Yes, the snow word is being used here, and in abundance! Here it is, the end of June, and the snow is still piled high at Paradise, Mt Rainier National Park. In all the years I’ve lived here in Washington, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. And if the not so warm weather days we’ve been experiencing for the most part are any indication of when the snow will be gone from the meadows, I say that the park is in for a long melting season. The flowers will certainly be confused as to what time of year it is! Depending on which part of the park you may be traveling in, you most likely will see a mix of both early and late summer blooms during the next few months. I just drove the length of the park over this past weekend and literally went through a few different season areas—or so it seemed!
I entered the park through the Stevens Canyon Entrance. But before I did that, I was distracted by a myriad of beautiful roadside waterfalls along Cayuse Pass: some fine spray, some spouting cascades of water. And everytime I passed over a creek bridge, I pulled over to view the rushing waters below along with more waterfalls. What a spectacular drive! It was one of those rare, somewhat warm, blue sky days we’ve had this month and I wanted to see what was going on in and around the park. After passing through the gate entrance at Stevens Canyon, one drives over the Ohanapecosh River bridge. There is a small parking area just past the bridge on the right side. I lucked out and found one of the last parking spots available. I walked the short distance to the river bridge to get a look at the fast flowing river. It was a beautiful, clear, teal blue color.
After getting my fill of eye-candy staring at these pristine waters, I walked back to the lot where I had parked my car. There is a popular hiking trail located right there called the Grove of the Patriarchs. The relatively short trail will take you to an island of isolated old-growth forest giants of Western Cedar and Douglas Fir trees that have withstood the test of time. But to get to it, one must cross a foot suspension bridge crossing the Ohanapecosh River. One person at a time is allowed on the foot bridge. It’s a litte bouncey, but there are thick, wire cables to hold on to for balance if needed.
Once across the bridge, within a short hiking distance, you will enter the grove of the old giants. The grounds encircling the grove are protected with a wooden boardwalk. One can’t help but stand and marvel at the huge and sometimes grotesque looking trunks of these old giants. I had the additional pleasure of hearing an owl hooting in the forest.
I mentioned earlier that depending on what part of the park you are traveling through, you’ll experience a few different season areas right now. Well, this was one of them. Lots of green here as you travel through the lower elevations of the park. Pretty warm too, if the weather calls for warm temps. As I drove on through the park a bit higher in altitude, I noticed some very colorful wildflowers, including bright orange and pink. It was nice to see that the flowers got a jump start in this particular part of the park. And then the sky started to turn grey with a really washed out look to it. So much for fine photography! I was entering the snow fields as well. The cool air actually felt good after that physically demanding hike a few miles back. I was coming up to the Reflection Lakes and was wondering how they looked. Wouldn’t you know. The lakes were still buried under snow and ice! Wow! And the snow banks were really high too. Shortly ahead, the road ends at the main road leading up to Paradise from the Nisqually Entrance of the park.
The parking areas at Paradise were very crowded as expected. This area is a main highlight of the park with its visitor center and park lodge. Snow banks were at least 10 feet tall still, albeit a little dirty looking in some spots. As you can see from the very first picture, the children were loving it and having a blast in the snow. All the hub-bub must have gotten the attention of some park critters. A Cascade Fox got a bit curious and came into the parking area. A baby bear was seen as well near the road. I didn’t get to spot the bear, but I was able to watch the fox for a few minutes before he disappeared back into the snow bank area again. And so ended my long and most enjoyable day in the ever changing, dynamic Mt Rainier National Park. I never know what awaits me when I visit her.