Since Lauren moved to Seattle, she’s been dying to get out to Mt. Rainier National Park. Being best friends, she naturally bugged me to go with her (not that I was complaining). We set a date, and that was the extent of our planning, waiting to the night before to debate a time to leave. I offered up 6 am or 7 am, to which she swiftly chose 7 am. Lo and behold, we both overslept and that got pushed back to a comfortable 7:30 am departure time.
Seattle is probably the closest major city to Mt. Rainier, but it’s still a solid 2 hour drive. Lauren wanted to fill up the car before we the small, remote mountain towns whose gas is usually way more expensive than the surrounding areas. 45 minutes from the mountain, we pulled off at an exit and found a reasonable gas station. Well we jumped the gun. Thinking that this was the only station for miles, we went for whatever we saw first. As we drove, we realized there were plenty, with a far better price, about 40 cents cheaper than what Lauren had paid for. We MARVELED at how many gas stations were on the way. Also, this long ass drive was taking longer because I had put in Paradise, the SOUTH side of Mt. Rainier, and there was a growing line to get into the park.
Ya girls made it into the park and we followed the winding roads to the Paradise lodge and swiftly passed it when we saw the tour busses and full parking lot. No crowds for us today. Honing in on our rudimentary map (and let’s be real, map reading skills) we haphazardly chose a trail and went for it. Pinnacle Peak it was!
Cooped up in the car that whole morning, we were rearing to go. I was SO eager that I forgot to grab my SD card for my camera, so all these beauties are classic iPhone photography. Thanks apple!
Shoes tied, backpacks on, we started up. Then ten feet later, both realized that we had to pee and scouted a spot off the trail and far enough from the parking lot. Solid start.
It was steeper than I think we were anticipating, although all hikes are really, but given that this one was a shorter hike, we both shook our heads to the upward pursuit. The trek wasn’t so bad; the steep trail was mainly in the wooded area where we also spotted a marmot friend. From the forest, the trail opened up to the rocky hillside where on SUPER DUPER clear days, Mt. Rainier looms over you in all her glory.
On the switchbacks, we managed to catch glimpses of the mountain poking out behind clouds ever so briefly. The elevation gain was finally over, and we emerged to the edge of the “official trail” which was a valley with fog spilling in. Our trail spidered out into two mini routes: to our right the trail descended down and continued with stark incline - yeah nope; we opted for the left which was a scramble with Lauren leading the way up the craggy rocks.
The top wasn’t as ideal as we had hoped, but we managed to find a perch to enjoy the snacks we had brought: hello charcuterie! On my way out the door, I discovered that I literally had no snacks other than some cold cuts and cheese and the best crackers in the world. Snatch ‘em at your local Fred Meyer or buy them online because they are bombbbb.
At this point, the clouds had dissipated and we enjoyed our lunch with a view. Eventually, Mt. Adams emerged in the distance, but for fleeting moments between the fast moving fog.
Our little nook proved to be the perfect spot for lunch, but that was about it, because going down sucked. We weaved our way down sliding on our buts and avoiding ants. We reached the trailhead in record time and sipped on a crowler (yes, can-growler) I had also brought along (yes, bring me along on your hikes and I’ll pack the food & drink) by the lake we were parked near. Between sips, we admired the flowers and made our way to the main Paradise entrance to wander before hitting the road.
Well, a perfect day isn’t complete without roadside Rainier cherries which Lauren spotted as she was driving, and stopped the car with a screeching halt. It was the right move. With our pint of cherries and leftover trail mix, we munched the whole way back to Seattle.