning views of Mt Rainier when there is no haze, as it passes more small lakes. 

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Mt Rainier is ahead through the haze.

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One of the trailside lakes.

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More beautiful meadows!

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Mt Rainier disappearing before our eyes!

We stopped to admire Upper Tipsoo Lake near the trailhead before finishing the hike.

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Upper Tipsoo Lake.

After lunch we drove up to Sunrise, elevation 6400 feet, but the smoke haze obscured views, so we didn’t stay.

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Dotted Blue line shows Mt Rainier skyline behind the smoke haze.

Instead we hiked to Silver Falls, on the Ohanapecosh River, through old and mossy forest, to see clear turquoise waters, and bright falling waters cutting through a slick rock gorge. All in all a lovely ‘recovery’ day from yesterday – the hikes being not so steep. We hope the smoke will blow out for tomorrow.

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Small fairy falls in the mossy old growth forest.

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Looking down on the blue waters in Ohanapecosh gorge.

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Overlook at the top of Silver Falls.

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Downstream view of the Ohanapecosh River below the bridge.

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Silver Falls.

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October 1 – Paradise, Golden Gate Trail, Panorama Point

The mountain was ‘out’ behind a thin veil of translucent haze! Smoke would gather throughout the day below us to the south on the flanks of the Tatoosh Range. 

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View from the parking lot at Paradise.

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Iconic gateway to the trail system.

We hiked across Paradise Valley, and up the Golden Gate switchbacks and granite steps, to the High Skyline Trail that circles the valley (6 miles, 1700 feet).

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Looking up toward the red huckleberry foliage on Alta Vista, which would be our return trail in the afternoon.

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Looking toward the Skyline trail on the east side of Paradise Valley.

We saw a black bear foraging in the meadows below, and at least eight marmots foraging and nest building on our way up.

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While looking across at the waterfall,

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I noticed a moving black spot in the valley below.

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Black bear.

The slopes were still green, and full of fading wildflowers with a few remaining blooms.

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Switchbacks of the Golden Gate Trail ahead.

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Up the last switchback to the Skyline Ridge.

Once to the ridge, stark, glaciated landscape dominated.

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High Skyline Trail

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A glimpse over the ridge to the east to the next glaciated valley.

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Our destination is around the cirque and above the snowfield – there are tiny humans on that ridge.

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Rocky trail.

A mountain goat was resting near one of the snow fields in the cirque.

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This is the closest we would get to the mountain goat (to the right of the snow field).

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Mountain goat, zoom lens.

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Looking down on the mountain goat after we climbed higher.

Over the rocky top above Panorama Point, near Pebble Creek, we sat on the rocks and ate our lunch with a full mountain view: 7000 feet of vertical relief, glaciers and sculpted rocks. We heard an occasional boom as something up there, heeding gravity, fell.

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Lunch view.

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Chipmunk on the rock.

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Glacier close-ups.

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We made our way back down the steep granite steps, past Panorama Point and more glacier views.

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Heading down to Panorama Point.

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Panorama Point, with views in all directions:

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East, where we have been.

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South, toward our starting point, and the smoky Tatoosh Range.

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West, to our downward trail and the Nisqually Valley.

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Continuing down…

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Rocky steps to Glacier View.

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We saw one late pasque flower in the meadow.

The bear was still roaming in the valley below.

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We crossed through the brilliant red huckleberry foliage on the flank of Alta Vista.

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After a last stop at Edith Creek and Myrtle Falls, I was done walking for a while. My legs were tired, my cup full! I have to agree with the sentiment carved in the steps at the trailhead. This is one of the most beautiful places I have been. I feel so lucky to have seen it in the fall!

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Myrtle Falls

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Edith Creek

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This hungry deer near the trailhead paid no attention to the people taking his photo!

Hiking to St Helens Lake / A Peek at Beatlemania and Halloween in Portland

St Helen’s Lake, Sunday, October 27, 2019

We hiked from Johnson Ridge Observatory in Mt St Helens National Volcanic Monument to the St Helens Lake overlook for stunning 360 degree views.  It was cold, but not too windy.

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From the trailhead, Coldwater Peak is the highest point in view. St Helens Lake is tucked behind the ridgeline on the right, behind the arch.

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Frost along the trail,

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and Mt St Helens, herself.

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Nearing our destination, nice view of Mt Adams and Spirit Lake.

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One last ridge to traverse.

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Lunch view and turnaround point – St Helens Lake. Mt Rainier, about 40 miles away, peeking over the ridgeline of the Mt Margaret backcountry.

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Zooming in on Mt Rainier,

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the Goat Rocks,

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Spirit Lake, the silhouette of Mt Hood, and Mt St Helens, with Harry’s Ridge in the foreground.

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One last look at St Helens Lake before heading down.

This entire area is off limits to off trail exploring, so there is no trail to the lakeshore. Before the 1980 eruption, the bare slopes were covered with soil and forest. New plants are growing, but the relic tree stumps and log rafts remain as they were after the blast.

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Closer view of the 39.5 year old log rafts.

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Zooming in on the dome and glacier in Mt St Helen’s crater.

We hiked partway up Harry’s Ridge on the return.

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Another view of Spirit Lake and Mt Adams from Harry’s Ridge.

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And a last look at Mt St Helens in afternoon light.

Some details:

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We met a birder on the return trip who was very excited to have spotted this Northern Pygmy Owl on a fir tree. Nice display of tree stumps and blast-oriented logs in the background.

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Northern pygmy owl.

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A few very late wild strawberry blooms along the trail, nestled into the pumice..

SCREEN SHOT 2019-11-03 AT 11.53.50 AM

(Hike #50, 10 miles, 2300 feet)

Downtown Portland

I met a friend at the Portland Historical Society Museum to see a photo exhibit about the making of flax into linen in the 1930s. It was fascinating, but not photogenic. I popped in to see an exhibit celebrating The Beatles’ 1965 concert in Portland. I was a preteen when the Beatles invaded, but my older sister swept us into fandom with her enthusiasm, and their music is timeless. My own children have had their Beatle years. We visited Abbey Road in London, and then went on the Magical Mystery Tour and to the Beatles Museum in Liverpool during our UK trip in 2011. It was fun to see a little slice of Beatlemania in PDX.

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We had plenty of Beatle magazines and trading cards at my house, but not this game. It’s funny now to think how shockingly long their hair was considered- it looks pretty clean cut by today’s standards.

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It was a gorgeous fall day in downtown Portland.

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Oregon Historical Society Museum

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First Congregational Church

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Central Library

Neighborhood Witches and more:

There are many elaborate halloween decorations in my neighborhood to enjoy while out walking and admiring the beautiful fall colors on the day before Halloween.

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The light was just right to bring out the face on this tree.

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Eagle and salmon carved from a cedar that had to be removed.

 

 

 

A few days in Paradise…

Mt Rainier National Park, August 5 – 9, 2019

For my birthday my dear husband planned a visit to Paradise at the height of wildflower season. We stayed in the newly refurbished Paradise Inn, authentically both rustic and lavish, perched at 5420 feet above sea level, and 8990 feet below the top of Mt. Rainier. We hiked many trails in the area from Monday evening to Friday morning, alternately focusing on the incredible wildflower blooms at our feet, and the massive  glaciers looming above us on the slopes of this active volcano. We had sunny days – it was almost too warm on the shadeless trails above timberline. On Thursday the clouds rolled in below us, and we watched their flowing patterns throughout the day. I took more than 700 photos on three long and four shorter hikes. My knees and toes held out admirably. We mostly ate out of our ice chest and suitcase pantry, but had one lovely meal at the restaurant. There are not enough superlatives to describe the wonder – but John Muir’s words, carved into the stairs leading to the mountain from the Visitor’s Center, come close.

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Paradise Inn

We were lucky to have a room with a view of the Tatoosh Range, immediately to the south.

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Looking down from the trail at Paradise Inn and the Tatoosh Range.

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Sunset view from our window.

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Paradise Inn and Mt Rainier from Paradise Valley Road.

Hiking Highlights:

Image 8-18-19 at 5.38 PM

Hikes #34 -38, 28.8 miles, 4520 feet

August 5th – Alta Vista – An evening walk with picnic dinner at this amazing viewpoint:

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Mt Rainier

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Across Paradise Park, preview of the Golden Gate Trail.

August 6 – Pebble Creek and Panorama Point via Golden Gate and Skyline Trails

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Edith Creek in Paradise Park

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Tatoosh Range from the Golden Gate trail.

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The lower humps in front of Mt Rainier are our destination.

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Snow and pasque flowers along the Skyline trail.

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Tiny people on the overlooks ahead.

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A peek over the ridge to the barren, recently glaciated valley to the east, where the Paradise Glaciers have receded.

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Lunch view, below us – Panorama Point, Paradise Park and Inn, Tatoosh Range.

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Nisqually River and highway bridge.

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Our high point – Pebble Creek. People planning to summit the mountain will camp at the Muir Snowfield on the high ridge above.

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Mt Rainier from Pebble Creek crossing.

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Looking down on the anastomosing trail system above Paradise Inn.

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We walked to Myrtle Falls in the evening.

August 7 – Lakes Loop – We hiked downhill from Paradise Inn, past Reflection Lakes, then back up to the Skyline Trail. The ranger assured us the wildflowers along the return hike were incredible, and that was an understatement!

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Another morning in Paradise!

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Our reflections in a stream crossing.

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Small waterfall along the way, in the shady forest.

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Reflection Lake, a little too much breeze for the reflection today.

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Hiking back up – lunch view of Reflection Lakes and Stevens Canyon from Faraway Rock.

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Small reflective lake along the trail.

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As we entered the meadows along the ridge, the wildflowers were stunning,

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and continued to be so for a couple of miles!

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I am out of words to describe amazing wildflowers at this point, but they do help to pull me along the trail when I get tired.

August 8 – Deadhorse, Glacier Moraine and Glacier Vista trails – This was a lower mileage, less elevation day. We found a bit of solitude on the Glacier Moraine trail, and more amazing flowers, including some marshy, wetland species we hadn’t seen yet.

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The clouds rolled in overnight, and stayed all day at about 5000 feet, so we hiked above the clouds most of the day.

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Mt Rainier had a few cloud caps coming and going.

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Lush stream meadows along the Deadhorse Trail.

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The Glacier Moraine trail leads to a viewpoint on the Nisqually Glacier Moraine.

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Neon moss, monkey flowers, saxifrage, etc. along the damp slopes.

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We are headed to the lip of the moraine.

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Panorama of my view – can’t begin to take it all in!

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I am sitting on the edge of the moraine, overlooking the Nisqually Glacier.

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Dan taking the above photo of me as the fog creeps up the Nisqually Valley beyond him.

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The fog stayed at about that level all day.

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Zoomed view of Stevens Peak in the Tatoosh Range, and the Goat Rocks beyond.

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After dinner we walked the Nisqually Vista trail.

August 9 – Christine Falls – On our way out of the park on Friday morning, we took the short hike to the bridge over Christine Falls.

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Christine Falls

We stopped for a picnic lunch at Longmire.

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Old gas pumps at the Longmire Visitor’s Center

Glacier Closeups:

Nisqually Glacier – a river of ice.

Waterfalls:

Top of the Mountain:

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Wildlife

We saw several marmots, deer, and various birds as well as the usual marauding chipmunks.

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Marmot eating marsh marigolds near the top of the Gold Gate trail.

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Marmot at a stream crossing on the Glacier Moraine trail, dwarfed by the Mountain above.

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Marmot, Mt Rainier

New or notable Wildflowers

So many flowers! I tried to note all that I could identify – at least 65 different types, but I am no expert in discerning the many varieties of some of these:

In all this was a fabulous trip! We had nearly clear views of Mt Rainier during our entire stay. We didn’t move our car all week. No internet or cell service away from the Visito’s Center. I am so appreciative of the National Park Service, and laws that preserve our national treasures such as Mt Rainier!

And a brief Look Back…

In 1995, when our boys were two and six years old, we spent a long September weekend with my Mom at Paradise. She loved the mountains, and this was her first chance to visit Mt Rainier. She was 71 years old, and not in hiking shape of late, so was proud of herself to make the three mile hike to Glacier Vista overlook, helping to guide our two young ones more than 1000 feet up the trail. This was a couple of years before macular degeneration, and then later, ALS. I thank her for taking us hiking and camping in our youth, even after our father died and she was on her own with nine children. I remember her naming the flowers – paintbrush and lupine and aster, in Tuolumne Meadows. She was a wonder woman, and I wish she was here to wish her a Happy 95th Birthday today! I hope there is chocolate cake on the other side!

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