We called the national park office before we left the airport, asking their opinion if this trip would be worthwhile. The ranger reported that "the mountain is out today." That is ranger-talk to let us know that it wasn't covered with the familiar clouds that shroud it many days.
The few wispy clouds seemed to hang onto the rounded top of Mount Rainier all day. But we got a clear view of her snowy sides.
There are several entrances into the national park. We entered through the Nisqually entrance, which they keep snow-plowed all winter. From the picture above, you can see that the piles of snow along the road are still quite high even in June. Likewise, the valley around the visitor's center is also still covered.
At the visitor center we took the time to watch the video about the national park. We also enjoy seeing the three-dimensional maps that give us a birds-eye view of this giant mountain and the peaks around it that are dwarfed in comparison.
We took some pictures of these oft-neglected peaks that surround the 14,410-foot Mount Rainier. On any other day, these 6,000-foot snowy mountains would be the stars.
But for now, we are focused on the fifth tallest mountain in the continental United States. The visitor center told us that the best viewing point was down the Nisqually Vista trail, so we headed that direction to get a closer look.
Even though it looks cold outside, it's really in the low 70's and sunny. It seems crazy to be wearing our summer wardrobe when there is so much snow on the ground.
Our trail would take us 1.5 miles through the snow with great views straight ahead of us.
Since the trail is covered, we are following the orange and black poles to lead us to the best viewpoint.
The other neat part of this Mount Rainier experience was that we had the entire trail to ourselves. Most people were content to see it from the visitor center, but we liked our snowy trail so much more. After our hike two days ago, we are experienced snow hikers.
We finally made it to the opening in the trees, where we could see the face of Mount Rainier up close and personal.
There are 25 glaciers on this mountain, and one of them is more than four square miles in size. Glaciers are formed when more snow falls in the winter than melts in the summer. The added weight as snow accumulates compresses the snow into glacial ice.
We learned some things as we stood face-to-face with this giant mountain covered in glaciers. First of all, we were surprised to see how blue the glacial ice is. It's hard to catch in a picture, but our eyes could see that much of the ice was a beautiful light blue.
Because we got this view completely to ourselves, far from the noise of the national park crowds, we could hear the mountain. That seems like a funny thing to say. But we have never stood in front of the face of such a giant mountain in such solitude. We could hear the grinding and groaning as the glacial ice moves against the side of the stone mountain. What a wonderful blessing to hear such a thing! We have totally wandered into another of God's wonders this day!
It was a hard thing to do, but we finally pulled ourselves away from our close-up time with Mount Rainier. It looks like there are trails that will take a hiker even closer when the snow melts, but we enjoyed our uncrowded hike today.
We also enjoyed the drive through the national park. The snow-covered peaks were lovely, and the road brought us up to eye level with many of the mountains around us.
We drove to Reflection Lake, which must be beautiful when the ice melts and reflects the majesty of Mount Rainier in its waters. Today, we got a glimpse of the blue-colored water of the lake as it is beginning to thaw on these warm days.
Just for the record, the people walking out on the snow over the lake is not us. We thought this was a very risky place to be on such a warm day.
The snow melt from all the abundant winter snow is fueling powerful waterfalls throughout the park. This is a shot of Christine Fall, with Mark standing on the bridge that is framing it.
With our trip to the airport this morning and the long drive to get to the park, the sun was already getting low in the sky by the time we were leaving Mount Rainier National Park. We could see many layers of the blue mountains of the Cascades in the distance.
We are just touching a few of the Cascade Mountains on this trip. So it looks like we will just have to come back another time to see this beautiful area again!