Mt Rainier National Park

Couger Rock Campground

Monday, Aug 28th 2000

NOTE: You can click on the thumbnail to take you to the larger image

The thermometer reads 35 degrees outside the trailer. It feels almost as cold inside but we are snug and warm in bed under a pile of blankets. However, having coffee and orange juice requires leaving the warmth of the nest. Jim has the early morning duty so he gets up to turn on the coffee pot and turn the furnace on just enough to take the chill off. We are camping in the Natl Park with no hookups so are running off our battery. The furnace cuts on, runs a few seconds and cuts off. He turns it off and on again and the same thing happens. Uhh Oh! Jim fixes the coffee and oj and we jump back in our warm bed. After a while, he tries the furnace again and welcome warm air greets us.

After a hearty breakfast of hot oatmeal, toast & jelly, orange juice, and coffee, I pack our lunch and we decide to head up the mountain to Paradise, the most popular destination in the park. As we drove up to the campground yesterday, we were greeted with a steady stream of traffic and flashing lights that warned the Paradise lots were full, thru traffic only. Bad sign but it was the weekend! The ranger tells us Monday should be OK. The wind at least has died down this morning as we head out bundled up with books, maps, cameras and binoculars in hand.

We've already gone through 12 rolls of film and have spent a small fortune on developing but...... Last night as we walked around the campground, Rainier in all her majesty was surrounded by clouds (a common occurrence). Today, the sun was out and she appeared as the majestic mountain we see in pictures, minus some of the snow. We stopped at the many overlooks and took lots of pictures and marveled at this beautiful mountain. We even took a fairly steep hike to one of the beautiful waterfalls (Narada Falls).

Photograph of Mt. Rainier's wildflowers.As we arrived at Paradise and the Visitors Center, we realized the parking could still be a problem. Cars were already piling in. As we headed up one of the trails, I heard a ranger giving a talk on wildflowers so we joined it. We thought the wildflowers in Glacier were beautiful but the meadows here are hard to beat. So many beautiful flowers in all of the colors of the rainbow - magenta paintbrush, mountain bog gentian, lupines, fireweed, red, purple, yellow white and all shades. A field of beauty that lasts only a short time. The trees are stunted and misshaped - mountain hemlocks and subalpine firs - the only trees that can withstand the harsh winters with the 680 inches of snow received. The end of the hike was Myrtle Falls and we took the steep set of steps down to the viewpoint. The waterfalls was lovely and a hoary marmot was wandering around the steep slope. He posed nicely for us, close up, and went on his way. We headed back to the visitors center and lunch and a wonderful new exhibit on the history of the park.

The campground is in an old growth forest and some of the trees are enormous. There appears to be quite a bit of damage to some of the trees and there is much downed wood and the dimensions of the trunks are BIG!

Tuesday, Aug 29th

How to describe this special place. Paradise, a name as well as a description. We indulged in an early morning, substantial breakfast at the inn before heading out for a morning hike up the Dead Horse Trail. We started up the paved trail through the wildflower meadows. The mountain is before us beckoning, calling "Come, come!" All around us the rocky peaks, some with snow. Shades of gray and blue and black and the many shades of green of the trees and bushes surround us. We pretty much have the trail to ourselves in the early morning. The sound of Dead Horse Creek babbles and gurgles beside us. You can hear some of the insects buzzing as they busily flit from flower to flower doing their thing. A bird calls off in the distance. I think it is a Clark's Nutcracker. The predominant color of the meadow is the purple and white of the mountain lupine and bistort. The green of grasses and bushes (primarily huckleberry). The mountain asters add blues, the magenta paintbrush the pinks and so many others I can't begin to name. My favorite is still the mountain bog gentian (deep purple). It is a field of beauty as far as the eye can see.

Photograph of Mt. Rainier wildflower meadow.We see a mamma black tail deer lying in the meadow with her fawn nearby. A lady hiker with her watercolors sits beside the trail painting. We continue up with the mountain ahead of us, the top covered in clouds. Serious back country hikers pass us headed for Camp Muir at ten thousand plus feet, a base camp for those attempting to hike to the summit of 14,410 feet. We shed our jackets as we keep climbing. A hoary marmot appears. He's known as a meadow lawnmower. We watch him playing in the rocks then continue upwards. We started at 5400' and the trail climbs to Panorama Point at 6900'. We come to scattered snowfields and trudge on. The colorful meadows are always there. They bloom for just a few brief months and are gone, again covered in snow. When we hit a really big snowfield and the trail gets even steeper, we decide it is time to turn around and head down, short of Panorama Point but still a climb of more than10,000 feet. The sky around us is full of dark storm clouds and the mountain is almost totally shrouded in clouds. The air is cold and the breeze is picking up. There is a slight drizzle as we don our jackets and head down as other hikers continue up. By the time we reach the car, the rain has picked up. We eat our lunch and head for the big old lodge, books and writing materials in hand. Everyone else had the same idea and the huge timber lobby/lounge is packed with people - eating, reading resting or just plain sleeping! A haven from the cold! The rain starts in earnest and the wet, bedraggled hikers join the throng of people. We're warm and snug for now and watch the people, read and write. Soon we will head back down the mountain to the trailer for dinner. The trip down is through the rain and fog. Tomorrow we continue our journey to Crater Lake and hope that the weather improves.