After we finished hiking the Olympic Coast of Washington, we had a few days left to see more of Washington state before we had to catch the plane for home. We had decided to leave an open plan/schedule after the hike as the Pacific Northwest has unpredictable weather. After much discussion and deliberation, we headed Southeast to Mount Rainier National Park. It was a 235 mile/ 4 and 1/2 hour drive from Forks, Washington where we’d spent the previous night.
On the way, as is often the case, I got hungry. The route took us mostly on a 2 lane highway through rural, remote farm towns. There was not an abundance of roadside dining along this route, but after hearing me complain about the hunger for awhile, Shannon pulled into the only place we’d seen with anything resembling food. It was a roadside bar called Walt’s Place.
Due to it being during the initial phases of pandemic lockdown, the dining options were slim, but we were able to order a couple of hot dogs, bags of potato chips, and some Rainier beer from the bar and take them to an outdoor patio in back. As we were eating, Shannon looked up and said, “ we’ll look at that!”
Side note- Shannon has been brewing beer since college. He and his buddies “Mcguyver’d” a brewing station back in the late 80’s and made cheap beer out of corn flakes and Mountain Dew. Once he graduated, he began improving and perfecting his craft, and expanding his knowledge and skill. Long story short, he has won some awards. One in particular for a coffee stout. During the long days of pandemic off time he’d been brewing again. So imagine his surprise and delight to come upon this hops growing wild beside a roadside bar. We picked some and took it home on the airplane and brewed it into something awesome.
About an hour later, we arrived at Rainier.
Mount Rainier itself is a spectacular sight. At 14,410 feet above sea level, and an active volcano, it is the most glaciated peak in the contiguous US. Once you catch sight of it from the road, you can’t take your eyes off of it. You want to get as close to it as you possibly can. As we’d entered the park from the South, and as it was late afternoon, we wanted a short hike as close as we could get to the peak.
We headed for the Paradise area trails, as they were reasonable lengths for late in the afternoon with only a couple of hours until sunset. We hiked a couple miles ( strait up) the skyline trail to Panorama point, not having any idea what to expect. The trail was absolutely gorgeous, as was every single square inch of scenery along the way.
When we got about halfway up, we came to a snow-covered hill with divots where people had been sliding down. This was in late August, the day before Shannon’s birthday, so we celebrated with a few trips down the slippery slope
Also, along the route, we saw a family of mountain goats
The higher we climbed, the better it got. Once we arrived at Panorama point, it was close to sundown. Shannon looked at where the sun was falling, and pointed out that if we stuck around for a little while that there was a pretty good chance we’d get to see yet another spectacular sunset. So that’s what we did. We poked around in this beautiful location, where we could see the hikers up at Camp Muir off in the far distance, and watched a beautiful waterfall for well over an hour.
The views of the mountains that surrounded us with the setting sun was absolutely incredible. We couldn’t have planned it any better if we’d tried.
Once the sun disappeared, and the surrounding light faded, we made our way to the nearby town of Packwood. By the time we got there, around 8pm, the entire town was shut down and there wasn’t a single solitary restaurant open. We eventually settled on a dinner of deli sandwiches, chips and sodas from the gas station convenience store. Also, as it’s a very small town, we had a bit of trouble finding a hotel vacancy. The very last place we called, The Hotel Packwood had one remaining room to offer us and we snatched it up.
I thought it was totally adorable and quaint. Our room was tiny, and housed a wrought iron bed with an old fashioned handmade quilt. Shannon said he felt like he was visiting his Grandmother’s house – take that as you will.
The next morning was Shannon’s birthday and he really wanted to spend part of it at Rainier, and part of it exploring Seattle. We wanted to see Reflection Lake and maybe find a short hike.
On the way out of Mount Rainier National Park, we stopped at the Rainier Base Camp Bar and Grill for a Birthday Beer and bought a Growler of Rainier because obviously we wanted the souvenir Growler for when we went home to brew our own beer with the hops from Walt’s place.
Mount Rainier is spectacular, and there’s lots more to see and do than we managed to cover in the less than 24 hour timespan we had. Much more about it here at nps.gov. From here, we went to Seattle and I’ll tell you more about that next!