Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Cascades

Mt. Rainier, as well as Mt. St. Helen’s, Mt. Hood, and a bunch of other mountains, are in the Cascades Mountain Range, which runs south from Canada through Washington and Oregon. It may go into California or Idaho too, but I’m not sure.

I erred in my previous post when I mentioned that Mt. Rainier is a dormant volcano. It’s actually an active volcano, and visitors to Mt. Rainier National Park are warned about what to do in case the mountain becomes very active. Basically, they tell you to run away.

I also made another error. In my previous post you saw the photo at the Boeing plant and Mt. Rainier hovering in the background. The next day we drove to a state park just 12 miles from the National Park. We set up camp there and took a walk along Alder Lake, which is also the name of the state park. There was Mt. Rainier in all it’s glory, right there above the lake. My error – I didn’t have my camera with me because I figured I could get a good shot of the mountain the next day. I also forgot that Mt. Rainier is actually visible about 20% of the time. The rest of the time it’s hidden behind fog and clouds. So the next day, when I took my camera to the same spot along the lake, the mountain was gone.

So we drove to the national park to see what we could see. What we saw was dense fog. DSC_0120 Fortunately, there are many viewpoints in the park overlooking waterfalls and rivers. The viewpoints that look out at the mountain weren’t providing a  view of anything. The top third of Mt. Rainier is covered with snow and ice pretty much all year and the water in rivers and waterfalls comes mostly from melting ice and snow. We visited in late July, and due to the fog we drove only as far as Paradise, which is a tourist center part way up the mountain. The primary activity at Paradise is skiing, snow boarding and ice climbing, even in July. The roads are clear at this time of year, but the snow fields and glaciers are quite impressive.


One of the snow fields is right along the edge of the Paradise parking lot. I estimate the snow behind Penny in this picture to be about 10 feet deep. Can you imagine how deep it was in February? We had lunch at the lodge in Paradise, and decided to head back down the mountain. We were originally planning to continue on, but the road is narrow and twisty, and with the fog, didn’t seem to be worth the risk.

Aside from the snow capped mountain, the lower sections of the National Park consists of beautiful virgin DSC_0122forests, so even though we didn’t see the mountain close up, the visit was worthwhile.




Our campground was near a little town called Elbe, and there’s a unique hotel/bar/restaurant in Elbe. DSC_0123

The Hobo Inn celebrates the history of the men and women who used to ride the rails without tickets. But if you want to relive that part of history, you can sleep in a caboose rather than a freight car. The Hobo Inn has a half-dozen vintage cabooses repurposed as motel rooms. DSC_0125 The cabooses don’t go anywhere, but breakfast in the dining car is included in the room rate. We had dinner there, and we strongly recommend the smoked beef ribs. We didn’t try the hobo stew.


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