Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Postcards from Rainier

The prelude to our recent Alaskan cruise was an overnight at Mount Rainier National Park. While I am still going through the many, many pictures of the trip, I wanted to share a few of my initial favorites and some observations.

Welcome to Mount Rainier National Park by Archaeofrog on Flickr

Before I left, I had never considered how much Mount Rainier, as a National Park, is built around the weather, even more so than the mountain or the scenery. The mountain greatly influences the weather, and the weather greatly influences any trip to Rainier. We arrived to the rain, easily visible in my quick shot of the welcome sign, but it graciously abated as we traveled deeper into the park.

Hiking the trails along Mount Rainier by Archaeofrog on Flickr

We were left with the fog. The water continued to drip at times from the trees above, but the fog hung around as we hiked along some of the lower paths. Within the trees, the view was clear and calm, and the muted colors shone in the dimmer light.

Viewpoint down towards the valley and Longmire by Archaeofrog on Flickr

This viewpoint of the surrounding mountains was cloaked in fog (and the briefly returning rain), much like the further along viewpoint of Rainier that offered only clouds and a slight hint of blue in patches.

Road near Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park by Archaeofrog on Flickr

Further into the park, the elevations start to rise along with the road, and we actually found ourselves above the clouds (or were the clouds below us?). This shot highlights the deep blues of the oncoming night echoed by the fog and the trees. It also gives a small sense of the snow that still blanketed the ground, up to ten feet deep in places around Paradise.

Morning at the Paradise Inn by Archaeofrog on Flickr

We spent the night at the Paradise Inn, located more than 5000 feet above sea level (but still 9000 feet below the summit), and when we awoke, the fog had lowered, and we were completely surrounded. We had not had a single glimpse of the summit of the mountain during the first day, but at least we had a vague sense of in which direction it lay. With the initial fog, we could hardly see the cars across the parking lot.

Summit of Mount Rainier as seen from Paradise by Archaeofrog on Flickr

Exactly an hour later, the weather was reformed. The fog lifted, the clouds broke, and for about seven glorious minutes, we were able to see the summit of the mountain. Everyone around us stopped what they were doing and where they were going and stared (and then immediately started photographing). We wouldn’t see the top of Mount Rainier again while we were there.

Snow melting into fog and mist by Archaeofrog on Flickr

As we descended in elevation, the fog followed, clogging the road and the views and lending a very otherworldliness to our surroundings. At this location, I had a difficult time deciding where the snow stopped and the sky began.

Grove of the Patriarchs by Archaeofrog on Flickr
Further down, the fog lessened, though the clouds remained, and we were able to see more of what the park had to offer. This short walk to the aptly-named Grove of the Patriarchs gave us a chance to see and appreciate some of the ancient trees in the park and the many, many variations of green found around the mountain.

Rainier was a deeply mysterious and temporal kind of place. It seemed a shame that we had such a brief time to visit and that the weather seemed determined to interfere with our plans. But on the other hand, the challenged seemed to draw us closer to it too. Mount Rainier, as I learned, is not an easy subject to photograph and one that defied my poster-worthy-photography ambitions. I cannot wait for another chance to try it again.

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