Mt. Rainier National Park

September 3, 2010

Roadside Geology of Washington says this about Mt. Rainier:

Mount Rainier, 14,410 feet almost directly from sea level, is one of those astounding mountains that makes you crane your head back to see its summit. Its perpetually white peak, clad in big glaciers, 26 of them, looms over the landscape of much of western Washington. No one can live within Rainier's domain without feeling the brooding presence of that emphatic punctuation mark on the skyline.

But Mt. Rainier National Park features more than just a gorgeous mountain; it is also home to several brilliant glaciers. Although glaciation is evident throughout the Cascades region, Mt. Rainier is the most glaciated peak in the continental US.1 At Mt. Rainier, you can see several glaciers up close. You cannot, unfortunately walk out on them, at least not during the summertime. I was told by the ranger that glaciers are dynamic, continuously moving, perpetually melting, unpredictable features. One of the interpretive signs says that glaciers move several feet per day. They would be very dangerous to walk on.

We set up camp in the dark, so didn't see until morning just how nice (and large!) our campsite was.

This babbling brook, right behind the site, made nice sounds for our sleeping. At only 2,000 ft (610 m) of elevation, it wasn't particularly cold. This was the first time on this trip I was able to sleep comfortably in camp.

We spent most of our time in the Paradise area, south of the mountain.

The majestic mountain itself.

The model of the mountain in the Visitor Center. Photo by Eric.

The Visitor Center also had a kind of scale model of the Cascade Peaks, with disks to represent the mountains, showing their relative distances.

Here is the disk representing Mt. Lassen.

Here are the disks representing Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams, so you could see how close they are to each other.

The steps at the Visitor Center have a quote from John Muir. I didn't know he'd made it this far north.

We walked the Nisqually Vista Loop to see the Nisqually Glacier.

This is the lower part of the same glacier. This thing is actually a piece of ice; it's just picked up a lot of mud. You New Englanders should be quite familiar with this phenomenon.

An unidentified but fascinating mountain feature.

A waterfall on the mountainside.

This is an example of a glacial moraine, marking the edge of a former glacier.

This peak is another great example of a glacial formation.

That formation is part of this ridge. I asked the ranger if the ridge was part of the edge of a crater left over from a prior, larger, volcano, but he said it was formed by tectonic uplift.

A volunteer at the Visitor Center told me that the wildflower season in Rainier typically peaks in late July or early August, but that it was late this year due to the unusual weather. There were still plenty of wildflowers for us to see. She gave me a wonderful wildflower identification brochure.

Scarlet (formerly called "Indian") Paintbrush (the orange), Pearly Everlasting (the white) and Cascade Aster (the purple). We often see the Paintbrush in the Bay Area.

Mountain Bog Gentian. Photo by Eric.

I believe this is Lewis Monkeyflower.

I'm fairly sure this is Broadleaf Arnica.

A Magenta Paintbrush (which we do not see in California), with some Broadleaf Lupine (the purple) and (I think) Sitka Mountain Ash (the white).

A perfect bud.

We also saw a puddle full of tadpoles!

We mailed some postcards through this mail bear at the lodge. Photo by Eric.

We wanted to see the other side of the mountain, from the Sunrise area, but ran out of time. We did take a picture from an overlook.


Distance driven: 154 mi (248 km)

Caches found: 2


Distance driven: 1,466 mi (2,359 km)

Caches found: 16

1US National Park Service

On to British Columbia.

Last updated: 09/03/2010 by Eric and Beth Zuckerman