Dani and I met a couple at CrossFit who were traveling nurses. They also happened to be doing their first stay during the worst part of the year here in the NW. They left, but several of us put some pressure on them to return, partially because they’re cool people, partially because we feel like the NW had let them down a little, weather wise. So I get a random message from Eric one day that says Ingrid and him were moving back in July and they wanted to get out and see some things.
Fast forward a month or so and Eric and Ingrid want to visit Mt. Rainier for the first time, do a casual hike and enjoy the weather. So after a quick debate about the ocean by ourselves vs the mountain with friends, we told them we’d be ready whenever they wanted. So the next morning at 6:30am, they’re in out driveway and we’re hopping in the back seat.
The drive out was nice. Some time to catch up on their time out of Washington, struggles finding work as traveling nurses and everything else in between. Before we knew it, we were slowly climbing our way into the park and enjoying the views from inside their car. Dani and I talked about how we take the beauty of the NW for granted at times. Growing up with that mountain out our windows, it’s not quite the marvel it is for someone not familiar with the NW, especially coming from somewhere like the midwest where it’s pretty flat.
Anyways, we get to the parking lot and while we had a couple of ideas about hikes we wanted to do, a ranger made quick work of those plans and gave us a limited number of options and even those weren’t complete hikes. Mostly the snow was either too dangerous in some areas or too thin and hiking would cause damage to the fragile network of flowers and plant life underneath. So we went with the Skyline Trail up to Panorama point.
It was pretty busy in the parking area and we quickly got onto the trail to begin our way up the side of the mountain. There were a ton of guided groups making their way up as well and it was fun tagging along with them to get ourselves a mini narrated guide of the flowers we were seeing, but also wanted a little quicker pace, so we left them behind and made our way to our first stop and took in the views. Eric and Ingrid also got to see their first marmots, which is always fun.
After commenting on how the marmots are likely ground squirrels that were fed too many clif bars, we had a chuckle and got back to the hike and set our sights on Panorama Point. The higher we got on the trail, the more it thinned out, which was nice. You’d be asking a lot to expect a quiet hike at one of the most popular trails in MRNP. I mean, I was doing the hike in a pair of Metcons. I’m sure I looked like I was hiking my first hike ever. Zero Fucks Given, right? I will say, we were all quite jealous of the people hiking up with either skis on their back or even the group of guys who all had digger discs (sleds that are kinda like a bowl, high chance of diggers using this device, hence, digger disc) on their backpacks. We ran into that group at Panorama Point.
We enjoyed the views here and there is a nice sign telling us which each of the peaks were. You could easily see Mount St. Helens, Mt. Adams and even Mt. Hood far off in the distance, along with all the other peaks in the area. The view of the mountain we were physically on from Panorama Point, isn’t actually the best, so we figured we’d go a little further and get as close as humanly possibly without convincing ourselves the Camp Muir was possible, even in a pair of Metcons. If I were there, alone, I probably would have done it, just because I’m an asshole like that or something. I have heard that last couple of miles is nothing like the miles before it, so probably a good thing we didn’t end up with that idea in our heads.
We eventually made it to a nice spot with some large boulders to sit on and minimal people hanging around and just took it all in. We took the required group selfie up top and got back to work on the descent to our vehicles and hopefully some food. Eric even talked me into sliding down some of the snow. He went all in and was cruising so fast. Must be those fancy hiking shorts. I was in cotton shorts, so figured I’d play it safe and go down on my feet, glissading, kinda…. sorta… Either way, Eric was hauling and everyone got a good laugh. Next time, digger discs for sure!
We made quick work of the mostly downhill trail and even ran into a volunteer who gave us some warnings about hiking to Muir this time of year and being ill-prepared, ooops. She also told us about the crevices on the mountains, which we quickly figured out where basically stretch marks for a mountain and we all got some laughs, including the volunteer and we all assumed would use that line in the future. Once back to the parking lot, we all agreed that our early start was probably a good thing, even if it was for other unknown intentions. We scoured the gift shop, wandered through the mini museum and then grabbed a snack in the cafeteria. A hectic scene for sure with hundreds of people everywhere, most speaking other languages and all with their own agendas. We hopped in their car and made a beeline for Scaleburgers in Elbe. As we passed the entrance to the park, it became even more apparent how smart we were to leave at 630 in the morning. There was a line of cars, easily a mile long, waiting to get into the park. Pure insanity in my opinion. Either way, we got into Elbe and enjoyed some burgers at Scaleburgers. Be warned, CASH only and NO ATMs in the entire town. The guy at the gas station said Mineral was the closest ATM. I shouldn’t be surprised, but luckily we had enough cash to get some food in us. We hit the rest stop in town for a bathroom break and then made our way home. A long day in the sun I’m sure our friends won’t so forget, us either for that matter!