Mt. Rainier

November 18, 2020 at 5:00 am (National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Seattle) (, )

Mt. Rainier and Reflection Lake

I came to Tacoma to get married when I was 20 years old. I left 18 years later when the marriage ended. But while I lived there, Mt. Rainier (Tahoma, to the Native peoples, which meant The Mountain That Was God) was a common hangout. We hiked and backpacked there, and when I was 35 I backpacked the Wonderland Trail solo. (Read about those adventures starting here.)

It’s almost 30 years to the day and I’m back at this iconic Cascade volcano, and it feels so different. I’ve seen so much, done so much, felt the roller coaster highs and lows of six-plus decades, and now I seem to be looking at this place with an emotional distance. It’s almost as if I’m watching it on a screen or looking in a book at the photographs I took decades ago.

It was my 65th birthday. I stayed in Packwood but my birthday present would come two days later when I joined my son and his family at a camping trip in Winthrop, Washington. COVID has made visits problematic, but we have taken the proper precautions from the beginning of the pandemic and limit our contacts in public places. I last saw them at Christmas.

Naches Peak Loop Trail

One fairly moderate trail I wanted to tackle in the park was Naches Peak Loop, which had been a favorite of mine during the late summer wildflower bloom. It was a few weeks past peak bloom, but still lovely.

This was the best view I got of the mountain all day, however. Clouds swirled around it, always blocking the view.

Fog and bright overcast light is highly desirable for photography, and that was the upside.

It was not an easy trail for me. It started at about one mile of elevation, and had only about 600 feet of gain. But my knees weren’t happy with that, and they were swollen for a week afterward. But I pressed on.

Huckleberries

I was pleased to see there were plenty of ripe huckleberries along the trail, which most people were unaware of. There is a new breed of folk in the Puget Sound region now, thanks to the tech industry. The trails are much more crowded, the gear more expensive, the silence less so. For many, the hike is the goal, as is the remarkable view of Mt. Rainier, but not so many look closely as they pass by. Thus, I had plenty of huckleberries to myself.

Dewey Lake

It was at this spot, overlooking Dewey Lake, that I thought of a backpack trip I made with a friend once. We got a backcountry permit and camped at Dewey Lake below. In the light of the full moon, we hiked back up and I took pictures of the moonglow on the mountain. It was a magical night, and a special trip with a special friend. I’m sorry we didn’t stay in touch.

Gray Jay

The gray jays, also known as camp robbers, caught on a long time ago that certain areas are natural lunch spots. So when they see people sitting, or hear the crinkle of a trail bar wrapping, they drop down from the trees expecting their share. Of course, I know better than to feed them, but the allure is too great. At least I made sure they got some healthy nut pieces.

The next day I was on the road when the first light touched the glaciers. Not a cloud was in sight.

Dawn

I don’t know when I’ll return, but my son has instructions to scatter some of my ashes at Mt. Rainier when the time comes. It was a very special place for me at one time. It is special for my son as well, and for his family. His dad and I carried him to Spray Park and camped when he was 7 months old. He and his wife did the Wonderland Trail 10 years ago. It’s a special day in the Puget Sound region when “the mountain is out.”

It always will be The Mountain That Was God.

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre
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Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com
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