Mt. Rainier, Washington
The hostel I had stayed in was nice, but I didn’t really want to return. It was now 3p.m. and I set up shop at Gypsy coffee, snacking on a grilled cheese and forming a plan. Cassie’s mom had gotten back to me, gracefully welcoming me to stay anytime and we worked out that tomorrow evening I would carpool with Cassie’s sister, Skylar, from Tacoma down to Camas, just east of Vancouver, Washington. With this remaining day, I decided to explore Mt. Rainier and maybe even Mt. St. Helens if I had time. At some point on the drive either the poppies in my buckled-up passenger bouquet got to me or I was just actually tired – so I pulled over and took an hour nap. By the time I got to a campsite just below Mt. Rainier within the national park, the temperature had cooled significantly and chilled rain began pelting my sides. I quickly set up my tent amidst the hazy fog and prayed that I could end up more dry than the last time I had camped in a storm. The campground wanted exactly twelve dollars in cash, deposited in a tiny envelope onsite. I only had a twenty, so I went searching for change and found an Inn and Restaurant within the park down the road. After getting my change, the warmth of the lodge was too enticing and with permission I sat in a waiting chair for a while, preparing myself for the night ahead. The plain building was spiffed up in an unsuccessful attempt to make it more like one of those traditional hunting lodges. Compared to my poor tent in the rain, however, it was like a mansion in Beverly Hills. A poised wooden bear carving sat beside me, staring at the restaurants’ advertisement for rib eye steak and lobster tail risotto. Beyond the food (because clearly it just sounds fancy and I would never actually eat it) just the simple fact that you could eat, sleep, and relax all without leaving this building flabbergasted me. As I write this, I realize how incredibly crazy I sound – maybe I should just stay in the woods.
The next day I slept in a tad, not wanting to remove myself from the warmth and comfort of my sleeping bag. At around 10 I finally came to life and quickly packed all my belongings back into their tiny sack and headed out. I aimed for the visitor center about 15 miles up the road where some sort of Paradise trail was supposed to be a comfortable hike and full of beautiful wildflowers this time of year. The mountain was still shrouded in fog and as I began to climb I noticed scatterings of snow on the ground. Hmm, that’s strange. It’s the middle of June. As I climbed higher, admiring waterfalls, evergreen trees, and twisted roads, more and more snow began to accumulate. By the time I got to the visitor’s center, at least ten feet of snow surrounded the complex. This wasn’t snow just pushed up into barricades by a careless snowplow, this snow looked like it had been cut by a knife and dished out of the pie pan, revealing clean cut rows of snow resembling the layers of sedimentary rock. I got my national parks passport stamped, watched the half hour long documentary on the glaciers, unique weather patterns, temperate rainforest, and threat of lahars (huge water rapids with the consistency of liquid cement that completely alter a landscape) that surrounds the mountain. I talked with one of the rangers, asking where to hike. Apparently they received 120% more snow this year than their average and have no idea when any of this may become clear again. She directed me below the snow line and suggested a few trails that she greatly enjoyed which featured some nice old growth forest. I took one of these, delighting in the simple act of walking. I returned to my car, and, after a minor scare of losing my wallet but quickly regaining it, I headed out to Tacoma to meet up with Skylar.
About halfway there I began to get hungry so I stopped at the historic elbe scenic railroad dining car, just as the rest of the train was pulling out of the station. To my chagrin they no longer served breakfast and would only take cash, so, I used my remaining eight dollars on homemade Mt. Rainier-berry (I think it’s actually blackberry) shortcake topped with an exorbitant amount of whipped cream and sprinkles. Thoroughly sugared out, I hit the road once again.
The ride with Skylar was very pleasant and her mom even more welcoming. We ate dinner, watched a terrible trying-to-be-horror film of Little Red Riding Hood and I crashed peacefully in Cassie’s soft bed.