Run, don’t walk, to your vehicle and drive to Mt. Rainier National Park right now. The wildflowers are blooming a month early because of the drought and our heat wave, and if you’ve never seen them then you must rectify that immediately.
Veronica, Catarina and I rolled up to Paradise recently in search of the elusive mountain. Mt. Rainier is famous for not showing herself for weeks at a time, often hidden by clouds. Last summer, we went to Paradise and never saw the mountain once – and very few wildflowers. So this year, we waited until an extremely sunny day, drove up and were treated to not only stunning views of Rainier, but also a spectacular wildflower show.
The flowers start coming into view on the side of the road once you pass Longmire, which is one of the stations in the park featuring bathrooms, lodging, a museum, and lots of trails into old growth forest. We saw yellows, blues and reds all over the hills as our car climbed the mountainside toward Paradise.
When we finally reached Paradise and got over being awestruck at the site of Mt. Rainier up close, we started climbing the Skyline Trail toward Myrtle Falls. It is only a 1/2 mile to the Falls, but it is a bit steep. The entire way to that point is wildflowers and green grass coating the hillsides. On the left side of the path, you observe the blue lupine flowers on steep hillsides with evergreen trees growing in their midst and Mt. Rainier looming in the background. On the right side of the trail, there were plenty of yellow flowers – and more of the blue – with much taller trees and the Tatoosh Range in the distance.
When we reached the bridge over Myrtle Creek we decided to push on and see how high we could get into the meadow that was spread before us. When we go hiking as a family, we carry Catarina in a giant pack on our back. It is a really cool contraption that Veronica’s old boss in the Tri-Cities, Melanie Hoefer, gave to us. Cat gets to ride in style, high on our shoulders as we labor up mountainsides. The only downside is that Catarina is starting to get pretty heavy, and so our plan to reach the switchbacks on the Golden Gate Trail – which was a mile past Myrtle Falls – was stymied by the 75-degree sunshine and the heaviness of carrying Cat up the side of a mountain.
No matter, we still went about three-quarters of a mile past Myrtle Falls, getting away from all the tourists, and breathing in deep the smell of a massive field of wildflowers. I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced anything quite like it.
There I was, standing more than a mile in the air, with Mt. Rainier behind me sparkling in the summer sun, surrounded by a gigantic field of blue, yellow and red flowers, looking out at a broad valley below me. It’s hard to describe properly.
So, instead of just reading me try to explain it, run out to your car, get in and drive to Mt. Rainier. It is worth it. The glorious mountain – and its flora and fauna – need to be experienced up close, not just as a Castle in the Clouds from afar.
– Craig Craker