Update 4: July 6, 2006
Scorecard: (as of July 5th):
76 days; 7203 miles (RV: 4344, Car: 2859); 6 states; 10 National Parks;
Mount Rainier National Park:
June 13-18, 2006 (Location 14 on the Map)
With Oregon in the rear-view mirror, we returned to the road and
arrived at my most-anticipated stop on the western leg of our trip: Mount
Rainier National Park. I’ve been told in the past that many people
visit Mount Rainier and never get to see the mountain due to the rain
and clouds. In the many trips I’ve made in the past, I’ve
always experienced exceptional weather. Not so this time.
It seems we were constantly changing into and out of raingear, trying
to stay protected from the persistent drizzle, fog and rain. We were
here earlier in the season than I had been on my trips in the past, and
after a few days we began to think we had joined that group of people
who never get to see the mountain. I spent most of my time telling Susan
how beautiful the mountain is, and she spent most of her time wondering
if I knew what I was talking about.
I had come to love this park and this mountain during several previous
visits. I had climbed to the summit twice, and I had hiked the 93-mile
Wonderland Trail around the mountain on three different occasions. Therefore,
I felt I had a good knowledge of what we should see and where we should
go during our visit. But the weather and the heavy snow pack conspired
to keep us relegated to the lower-elevation areas of the southern part
of the park. As we do in all of the parks we visit, we did a lot of hiking.
Because of the rain and the glacial melt, the rivers and waterfalls were
running strong, so at least we got to see some of the park’s beauty.
One day when we were staying dry in the visitor’s center at Paradise,
we overheard a conversation between a ranger and a couple of young women.
No doubt they were some of the many people who had heard the rumor that
an actual mountain existed nearby, and were curious to find out if the
rumor was true. The secret, it seemed, was to visit the area around 6:30
pm, when for some reason unknown to us, the clouds were in the habit
of clearing long enough to see the mountain. Sure enough, when we returned
later that evening, we were rewarded with the view you see at the end
of our Mount Rainier photos. At least Susan believes me now.
For photos from Mount Rainier National Park, Click
Olympic National Park:
June 18-22, 2006 (Location 15 on the Map)
We spent four nights in Port Angeles, outside of the park. We learned
quickly that for a park this immense, that would not be enough time.
There are several distinct environments and climatic zones in the
park, including the Pacific coast, six- and seven-thousand-foot glaciated
peaks, sub-alpine areas and even a rainforest. We saw as much as
we could, on foot as always. We had a very enjoyable time.
New bird from this area: Pigeon Guillemot. (We're not exactly doing
too well in the birding department).
For photos from Olympic National Park, Click
North Cascades National Park:
June 23-27, 2006 (Location 17 on the Map)
Next it was on to North Cascades, an area I didn’t know much
about prior to the trip. We stayed near Winthrop, a quirky little
town with an interesting mix of old-time ranchers and new age earthy
folks. Due to the proximity of hiking and climbing to the town, we’ve
decided to add this to our list of possible places to settle down
after the trip. There aren’t any jobs, but they have really
good ice cream, so that’s something!
We actually mixed it up a bit and went on a bike ride in addition
to our hikes. I even put in a 16-mile trip on my bike, and realized
why it is that full-time bike riders spend so much money on those
fancy bike seats!
For photos from North Cascades National Park, Click
Glacier National Park:
June 29-July 5, 2006 (Location 20 on the Map)
Glacier turned out to be our favorite park so far. The glaciers
have almost died off (one estimate says they’ll be gone by
2030), but the landscape that they’ve left behind is truly
spectacular, with incredibly steep peaks towering above beautifully
sculpted valleys. We spent six nights camped in the park, and could
happily have spent another week. The pictures in our gallery only
scratch the surface of what we saw, and we saw only a small fraction
of the park.
Almost as remarkable as the beauty of the park were the interesting
people we encountered. It’s now the height of tourist season,
and we saw a nice cross-section of America represented in the park.
There was the woman hiking in front of us wearing a small bikini
top and shorts. Not really a big deal, but she was clearly drawing
attention to herself and away from the other scenery. There was the
guy smoking a cigarette as he hiked the trail. We saw a guy wearing
no shirt, posing so his girlfriend could take a picture of him in
front of the waterfall. I don’t know if it was worse that he,
with his body such as it was, decided to hike without a shirt, or
if it was the fact that his girlfriend truly wanted a picture of
him in that state. We passed a woman on the trail who not only was
obscenely perfumed, but was carrying a cup of gourmet coffee, complete
with one of those little cardboard doodads protecting her hand from
getting burned. As we returned down the trail from one of our longer
hikes, we surprised a woman who had decided to relieve herself right
at the edge of the trail. Not a few feet off the trial; right at
the edge. I suspect that since one of our next parks is one of the most popular
in the US, we will likely see a lot more of these kinds of people.
For photos from Glacier National Park, Click