“Of all the fire mountains which like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest.” ~ John Muir
Mick and Jason are old salty Navy buddies dating back 25 years. A couple years ago, they reconnected on Facebook after which Mick would frequently comment on our hiking photos. Then one day he called and said, “Hey Suzy and I want to come out and hike with you guys.” A few phone calls and emails later and the plans were set. Mick and his wife Suzy would fly out and join us for 4 days of hiking at Mt. Rainier National Park in our home state of Washington.
Mid-July is a questionable time of year for trails in Mt. Rainier National Park. The yearly average snowfall at Paradise is 643 inches. The winter of 2013-2014 was a below average year at 590″, but many trails were still rated at 100% snow cover as our trip neared. I kept a close eye on trail reports and narrowed the list of possibilities down to a nice selection that would highlight most of the park’s major areas for Mick and Suzy.
Mick and Suzy are physically active people who exercise regularly, but they aren’t hikers. They spend time in the forests near Chicago, but they have never been in mountains like we have out West. We considered them “flat-landers”. How would they do on the narrow trails of Mt. Rainier? How would they do with the elevation? They seemed super excited, so we were optimistic they would fit in just fine.
After much anticipation, our vacation finally arrived. We made the drive from our home in southeastern Washington to Yakima where we picked Mick and Suzy up. They had flown into Seattle the day before and hopped a shuttle over the Cascades to Yakima. I felt a little bad sending them there, but it was right on our way and they wouldn’t have to pay for a rental car. We arrived at the Mt. Rainier National Park Stevens Canyon entrance in time to start out with two short warm up hikes.
Our intro hike was the short and popular Grove of the Patriarchs trail. This easy 1.3 mile lollipop trail crosses the Ohanapecosh River on a suspension bridge to visit 300′ tall trees that are 1,000 years old. Now that’s an old growth forest! What a great way to beat the heat on a sweltering July afternoon.
Next we crossed the park road and picked up the trail to Silver Falls. If followed to the Ohanapecosh Campground and back, this lollipop trail makes a pleasant stroll through the forest for a great 4.0 mile hike with a modest elevation gain of 700′. Views of the Ohanapecosh River and Silver Falls from this trail are superb.
Following our warm up hikes, we drove to the nearby community of Packwood where we would be staying for the next 3 nights. We had rented a lovely little cabin in a quiet neighborhood on the south edge of town. We ended the day with a dinner of bbq London broil, salad, and cooked veggies followed by drinks and conversation on the deck overlooking the mountains. What a first great day. Happy reunion Jason and Mick!