The Mount Rainier Gardens

We spent the night nearby a river in a canyon deep below the mighty mountain. The ground was covered with moss so thick that using a sleeping pad seemed almost pointless, and the air smelled like earth itself. After an early rise and a big breakfast of oatmeal with apples, we quietly packed up and headed up the mountain.

I found my way back by memory, since there was no way I was getting a phone service to put the visitor center where we planned to park in the map. We did have a paper map but our camping spot wasn’t on it. I was glad we stopped there the previous day so that I was able to find it. Soon, we left the thick forest below us drove through a landscape of sparse trees and the most colorful wildflowers. At the visitor center, we found a parking spot and started up the trails.

Only a short climb up a steep paved Skyline trail later, Mt Rainier offered us dreamy views of its snowy peak, mountain meadows, rock slides, and its beautiful gardens. Blue, red, purple, yellow, pink, and orange wildflowers grew everywhere around us and it was hard to remember that I was still on planet Earth. It looked as if we traveled to some fantasy world. The colors were vivid and alive, I could smell them, taste them, and feel their touch on my skin.

We planned to do a nice 6-mile loop which the volunteer in the visitor center who recommended it to me the previous day described as “moderately strenuous” due to its elevation and, higher up, technicality. We needed to leave roughly by midday because we still had a couple hundred miles to drive to our next spot, so doing only six miles sounded like a good idea.

When we left even the sturdiest trees below us, and right before we set out for a climb up what could be described roughly as stairs made from broken rocks, a couple marmots ran across the path right in front of us; first, a big marmot mum and then two marmot teenagers who then started to wrestle among the rock right next to the trail. Soon, a couple other hikers reached us and joined us, watching the marmots wrestle for solid half-hour. It was a warm and sunny day on the mountainside and it felt as if nobody had anything more important to do than to watch this marmot match.

Mom Marmot then rushed the young wrestlers off and we continued up the trail, soon leaving even the last leaves of grass below us and reaching a land of rocks. Patches of snow turned into snow fields, and even through we were getting closer to the peak, it seemed as if it was getting farther away from us and growing in size. That’s when we started to see the real size of the mountain, even though it was still hard to grasp.

Mountain ranges after mountain ranges rose from behind the nearest crest and I could feel the chilly air flowing from the top of Mt Rainier pouring over me like a river.

We kept going higher and higher. Soon, we could see two mountains in the distance, rising above everything else, clad in their white winter coats all years long.

Some 50 miles south, Mt Adams was ruling the landscape. And then we saw another peak – a mountain that dominates the views all the way in Oregon. Over 100 miles to the south, the sharp top of Mt Hood was piercing the sky.

We started our descent. Soon, patches of snow changed into patches of grass, and hundreds of tiny streams were skipping down the mountain. We rock-hop crosses a couple of these, then, in lower elevations, crossed them walking on wooden bridges.

The air got warmer as we walked down and down, back to alpine meadows filled with color and the buzz of insects. Then we reached the tree line and we’re back in the thin woods, watching their inhabitants. Song-singing birds flew above our heads and as we got closer to the visitor center and the foot traffic on the paths grew thicker, we said goodbye to the paradise island that Mt Rainier is and upon reaching our car headed down the mountain and to the north.

Thank you for choosing to spend your time joining us on the road. The previous post from this road trip is right HERE.

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More to read:

Black Butte Drowned in Color | One Photo

Hidden Lake | Glacier Half Trifecta

Cold as F… Fluffy Unicorns | Road-Trippin’ with My Folks

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