For our final day in Seattle, we saved a biggie (literally): Mt. Rainier. Now, of course we couldn't do the 5-mile hike we'd originally researched and chosen, so like all well-prepared trekkers, we went with Plan B...in lieu of feet, conquer the peak by way of 4 wheels, instead. Thus we set the GPS for what appeared to be the closest Visitor's Center, and rolled out...with some urgency, as we were under cloudy skies that already looked very suspect, as if they were just holding the threat of rain over our heads and waiting to open up at any moment.
We then wound our way for about 2 hours through some wonderfully picturesque countryside--filled with those ubiquitous emerald pines...and precious little else. The thrill of anticipation upon finally entering the National Park was tempered a bit, however, by the swirling fog that now enveloped us at ground level. As we climbed into the higher elevations, the ghostly wisps thickened...until you could barely glimpse the scenery on either side of the road...much less, say, the actual mountain. Sigh...
Don't get me wrong--there was still plenty of natural beauty to gaze upon and admire: rushing rivers, craggy cliffs, icy channels carved into the tops of hulking hills, cascading waterfalls, teal lakes...to name a few of our favorites. We cruised along through the astonishing landscape, pulling over whenever something spectacular caught our eye (often) and drinking in the sights. However, when we reached the spot called Paradise, which was where one is normally supposed to be able to gaze upon Mt. Rainier clearly, in all her glory...we could barely even see the building that houses the Visitor's Center...and everything else was completely obscured.
There was a set of steps leading up into the whiteness to trails beyond; Husband and I, after a quick adults-only consultation, decided we couldn't in good conscience pass up the chance to see if there was anything at all visible beyond the parking lot. However, it was wet and slippery, making it impossible for Riley, so we left the boys in the car and took our own little tour. And let me tell ya....we quickly discovered that we'd opted for a half-mile excursion...STRAIGHT UPHILL. I mean, the kind of walking where you need to lean forward to keep your balance, your thigh and calf muscles burn, and your lungs heave because your altitude is about 5,000 feet. Oh, and did I forget to mention there was SNOW to navigate through? Yeah...it was challenging...but also amusing.
And well worth it--although we never did spy the elusive mountain, we were lucky enough to get up close and personal with some wildlife: a couple of marmots (fuzzy groundhog-looking creatures who were not in the least bit concerned about us tromping by as they munched on grass next to the path) and 2 grouse (slightly more skittish, but they cooperatively held still for a photo). I'm sure it's even more impressive when, you know, Summer actually hits and the fabled wildflowers burst into bloom...but apparently July 5th is too early for that particular phenomenon. Who'da thunk?
Anyway, we thanked our lucky stars once again that we'd been blessed with such stunning vistas from the top of the Space Needle a few nights ago, so at least we did get to enjoy Rainier from afar. And on the whole, we had lovely weather, super-fun activities, bonus time with friends...a very successful WestEnders expedition into the Pacific Northwest. So long, Seattle--thanks for the memories!