The most luxuriant and the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I ever beheld in all my mountain-top wanderings…
– John Muir –
When I drove through the entrance of Mt. Rainier National Park for the first time, I wasn’t entirely sure what was in store. Though I had thoughts of pursuing Eagle Peak, I wanted to see what the rangers thought. The sky was ominous, and clouds whirled like ghastly smoke in the distance. I wanted to see Rainier, and feel Rainier. I’ve seen the mountain at a distance from Olympia on clear days, but I wanted to get up close and personal.
I didn’t know it’d be so easy to fall in love with a mountain. This majestic place had my jaw dropping almost instantaneously. How lucky we are to have access to such beauty!
After pulling through the gates of the park, I followed signs toward Paradise because I aimed to see the mountain casting its shadow upon Reflection Lakes (this never happened, hah! More on that later…). When I came around a bend in the road, there it stood. Mount Rainier made a jaw-dropping appearance in my windshield, and I literally lost my breath. I continued meandering along the road, peering back in my windshield to catch another glimpse before the glorious peak before it was again in front of me. I couldn’t stop looking back at it, and I felt jittery with excitement.
En route to Paradise, I saw a sign for Narada Falls and decided to pull over and take a look! I walked past the creek that fed into the falls and peered below.
The 0.2 mile walk down to the falls was short, but woahwee was it rewarding! I put my daypack on and descended to the base of the falls, with intent to also visit falls further along the trail.
I decided to go for a bit of a trail run towards Christine Falls and Carter Falls, each of which I descended beyond the barrier to get a closer look. There was a concerned older woman I consistently bumped into who kept caught me as I took the risky path to the rocky edge of the falls every time.
With a few miles on the Wonderland Trail already covered, I still had Reflection Lakes on my mind, but needed to find the ranger station. I would have done the 5-mile hike to Reflection Lakes from Narada Falls, but I knew you could drive to the lakes and wanted to get in a hike for views earned by foot. Once I arrived at Paradise Visitor Center, I consulted with a ranger to see if there were any other hikes worth doing on this August day. I was highly recommended the Skyline Trail, which I was told would offer me incredible views at Panorama Point if it stayed as clear as it’s been all day. Once I mentally committed to doing another hike, I had an “oh shit” moment. I had told my friend I’d meet them for drinks in Olympia, Washington in the evening, but I now did not foresee arriving back in my neck of the woods ’til much too late! Cell phone service and WiFi was unavailable (something I am a fan of in the wild), so I resorted to using a pay phone for the first time in who knows how long. The mere act of using a pay phone felt incredibly nostalgic, as I thought back to 7th grade lunchtime phone calls home to let my mom know what clubs I’d be staying after school for. I dunked a few quarters into the pay phone, left a message for my friend, and continued wandering the majestic grounds of Mount Rainier…
Onward to Panorama Point! I vocalized my thanks for Mount Rainier revealing its beauty, and thanked the clouds for staying clear so I could see afar from the top! I stayed to the left on the ascent along Deadhorse Creek Trail toward Skyline Trail, unsure what exactly lay ahead.
I couldn’t have possibly imagined such beauty! Are you ready for it? See how I fell in love with Mount Rainier National Park…