The weather has assumed its normal fall course: rain one day, sunshine the next. Promises of 72 degree days compel me to don summer dresses, forgetting that 72 is likely to last 15 minutes and occur at 4:32 pm. Which means that from 8 am until 4:31 pm I’m going to freeze. Such weather also means that each weekend is approached with a bit of trepidation. Will it be sunny so we can play outside? Not sunny but not rainy so we can get some work done in the yard? Or rainy, banishing us to indoor chores (but also bringing with it an opportunity to cook comfort food)?
Yesterday was sunny, so we were out the door by 7 am and headed to Mt. Rainier National Park. Fall is a wonderful time in the park. Actually, any time of year is a wonderful time in the park. But, sunny autumn days and fewer crowds in the main sections (whoo-hoo! School is back in session!) makes for a wonderful combination.
Our destination? Paradise. It’s actually the first time we’ve been to the Paradise side this entire summer. Why? More masses descend upon that part of the park than any other. So, come June we enter the park through other entrances, some well-known, some more of the secret bat-cave variety (we hope to begin identifying and exploring more of those next spring). However, once Labor Day has passed it’s relatively safe to venture to Paradise, so off we went.
We breezed through the park entrance and arrived at the Paradise parking lot around 9:30. It was busy, which I anticipated with the weather forecast (sunny with a high of 70 at 6000 feet? Who can pass that up?), but there was still ample parking. And, it was quiet enough to allow me to capture this photo, one of my very favorite ones to take.
Our hike? A relatively citified feeling one. Lakes Trail takes off from the main parking lot at Paradise. It struggles to reach the level of outdoor solitude that the husband and I prefer due to its relative close proximity to the road on a number of occasions (we actually crossed the road a couple of times). However, it is a nice little 7 miler (if you add in the spur to Narada Falls, which we did) with enough gain (1600 feet) to cause the knee to struggle mightily towards the end. I actually told the husband that if the knee was a human it would either be a street thug or a mobster based upon how I imagined it would threaten me. Sigh.
We reached Narada Falls within one mile of stepping onto the trail. Narada is easily accessible from a parking lot right off of the main road to Paradise. We have stopped there a couple of times, but this is the first time we’ve actually gone down to the falls. Which makes absolutely no sense but it is what it is. Needless to say, Narada is an impressive falls worth checking out (take my word for it, leaning over the rail up top does not come close to capturing the beauty and power as viewed from down below).
Our next stop was Reflection Lake. You’ve seen Reflection Lake. One of the most photographed locations in Mt. Rainier National Park because if it’s clear you can see the reflection of the mountain in the lake. Original name for a lake, yes? Despite all of the hype it’s still a beautiful place. Unfortunately, there was just enough of a breeze to cause a ripple, which ruined my perfect reflection. That’s okay. I will have plenty of other opportunities.
We ate lunch on a bench (a bench!!! We felt very fancy eating lunch on a bench. Normally we eat on a lunch rock) close to the shoreline, watching people in flip-flops pull into the parking area, scamper down to the water for a few photos and hoof it back to their cars to go careening off to the next stop in the park. Hey, we’ve all done it at one National Park or another. I just like to be snobby about it at Rainier since this is “my” National Park and sits close to my back yard.
After lunch we moseyed on up the trail. In the grand scheme of things, it was a relatively peaceful hike. Not a lot of people around. Warm enough that we were quickly down to shirtsleeves. A beautiful sunny day with the autumn leaves just a week or two beyond their prime. And a mountain that kept playing peek-a-boo with us, sometimes hiding between trees and hills, other times reeling in a few clouds with which to cloak herself. She’s a beauty, that lovely lady. Oh, and Lakes Trail very much lived up to its name. We passed at least 4 or 5 small lakes (perhaps more appropriately ponds, but let’s not get technical), which delighted the reflection seeker within. Why take a photo of a tree when you can take a photo of the reflection of that tree in a lake?
Lakes Trail eventually spat us out onto Skyline Trail and we hobbled about a mile downhill (okay, I was the only one hobbling) to the car. The parking lot overfloweth, and we took in the show as we calmly sat on the bumper peeling off packs, struggling out of boots and sipping water. We followed a long line of cars snaking their way out of the park and headed home. A day well spent.