I arrived at the Mount Rainier around 3 on Monday 9/13/2021 and was lucky to get one of the last first come first served sites at Cougar Rock. After setting up camp, which my tent barely fit into. I spent some time reorganizing how I had my tent, car and trunk laid out to make thing more accessible and functional now that I was starting to get familiar with this trip.

It was very cold overnight, it probably got down to 35. Luckily, I had more than enough layers and a friend had given me a new camping blanket before I left. I was glad I had 2 blankets during the chilly night. In the morning I made some coffee to warm myself up and let the temperature rise before heading up to the Paradise area of Mount Rainier. To my surprise after having no phone connectivity at my campsite I had a great cellular and internet connection at the visitor center and took advantage to do some research on my plans for the next couple days and shoot off some emails before embarking on my hike.

I looked at the hiking maps for Paradise and decided to do the Skyline trail loop. As I embarked on the trail there was a quote on the staircase that started my journey by John Muir. It read “..the most luxuriant and the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I ever beheld in all my mountain-top wandering “

The quote was spot on, I now know why they named this area Paradise. It was extravagantly beautiful, just as John Muir described and I feel in love with this place.

The trail started off on a steep paved walkway before it became a dirt and rock trail The way up was steep but offered stunning views off all the surrounding mountains. The day was mostly clear with a small number of clouds passing by the different mountain views. I took a couple breaks along the way to take pictures and met some very friendly people. I am not sure what it was, but people seemed more outgoing here than some of the other trails I had done.  They were all in awe of the views just like I was, and we exchanged time to take pictures of each other.

I ascended 1700 feet up the mountain stopping, often to take in the views. Each time you thought the views could not get better, you climbed more and got different vantage points that were even more grandiose. On my way to the mountain top I noticed a goat that was as white as newly fallen snow just hanging out on a ridge. I stopped for a good amount of time at Panorama Point and Inspiration Point. I couldn’t imagine better names for these areas. Every direction you looked had something to see.  I have some highlights at the bottom of the post but would suggest checking out the full photo albums. It felt so great to be here and it made me very happy. This stop was a great idea.

Chipmunks or something similar were very friendly and not intimidated at all by people and would even climb on top of people and beg for attention (and probably food) at Panorama and Inspiration point. I thought I brought to many layers of clothing when I left my car but was glad I did as I adjusted many times to compensate for the temperature, wind, sun and my own exertion. I went from a tshirt, to 2 additional layers at the peak of the trail.

The weather did change up a bit on my way down and heavier clouds rolled in. During my descent the route contained more trees than the side up and offered views of 2 waterfalls that I could not resist stopping at. I had some very light rain at moments, but barely got wet. When I reached the end of my journey the rain did pick up a bit more but ended very quickly. I hiked a total of 6.6 miles and ascended 1700 feet.

I then drove 15 minutes back to my campsite from the visitor center. Time to grill up some dinner, start planning my hike tomorrow and of course capture my thoughts for you and for my future self. I will be spending one more day in Mount Rainier. I am still not sure of my next destination, I am thinking the Ape Lake lave tubes near Mount St Helen, but I am not sure if ill go straight there on Thursday morning or take a detour. It looks it might rain this weekend, so if anyone has any ideas for indoor activities in SW Washington or NW Oregon please let me know.

This part of trip I like is not knowing what tomorrow will bring. After leaving the Ho Rainforest I have been working without a plan, only knowing I need to be in Portland next week Wednesday early in the morning to grab a flight. I didn’t have a major plan for the first 3 weeks but did have a few destinations with reservations I had to adhere by. The freedom of not having a plan and not knowing where the next days will bring me are very welcome.

TLDR: Paradise is real and can be found at Mount Rainier.

Full Photo Album – https://photos.app.goo.gl/ykz5s99eRgRGi2si6


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  1. The visitors center at Mount St. Helens has a lot going on. There is an IMAX style movie that lets you see the sights even when clouded over. The drive takes a while but is scenic. It’s a possibility for a rainy day.

    There are a lot of wineries in the Yakima valley and along the Columbia Gorge, but that might not be compatible with driving. 😉

    You could check out the state parks around the mouth of the Columbia river. Some contain lighthouses (Cape Disappointment comes to mind) and old military forts (built pre-WWI).

    Astoria, OR has a lot going on for a relatively small town. And if the mouth of the Columbia river isn’t fogged in, Crossing the 5 mile bridge is an experience with a view.

    I’ll let you know if something else comes to mind.

    1. Don’t forget the Goonies house in Astoria! Are they digging/catching long-neck clams on the beaches this time of the year?

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