The Biloxi Mississippi Lighthouse at sunset on November 10, 2021. © Susan Alton, 2021

The Biloxi Mississippi Lighthouse at sunset on November 10, 2021. © Susan Alton, 2021
The Biloxi Mississippi Lighthouse at sunset on November 10, 2021. © Susan Alton, 2021

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Two Tickets to Paradise - Sunday, August 30, 2020

Going to Paradise requires an early start. The route is long and circuitous from Tacoma. The "tickets" are paid for by my National Park Senior Pass. Seriously, we followed Google's routing to Paradise on Mt. Rainier and we ended up going on a very serpentine, scenic route we had never been on before in all our trips to Mt. Rainier. Both of us kept saying, "This doesn't look familiar. Do you remember this?" And the answer was always no until we approached the town of Elbe, Washington.
We had just gone past a huge reservoir that neither of us remembered. When we got to the end of Alder Lake reservoir, a big curve came up and I said, "I remember that there are a bunch of cabooses around the corner." Sure enough, we turned the corner and there were about 12 brightly colored cabooses where people can spend the night. It's called Hobo Inn and if you're a train enthusiast this place might be just the ticket for you! These cabooses were collected from around the globe.
Along the way, the low-lying fog looked pretty around meadows and fields. There were wisps of fog rising up off of Alder Lake as well.

Alder Lake Reservoir.


As we made our way through Ashford, we reminisced about the time we took the boys to a cabin at the entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park and the hard hikes we did with a six- and ten-year-old. Also, when we lived in Milton and went hiking at Mt. Rainier on weekends if we headed up to Paradise we ate breakfast at Copper Creek Inn. I always ordered the same thing: fresh blueberry pancakes, two eggs over medium, and bacon. That was wonderful fuel for the energy-zapping hiking to follow.
We thought we were arriving at the Paradise parking lot early. However, when we got there at 8:30 a.m., only a few spots were left in the main Paradise Inn parking lot. They disappeared quickly as cars kept rolling into the lot. We were lucky to snag a spot in our huge pick-up truck! After the main lot filled, there was a secondary lot about 1/4 mile away. After that filled up, people parked along the roadway. 
Our starting elevation at the Paradise Inn was 5,400'. After a brief bathroom stop, we started up the Skyline Trail going in a clockwise direction. The paved trail climbed steeply for the first 1/2 mile. My calves had to be stretched because of lactic acid build-up. I stretched and took deep breaths for 5-10 minutes and my calves were fine for the rest of the hike.
Such an iconic photo of the trail.
Wildflowers bloomed in great variety. I saw flowers I had never seen before and some I had. 
Lots of White False Hellebore (the tall
green plant) which is highly poisonous.
White False Hellebore.

Arnica (yellow), Lupine (blue), Bistort (tall,
white, and puffy in center top), Daisies.
Lupine/bluebonnets and Bistort (white)

Magenta Paintbrush, Lupine, and Pink Heather.

Pink Heather.

Can't find this wildflower in my book
or online. It looks like a cobra head or anthurium.

Similar to Atlantis Sedum or Sedum Boogie Woogie.

Bog Gentian (the color was indigo
to almost black, and very glossy).

Lewis Monkeyflower.

Beargrass.

Western Anemone.

Subalpine (Rosey) Spirea.

Sitka Valerian and Magenta Paintbrush.

Magenta Paintbrush.

Spreading Phlox
Lupine (blue), Rainier Pedicularis
(big cream-colored flowers -
only grow on Mt. Rainier!).

As we climbed higher, the views became more spectacular, not only of Mt. Rainier, but also of three other Cascade peaks: Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and Mt. St. Helens. The whole panorama opening up before us gave us a sense of accomplishment to see how high we were climbing, and how fast we were getting there. ("Fast" being a relative term considering it took us three hours to reach the highest point on our hike at 7,051'. Panorama Point was 6,227'. Our elevation gain was 1,651'. That didn't include all the times we went up and down on the trail. This trail is rated hard/strenuous.)

The trail surface ranges from paved to gravel, to completely rocky and hard to navigate. Hiking boots and hiking poles are highly recommended! Some of the steps are high and the poles helped me get up them. Also, the poles provide much-needed balance and stability in some of the trickier portions of the trail. If you take your time and don't rush, stop to catch your breath, admire the views, take lots of photos, drink water, and have a snack, this trail is doable and you will be proud of yourself when you finish. Make sure to allow plenty of time!! This isn't a marathon, it's a hike.

As I mentioned earlier, the higher we climbed, the better the views! Here are pics for you to drool over.



A beautiful waterfall.

So many photo ops!

Mt. Adams's picture was taken from Mt. Rainier.

I zoomed in on Mt. St. Helens from Mt. Rainier.
If you look closely, you can see the new dome inside.

Nisqually Glacier on Mt. Rainier.

The Cascade Range. We had so many
gorgeous views!
Mt. Hood is peeking out (hard to see!).
Mt. Hood (very faint).
To say the scenery is breathtaking would be literally and figuratively correct. At this high elevation, I was gasping for air from time to time. 
Snow by the side of the trail. 
Switchbacking down the trail.
Bob is on the right.


Looking down to where we parked.
(Middle right side, just to the left of the tree.)
Awe-inspiring scenery from Sluiskin
Falls looking toward Paradise Inn and
the main parking lot. You can see one
of the roads making a horseshoe shape.

Going up a little
on the way down.

Mt. Rainier has vistas galore!

Strangers on the trail. We
heard multiple foreign languages.

Nisqually Glacier.
We don't know where those people
were headed on the snowfield!?

Small brooks coming
out of the rocks.
A nice portion of the trail.

Bluebonnets under a
huge rock outcropping.

I couldn't stop taking pictures!!

A freshet from melting snow.

We called this the
Dr. Seuss bridge.
In addition to the scenery, I got photos of lots of people hiking on Skyline Trail today! It was very busy on the mountain.
This wasn't the only large group.

Very rocky ledge.

The only snow we had to walk across.

Panorama Point was packed!
Panorama Point scenery identifier.

In addition to the views and the people, there were some critters, mostly marmots. I also saw three deer in a gully, but I couldn't capture them in a photo. The hoary marmots, however, were a different story. They were either interested in eating or drinking. Some of them were only a few feet away. And they like to pose. Here is a well-written description of these pudgy "whistle-pigs," for they do like to warn their kind of interlopers.


Hoary marmot.
The same hoary marmot as above.


And my favorite: "Peek-a-boo!"

Sunning and watching for predators.

We finished our clockwise Skyline Trail hike by way of Myrtle Falls. We bypassed it, though. In order to get a good view of the falls, you have to go down and back up steep steps. My body said, "Forget it, put a fork in it, you're done." The only thing I wanted to put a fork in was some food!

We hightailed it back to the car. In 45-50 minutes, we arrived at Copper Creek Inn in Ashford, Washington. This place was a favorite of ours for breakfast from the time we lived in Milton, Washington, and hiked Mt. Rainier on the weekends. 

Today, though, we were having lunch. I ordered a green salad with blackberry vinaigrette and a cup of chili. My chili came with a small loaf of bread with blackberry butter.  You will also notice that I had a bowl of chili instead of a cup. I guess the waiter heard me wrong. Anyway, Bob helped me eat the chili. Mmm. Bob had a turkey deli sandwich. It was wonderful because our bodies needed protein and the food was very tasty. I should state for the record that even though they have homemade blackberry pies and were just putting some in the oven when we arrived, we declined dessert. What were we thinking?

My chili and salad. 
Bob's deli turkey sandwich
and fries.
I drove a good part of the way home, until my ankle hurt and I started falling asleep. Bob took over and got us home safely.

We watched 60 minutes and then I fell asleep in the recliner until midnight. We were exhausted but satisfied. What a day!
Be sure you visit Mt. Rainier if you are in the Seattle/Tacoma/Olympia area. The mountain is huge, but we think the best place to go to is Paradise if you want immediate, spectacular views of the mountain.