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Mighty Rainier

Mighty Rainier


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Published by Paul Richardson
53.4 FEET of snow ave annually at Paradise
53.4 FEET of snow ave annually at Paradise

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Published by: Paul Richardson on Jul 25, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Mighty Rainier

Paul Richardson July 4, 2012

July 4th was a beautiful day. We had wanted to visit the Rainier high country since last September when we went to the park but found the road to Paradise was already closed for the winter. We did get to see the Patriarchs Grove of old trees; a couple of Douglas firs were over 1000 years old. Yes, they were big. The average snowfall at Paradise is 53.4 FEET per year. No wonder the road is closed from the east. Rainier is deceptive as on a clear day; common in summer, not in winter, it dominates the view from the Puget Sound area looking to the south and east. It is big, very big. The summit is 14,410 feet above sea level. The timberline is between 5 and 6000 feet so the white “cap” of the mountain is an impressive scene. By comparison the Colorado Rockies, some taller than Rainier don’t look the same because the elevation at the base is much higher and the timberline is about 12,000 feet. My son and daughter-in-law, intrepid climbers who have climbed all the fourteeners in Colorado multiple times, Alaskan peaks (not Denali yet), an Andean Peak in Peru, and also lots of trekking in New Zealand climbed Rainier a few years ago. They went with a group so they could be roped together in case of a hidden crevasse. That is the main cause of death and injury on the mountain especially for lone climbers. I laughed in wonder when I read that John Muir on his first visit to Rainier decided to climb the mountain and apparently just walked right up. Mother Nature must have watched over him as an ally. The park had built a new visitor center at Paradise since I had visited in the 80s. It is new and impressive with high windows and strong stone clad walls on the sides where the snow piles up in the winter. Paradise is famous for its wildflowers in the meadows, a favorite hike for visitors. However, on our visit the meadows were covered with deep snow. An August visit would be required, at least this year to see the flowers. There are many interesting places to stop along the drive to Paradise. Two we particularly enjoyed were Nickel Creek and the Box Canyon of the Cowlitz River.

Nickel Creek

Box Canyon of the Cowlitz, note sharp sides

Cowlitz River from the road bridge

Beautiful but rugged valley, anyone for a hike to the far point in the center?

Paradise Visitors Center

Paradise Valley, Nat’l Park Service Photo

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