On August 17, 2015, we visited Mount Rainier National Park for the first time. There is something exciting about seeing a national park for the first time. Our goal, although we know its a long shot and a long way off, is to see all the national parks. So far we’ve seen 17.
As usual we took so many pictures I’m overwhelmed in deciding which ones to put in this journal page. We only had a day to visit the park. One of the roads in the park was closed due to a Glacier Outburst Flood on August 13, 2015. This news update from the parks website describes it.
“This most recent glacial outburst and debris flow demonstrates again that Mount Rainier is a dynamic landscape,” said Randy King, Mount Rainier Superintendent. “Visitors should be aware of their surroundings when traveling in the park. Remember to remain alert for changes in water levels, unusual sounds or shaking of the ground. If you are near a river or stream, move quickly to higher ground.”
A glacial outburst flood is a large, abrupt release of water from a glacier. The exact mechanisms through which water moves through glaciers and how these events occur are not well known. Geologists report that stagnant and slow moving ice on the lower part of the glacier combined with faster moving ice on the upper glacier, have been associated with these events in the past.
Since 1985, over 30 debris flows have occurred in the Tahoma Creek valley. Glacial outburst floods from the South Tahoma Glacier during hot, dry weather caused most of the debris flows, but heavy rainstorms in the fall caused several others. See: http://www.nps.gov/mora/learn/news/westside-road-outburst-flood.htm
Its impossible to see the entire park by car. (There is a trail called The Wonderland Trail which circles the mountain.) You can drive from west to east across the southern end of the park (Hwy.7060) From this highway you can pick up Hwy 123. It goes north on the eastern side of the park. It intersects with Hwy. 410. The White River Entrance to the park is off Hwy 410. At this point you head west again and begin climbing. This road takes you to the highest point in the park that you can reach by car, known as the Sunrise area. From here you can glimpse the glaciers and the top of Mount Rainier. This is the route we took.
As we drove we took available turnouts. The focus of everything is Mount Rainier.
Some of the rivers and waterfalls.
The Cascades Mountain Range is not as high as the Sierra Nevada, but very beautiful.
The Cascades are a volcanic mountain range. Both Mount Rainier and of course Mount St. Helens are considered to be active volcanos. The ancient lava flow in this area met a glacier are evidenced by this type of formation.
According to an informational sign by this formation, the lava flowed up to a glacier and was unable to break through the thickest part of the ice. It then pooled up, forming a ridge next to the glacier. When the glacier melted it left this ridge of rock.
We saw an even more dramatic wall of this type of rock the day before when we took Hwy. 12, which runs south of the national park. We spotted these rock climbers on a tall ridge of volcanic rock.
Most of the wildflowers were gone in the lower altitudes but I’m always looking for them. I spotted this little beauty in the parking lot at a turnout. It was covered with cigarette butts and debris. I kicked the garbage off and took this photo.
In this photo I tried to get under the flower. The “wall” next to it is the curb.
The Sunrise area of the park is at 6400 ft. The top of Mount Rainier is 14,410 ft. It sounds like a big difference but with a decent camera its possible to get a glimpse of the glaciers that crown the mountain.
Some photos of the glaciers. Bruce took most of these.
While he was taking these shots I was talking to a Ranger. I asked him about the slide that had just occurred and asked if it was the reason the rivers were white with silt. He explained that the rivers were always like this but that it is a result of the glacier run off. He said he had been hiking up near these glaciers a week before and heard and felt a Boom when one of the glaciers had a break off. He also told us that the smoke from all the fires in Washington had obscured the mountain for several days before we came. We were fortunate to hit a day when the wind had shifted.
These are glacial waterfalls.
Because of the altitude I was able to find a few wildflowers. I’m sure if we had had the time many more were on the trail higher up.
On our way back the sun was beginning to set and we were able to get some nice pictures. You also get a different perspective when driving the opposite way.
One of the most beautiful things to me that we saw was Reflection Lake, especially at sunset. During the day it was crawling with people, but at 7:00 we had the lake all to ourselves.
I’ll slip in a picture that someone else took of us earlier in the day. As our daughter, Vicky said to me the other day, “You guys seem so happy Mom!” And so we are. We keep waiting for the Fun Police to show up and tell us its time to go back to reality.
The sunset was obligingly magnificent for us.