Hiking Rainier... continued
The road to Mount Rainier provided many spectacular views. The snow-capped peak of Mount Rainier reminded visitors of the chilly temperatures and snow-packed glaciers that go along with being in the high elevation. Even on a relatively pleasant autumn day, climbing up the side of a mountain increased the heart rate, but because of the physical exertion and the breathtaking beauty.
Winter is coming. The frosty mornings and constant haze were sure signs. So too were the actual signs reminding park visitors that tire chains were required once the calendar hit November 1st. Though we arrived before this time, we noticed that the park was gearing up as many roads and are restaurants and lodging options were closed for the season. The restaurant and lodging option known as Paradise Inn was already closed, but the interconnected trails adjacent to it were wide open. It was time to hike!
Before we even hit the trailhead, we saw a number of beautiful birds, many of which didn't stay long enough to identify or photograph. We did get quite close to a grouse of some kind and snapped a Steller's Jay searching for a snack.
The trail system around Paradise Inn was labyrinth-like. With many trails combining at times, intersections rampant throughout, and crisscrossing a regularity, these trails all did have a few things in common. They were paved and they were a slow, uphill battle. What goes up must come down, but there's nothing like taking winding paths to agonizingly ascend a mountain. Though you're continually climbing, you rarely seem to get any higher.
Along the way, we encountered a variety of fellow hikers. Solo hikers. Young couples. Apparent campers. Families. The mountains bring everyone out. One gentlemen from Utah who we encountered was very excited to share his knowledge of the geology of the area and was kind enough to point our Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens in the distance.
A John Muir quote at the start and eventual finish of our adventure said it all. This is "the most luxuriant and the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I ever beheld in all my mountain-top wanderings." Now I by no means have the same bank of experiences as Mr. Muir had, but in this case, I'll take his word for it. It was a long day of hiking and while it tired the body, it rejuvenated the soul.
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