PNW Trip Continued: Mt Rainier and Back to Seattle
We decided that we could not just be boring on our last day of the PNW adventure of 2014. A friend from Seattle was bringing her parents up to Mt Rainier to see what could be seen in the early spring. Being May 2nd, I think it was only the second day you weren't required to have snow chains with you when you went up the mountain. This should have been our clue to know that there were not going to be any wildflowers, but we let our local guide make the decision to still try to drive up to Paradise. The easiest and most direct route to Mt Rainier from Seattle is to go up Paradise, so it tends to be the most popular. Supposedly, in the summer and fall the line to get into the park can get very long and then you are in hoards of traffic all the way up to the parking lot. At first we were just enjoying the moss and the giant trees, and the beautiful outdoors until we started hitting snow, then there was more snow, then we asked ourselves "is this the height of the real snow or what was pushed back by the plows?" Then we got to Paradise and realized we had zero clue what we were doing on the mountain that day. I have never in my life seen this much snow, or even photos of this much snow!
Ok- so there were signs that said - danger avalanches, and we got a safety notification about getting stuck in the snow when we entered the park, but we kept driving. We drove from pretty spring right up to dead of freaking winter. Ok, that's an exaggeration as well, the snow was melting, you could hear the streams underneath the banks of snow, making it quite dangerous to climb on top of the snow if there is a cavernous river underneath.
So despite the overly dramatic difference between what we expected to see and the reality of May on a mountain, we had a great time exploring the different pit stops on the road up to the Paradise parking lot. There were waterfalls, lookouts, roads closed for rocks falling (which we ignored and then saw the rocks -- and turned around). The views were incredible, the people fun and the snow caps were a great way of enjoying what was left of winter without the hassle of actually experiencing more snow.
Some fun things to note about Mt. Rainier which we learned once we got to the snowy top of the mountain.
ONE: Mt. Rainier accumulates the most snowiest places in the world, let alone the US. The average snowfall is just under 700 inches per year. They also used to hold the world record for most snowfall in one year in 1971-1972 which was 1,122 inches or 93.5 FEET of snow!
TWO: One of the world's most MASSIVE volcanos. While Hood was the most recently active in the US, Rainier is bigger in size.
THREE: There are 25 major Glaciers there, that make up the largest collection of permanent ice in the lower 48. This area makes up almost 35 square miles.
FOUR: Even though Mt Rainier remains to be the largest topographical mountain in the US because it's a volcano the summit height is shrinking.
FIVE: Mt Rainier remains to be one of the most dangerous volcanos in the world today, and is on the Decade list of volcanos that are kept at close eye by an international reproach group because of the impact it would create on local people living nearby and communities that would be wiped out by an eruption. The only other volcano in the US that is on this list is in Hawaii.
Facts from Wikepedia and http://www.nps.gov/mora/faqs.htm
What comes next I apologize for: GIANT PHOTO COLLAGE - the place was just so beautiful I couldn't cut out any of the amazing photos from this post. SORRY!
Despite the snow on the top of Paradise, we found some trails that brought us down to the river bed, over a kick-ass wooden bridge with great views of the summit, and down into a wooded patch that let us feel like we had explored a bit of the area. The light was incredible, and the difference in the mounds of snow and the moss-laden jungle of the PNW juxtaposed to the rock-bed and bleached "driftwood" bridge was a sight to behold. TripAdvisor had told us it would be a life-changing experience, which I sadly surmise it was not, but a glorious exploration of a whole different sort of nature than here in New England. A must-see even in May for anyone traveling to the Seattle or Portland area.
We then headed back to Seattle and enjoyed some exploring of some bars for happy hour near our Hotel downtown. This time we headed first to LIST in Belltown which was small, but had good "small plates" for happy hour which were half off. We had roasted broccoli, a salad and some truffle gnocchi and some discounted drinks as well. So well priced for downtown and including truffles in your meal. This would NOT be happening in Providence.
Our next stop for happy hour was at the CLEVER BOTTLE for one reason - we needed some cheese and we saw that they had a good cocktail list, a happy hour that extended longer than most in the area, as well as BEECHER's MAC AND CHEESE on the menu. We had seen the original store, but realized we never tasted Oprah's favorite mac and cheese before we left we needed a try. Life changing mac and cheese ... not so much, but really yummy and gooey and in a nice baked pan of its own so you get the crusty burt bits of cheese (my fav). We also had the cheese plate that had beecher's on it as well including some really really tasty herbed cheese curds, which might have been my favorite cheese on the whole trip.
We ended the night meeting our Seattle friend at a bar right where she lives in downtown at the Olive8 Hyatt bar URBANE. We grabbed a nightcap with her and headed off to the hotel to pack up our suitcases and get ready for the flight home. Our cheese adventure didn't end until the next day, where we found a Beecher's cheese in the airport and got ourselves a grilled cheese and tomato soup for a nice warm lunch on a slightly chilly Seattle day.