Washington: Day 3

I headed out for Mt. Rainier right after calling to wish my sister a happy birthday.  I was driving over the Cascades today to Yakima, and wanted to take my time and enjoy the trip.  The scenery was spectacular as I drove through a long farm-strewn valley surrounded by huge mountain peaks, with occasional glimpses of Mt. Rainier in the background.  I paused at least once to photograph a field filled with yellow flowers with several horses grazing amidst them.  Lovely!  I also passed through the Memorial Weekend Fair in the tiny town of Packwood.  It was packed with people and salesman and food vendors.  A great time was being had by all, but I had other plans for the day, and didn’t stop. 

I entered the National Park and headed up to the turn-off for Paradise, my goal for the day.  And was stopped by a fence across the road.  A ranger stationed by the road block told me that a huge avalanche had buried the road further up, and the road would not be clear until August!  Can you believe it would take so long?  Wow!  Apparently, it was a very hard winter on Mt. Rainier.  So, with Paradise Lost to me – at least on this trip – I turned my attention elsewhere.

I pulled into a parking lot and followed the next item on my agenda – a hike to the Grove of the Patriarchs.  This was a lovely hike following the river to an old-grove of 500 to 1000 year old Douglas Firs.  It was mostly snow-covered still, and I reveled in hiking through snow in 70 plus degree weather.  Very cool. 

The path veered down to the river, and to a narrow hanging bridge with a sign stating that only one person could cross at a time.  It looked sturdy to me, but I obediently fell into line behind another family, and was glad I did.  The bridge rocked and swayed under my feet, always moving in a direction I had not anticipated, which made walking tricky.   Then I was onto a snow-covered island among giant trees.  And within moments, the nice boardwalk path splintered and disappeared under the weight of a fallen Patriarch.  Now I could see just how hard the winter had been on Mt. Rainier.  There were fallen trees and fallen branches everywhere, blocking the path in several places.  Pine cones and pine needles blanketed the snow-covered pathways. 


In a few places, the warm temperatures had triumphed and you could see the wooden walkway.  In others, I had to thread my way through fallen branches, ducking under the taller and vaulting over the low-lying specimens.  Still, it was worth all the work to find myself standing below twin 1000 year old Douglas Firs, which were – as a fellow hiker reminded me – Nearly 500 years old when Columbus sailed the ocean blue. 

Following my trip to the Grove, I drove up and over the pass through towering snow banks.  I paused a few times to climb 20 foot drifts and take pictures of the amazing views at the top of the mountain.  Then I drove down the eastern slope, taking note of the dramatic change in the scenery as I moved into the rain shadow of the Cascades.  I stopped for some R&R at Bumping Lake, enjoying the sunlight sparkling on the water and the view of the snow-capped mountains surrounding it.  Then I drove through a river valley filled with rocky canyons and into the rolling mountains and sage-brush of the desert lands leading into Yakima.  The colors and shapes of the high-desert hills were amazing, and I smiled to see all the sage brush dotting the landscape.  I had reached the Wild West of Louis L’Amour fame.  Yeehaw! 

Tomorrow, I head south to Oregon and the John Day Fossil Beds. 

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