Thus begins our 7:12 am travel day-assault to Mount Rainier. Dudley is staring at Laura and ready to go in search of a camping spot. Eating will slow us down.
“Yes,” Laura responds calmly. “I need to eat.”
We slow down for a drive-through espresso shop in Cashmere, WA that also happens to have boxed, ready-to-eat oatmeal. Hardly a moment wasted.
A splendid 5 hour drive ensued, and we snagged a terrific site at Cougar Rock Campground. The weather could not have been better during our two days—slight breeze, low 70s, clear skies, and sun. We could see Mount Hood (in Oregon) from our hikes. It’s THAT clear.
Because we are headed out tomorrow, we packed several days into two: We currently have our feet up at the National Park Inn in Longmire, WA as we enjoy a beer and gin and tonic after hiking the iconic Skyline Trail which skirted parts of the base of Mount Rainier, took us through massive sub-alpine fields of magenta monkeyflower, aster, hellebore, purple lupine and—our favorite—Pasqueflower Seedhead, [which looks just like Thing 2 and Thing 1 from Dr. Seuss’ stories] and mountain streams, and got us up-close with the lower 48’s largest glacier. 1700’ elevation climb. It was a glorious hike. Although the snowfall this year at Rainier was the lowest on record, there were several mountaineering groups heading up to the snow to practice their glissading and one group that was heading for the summit. [About 10,000 people attempt to summit every year.]
After we finished the Skyline Trail, and because we were excited, we took another hike, the Pinnacle Peak Saddle trail, for a different view of Mount Rainer. It was steep and exposed, but it was worth it. It has been a full, fabulous day. Later tonight, if the 9 mile hike and gin and tonic allow, Laura will head to the ranger program in camp, as she did last night, when she learned more about mountain goats, picas, and hoary marmots.
If you travel, you know that you meet interesting people along the way. Today was no exception. We met Neil, who is a retired Chevron engineer and lives in Orinda, CA. We shared part of a hike and enjoyed a beer after we all found ourselves at the historic Paradise Inn. He grew up in Jamaica, played cricket in England, was schooled in Canada, and, recently divorced after a long marriage, is traveling a bit. We shared travel stories and, as a person in his early 70s, he had wisdom to impart to us: get out there and enjoy before you can’t. You don’t need as much money as you think you need. Try to enjoy it with people you like and love, but if you can’t, get out there anyway.
We head out tomorrow with someone we both like and love. Maybe we’ll stop for breakfast.