July 10, 2021
Not really. Paradise is never lost, but I have already used “No Bad Days” as the title for a post. Sure, I would liked to have seen the mountain, but she was having a quiet day to herself. People are exhausting, and they flock to her like moths to a light bulb. What I really wanted was to see the short-lived avalanche lilies and the less profuse glacier lilies. And have a salmon burger at Base Camp Grill.
The forecast was for possible rain early, clearing in the afternoon. I knew I wouldn’t still be there in the afternoon. Wednesday was the only day this week the weather forecast for Paradise was not stellar. But it was the only day I had available for an adventure. When did my life get so dang busy? Okay, not busy, but it only takes one thing that has to be done to prevent an outing. I really wanted to see the lilies.
I don’t leave the house as soon as the espresso kiosk opens because the weather isn’t going to be good anyway, and I want to hang around for lunch in Ashford. I figure I’ll leave at seven, but I’m ready at six-thirty, so I go. The barista asks where I’m off to: “Work?” They always assume that. When I tell her, she says she read five feet of snow melted at Rainier in our two-day record-breaking heat wave last week. That is so not good. The rushing Nisqually River, suddenly full, took out at least one popular trail bridge; though that is the least of the concern. St. Helens, I note from my house, is almost completely bare.
I drive through low clouds and misty rain, but the sun is shining in Ashford. Maybe it will clear early. I’m at the Park entrance just before eight, with only a couple other cars. The sun filters through the trees on the drive up and Herself is playing peek-a-boo over Kautz Creek. Later I’m sorry I didn’t stop for a photo, proof that she was there. She’s gone as I near the place where she appears over the road, but the clouds are clearing over the Tatoosh across the way. It’s going to be okay!.
I reach the top and everything is socked in. The parking lot is about one-third full, the biggest concern for those who arrive late. And I hadn’t even thought to be curious about the Inn being open. After being closed all last season, it is doing business again! I gear up then go inside to welcome her back.
This is not the day for my Skyline Trail, I know it’s still snow covered. I know the lower trails are too at some point. I am not equipped with micro-spikes, so I’ll just walk the paved paths until I run into snow. I head out my favorite first. Favorite because virtually no one uses it. It’s crazy. Everyone heads for Myrtle Falls (I skip it this time) or straight up Alta Vista, the steepest paved trail. I head left toward Dead Horse Creek.
I get farther than I expect before I run into snow. I traverse carefully across the first bit with my poles to at least reach the bare pavement around the hairpin turn, following a young couple in sneakers. I do better than they do, but there it ends. There will be no Deadhorse this day.
I make the turn back down the other side of the creek toward the overflow parking lot to see how far I can go that way, stopping for the first sighting of the yellow glacier lilies I came for.
The younger couple comes back up. They ran into a series of snow fields they couldn’t see the end of. Good enough for me. I turn around and return to the Alta Vista trail. After taking more photos of the avalanche lilies and other early bloomers, including the spectacular Jeffrey’s shooting star by the waterfall that I had missed on the way up.
I meet the couple again. They got to the top of the ridge, and report lots of snow. I go on up. Maybe there will be marmots. But no. They must be back in their holes, eating up the last of the winter stores. There is no sun to bathe in today.
By the time I get back to my car (in the now full parking lot), not only is it not clearing, visibility is much shorter than when I arrived two hours earlier. I change out of my boots and get my book. I visit the gift shop and find, finally, a small Wildflowers of Mount Rainier and the Cascades book, then sit on the Inn’s porch for a bit to see what happens. Nothing changes, and by the time I get to Ashford it will be lunch time. I give up on seeing the mountain—we all need a day now and then—and head back to the sun.
But first, a detour to Reflection Lake, hoping to find beargrass. Yes!
I have never stopped for a photo of the Nisqually River from the bridge. Seems like a good day to do it. There is sun in that direction.
It’s sunny and warm at Base Camp. And the salmon burger is delicious!
On the way home, I stop for a photo of Herself as proof that she does exist. The clouds at her base are evidence that it is still socked in at Paradise.
I want to live in this place until the cows come home. And way beyond.