I am on a visit to Seattle for some work. Before I came over, I looked out for national parks nearby. Amongst them, I got interested in Mt Rainier - for it’s proximity and the type of terrain I thought it had.
Swathi, my wife, couple of days before the weekend pinged me and suggested me to visit one of the three national parks (from her own research). Since, I had already done all the home work, I knew these were the options, but, that message turned out to be the right push. I need a lot of push, for those who dont know me :) So, I started digging again to see what options were there and to my dismay I did not find anything to my liking.
I like to do my own (little bit of) research and figure out my route / stops and what not. And, generally, I’ve my vehicle which takes me where I want to. Given my nature of visit, I obviously was at the mercy of public transport. And, I was keeping all the tour packages out from the list of options. As the weekend drew closer, I started re-looking at my priorities - which was to see if I can make it to Mt Rainier National Park with some level of compromise. This time, I started looking for specific - day tours to Mt Rainier and got a bunch of results. Found one that suited me and filled out the form. Before I filled in my payment details, I waited a little bit more to see if I really wanted to do the package tour and then after blaming the Seattle public transport, I did go ahead and book it.
Scheduled time of start: 7.45am, on South King Street, Chinatown-Intl dist, Seattle Went there, thought I found my bus, until the guy told me that I had to wait a little longer as that one was headed to Yellowstone. Good to know..! 8am, the bus rolled in; we had to a couple of scheduled pick ups on the way. The driver largely spoke Chinese - for every 10 mins of Chinese, he spoke < 1min of English. We were only 3 English speaking in that group of ~15 - I guess, he tried prorating it!
Anyway, we stopped for some customary snack/lunch purchase & restroom break and we headed straight to Mt.Rainier. The entire stretch was cloudy, drizzling and I kept cursing myself for not looking at the weather forecast before I came. Along the way, I started looking at Rainier webcam to see how it looks up there. The weather is indeed dynamic in this part of the world and I couldn’t predict how it was going to be. As we got closer to the park, I kept wondering how it would’ve been awesome with Swathi around. I think, she enjoys nature more visibly and explicitly - like a new born - full of excitement and biigg smiles!
First stop was Narada Falls. The name Narada indeed comes from Hindu Mythology as quoted in the information board there. Now, the drive-cum-guide said, we’ve 45 mins - do whatever you want! I went down to the view point; enjoyed the cold drizzling breeze of the falls. And then, I moved out from there to walk up to completely snow covered paths that took me - I dont know where! After walking about 30 mins, I realized I had to go back and started brisk walk / slide / glide.
On time and ready to go, we got on board and went up to the Paradise Visitor Center. The place was full of cars and I dreaded why I got there. I realized that there’s also a full lodging facility right there and hence the parking density justified. The guide this time gave us a couple of hours. I quickly ate my lunch and went to the visitor information center to get guidance on a short hike. The lady looking at me & said, you cant do much without all the snow gear - I had my snow shoes & a fleece jacket. So, she suggested a small (on the road) hike down the valley to experience sounds of “frozen water”. I split my time into 2 halves. First is to run up the snow mountain as much I can and walk back. Then head out to the experience the “Symphony of Sounds” as she called it.
The hike up the snow mountain body was fun. I walked up until a point where I realized the next step was too steep, where going up would be fun, but, return would be difficult. Helped someone along the way to fix their bag and came back down with snow fully inside my shoes. Drying time!
The sky was clearing up fast and we got a fleeting glimpse of the peak before I could capture it in my phone. The mountain peaks always have some effect on me. Anyway, time for the run down to the road-side hike. This was a very nice walk for a mile or so. Absolutely nobody down there and the entire valley covered with snow and buzzing with running water. Just sat there for sometime and walked slowly, taking as much time as possible to return to the assembly area.
To my surprise, all of them were already on board and waiting for me. Walked in, not apologizing for the few min delay - thinking, why would they want to get back to the bus so soon! The return was inconsequential and ended up at my room by around 6.30pm! While I’d have preferred to go by myself, I’m glad I went there and experienced it. I will come back here with Swathi again.