Watching the sunrise at Sunrise Point, Mount Rainier National Park

Watching the sunrise at Sunrise Point, Mount Rainier National Park

My niece, who is visiting from Israel, wanted to see some of our country’s national parks, so that was all the excuse I needed to made a day trip from Seattle to Mount Rainier National Park.  We were on the road at 3:00 a.m. so that we could be at Sunrise Point in time for sunrise at 5:22 a.m.  It was worth the early start.  Sunrise, at 6400 feet, is the highest point reachable by car in the park.  Mount Rainier with elevation 14,409 feet, looms majestically and dominates all views at this point.

The cascading Cascade Mountains

The cascading Cascade Mountains

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I simply loved the cascading shades of blue vanishing to white on the most distant peaks of the Cascade Mountains.  It was easy to see why the Cascade Range got its name, but when I read more about it, I was surprised that neither the explorer Vancouver nor Lewis and Clark called these peaks “Cascades.”  The first reference to Cascade Range came in the writings of botanist David Douglas.

Landscape at Sunrise on Mount Rainier

Landscape at Sunrise on Mount Rainier

Wildfowers in the apline meadows at Sunrise on Mount Rainier

Wildfowers in the alpine meadows at Sunrise on Mount Rainier

We didn’t do much exploring on the trails at Sunrise because they were still covered with snow, but the meadows were full of wildflowers.  I will share more photos of the wildflowers in tomorrow’s post.

Melting snowbank

Melting snow bank

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The trails along the Naches Peak loop were also blocked by patches of snow, so my plans to take my niece on this hike were thwarted.  We salvaged the day by indulging instead in a touristy trip up a gondola at Crystal Mountain Resort.  I had never taken the time to do this before, and it was fun.  The views from the summit were stunning.  We could see Mount Adams, Mount Saint Helens, and, of course, Mount Rainier.  Altogether a wonderful day trip.

The gondola at Crystal Mountain Resort

The gondola at Crystal Mountain Resort

First vistas as you exit the gondola at the summit

First vistas as you exit the gondola at the summit

The gondola rode higher than the tree tops!

The gondola rode higher than the tree tops!

View with Mount Adams

View with Mount Adams

Wildlife sighting!  A chipmunk.

Wildlife sighting! A chipmunk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snowshoers on the trail

Snowshoers on the trail

This weekend was the annual Team Survivor Northwest Snowshoe Event at Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascades, and it was my one day to play in the snow this winter.  (Although winter is not yet over, and March can hold some surprises.  My mother always used to say of March, “In like a lamb, out like a lion.”  And this year in Seattle, March 1st was a mild day.  So it is always possible that we might get a snow storm yet this month!)

I, of course, wanted it to be actually snowing, but the temperature was too high.  We were fortunate that the rain held off while we were in the mountains.  (Back in Seattle, it was a very rainy day.)  The light was flat and gray, and the magnificent tall trees along the trail were cloaked in darkness.  The colorful jackets of the cross-country skiers and showshoers along the trail contrasted sharply with the dim, cloudy surroundings.  It was still and quiet though at times we could hear the hum of the distant freeway traffic.

There was something almost gloomy about the still forest in the muted light.  Along parts of the trail, trees were moss-laden or furred with lichen.  I came to play, but this wasn’t a playful landscape on this day.

“Many trees are soulful.  These are trees that are old enough and large enough to shelter us.  These are the ones that draw a stillness in us.”
— Jean Shinoda Bolen, Like a Tree:  How Trees, Women, and Tree People Can Save the Planet

“And there never yet has been a nature writer who, confronted with primitive forest, has not resorted to the vocabulary of architecture.  Indeed, since it has been impossible to visualize or verbalize nature in terms free of cultural association, the woodland interior has been habitually conceived of as a living space, a vaulted chamber . . . curved and bent boughs and branches suggesting arched portals to some grandiose vaulted hall.”
— Simon Schama, Landscape and Memory

Lichen-covered trunks of tall trees along the Cold Creek Trail

Lichen-covered trunks of tall trees along the Cold Creek Trail

Moss-laden trees along the trail

Moss-laden trees along the trail

Piece of fallen moss on snow

Piece of fallen moss on snow

Lichen-covered branches

Lichen-covered branches

Fallen lichen on snow

Fallen lichen on snow

Lichen on a cracked boulder

Lichen on a cracked boulder

My eyes were drawn to the branching patterns on the tall evergreen trees.  They seemed quite fern-like.

Layers of branches in a cascade down the trunk of s tree

Layers of branches in a cascade down the trunk of s tree

Branching patterns

Branching patterns

Branches like ferns

Branches like ferns

Fern revealed under melting snowbank

Fern revealed under melting snowbank

I was startled to see blue — almost a tropical blue — in the shadows of the snow along the trail.  Where did this blue come from?  There was no sunshine to reflect and refract the light on snow.  It was as if the snow held its own glowing lantern.  Miraculous!

Glow of blue shadows on snow

Glow of blue shadows on snow

Pleated snowbank

Pleated snowbank

Something restful about the soft curves of these snowbanks

Something restful about the soft curves of these snowbanks

Slush in a creek

Slush in a creek

Cold Creek Trail at Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascade Mountains

Cold Creek Trail at Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascade Mountains