I know people who will never go to the same place twice. I don't understand that... seeing an old place with new eyes is one of the best experiences one can ever hope to have.
Sunrise on Mount Rainier, from Suntop Lookout
Going to "The Mountain" is like that for me. I can't begin to count the times I've been to this national park, let alone the memories that always come back to me as soon as I drive under the entrance timbers.
My earliest memory is from when I was a toddler. My parents were inside a nearby ranger station, leaving me and my sisters outside to watch the ranger's pet raccoon. I tried to feed it, and it bit me. Not hard, just a nip. The scar on my finger is long gone, but I never forgot.
Memories of my favorite mountain changed when I met DW. Our first date was a drive around Mt. Rainier in his red MGB sports car. We took a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken and sodas with us, and had a picnic in the meadows above Paradise Inn. Then we walked for a couple of hours, photographing the wildflowers. We were even temporary models for a photographer, who asked us to hold hands and be a frame for the meadows and the mountain in the background. It was the first time we held hands.
From then on, coming to our favorite landmark became a regular thing for us. We can see the mountain from just about every place we go, and checking to see if it's "out" is a habit of 60+ years. We always pause to enjoy the view, and before we know it, we're dropping everything and driving south. It's a favorite place for a day's drive in our modern red roadster. It's my favorite place to photograph wildflowers.
Chinook Pass was reopened yesterday (we actually mark the calendar when the highway department expects to reopen the road). So of course, we had to drive around the mountain today. The road was wet with runoff, and as expected, Tipsoo Lake and the pass were buried in snow. There was fresh snow overnight, and the trees were beautiful
For an idea of how long and cold our winter was this year, check out this picture from June 26, 2015. Not 300 feet from the snow-covered bathroom building is where I took this wildflower photograph.
Our goal today was a hike to Boulder Cave, about twelve miles east of Chinook Pass, where the snow is gone and the wildflowers are just starting to bloom. It was drippy in the cave, and the ground was uneven and the footing was challenging, even with a headlamp, so the camera stayed in my pack. My cell phone snapped this shot inside this basalt cave.
It was a quick walk through the cave, followed by a not-so-quick stroll along the creek and through flower meadows with the camera, then we were on our way home via White Pass. All that snow is melting, filling rivers and reservoirs and waterfalls with runoff.
The rain held off until we got close to one of my favorite waterfalls, Clear Creek Falls. I had no protection for my camera but got out anyway to snap a few quick photos. All the times I've stopped here, I've never seen so much water thundering over the falls.
The heavy rain and mist in the air made it tough to get a good photograph today, but look at the difference between spring runoff and late fall. This one is from October 2005, when the larches were turning brilliant yellow and the waterfall was a trickle.
After a lot of geocaching along the highway and dinner in Packwood, we turned for home. Driving north on WA-123 through the eastern edge of the park, there were absolutely no cars on the road but ours.
We stopped at the entrance gate, with its huge cedar gate posts, so big I can't reach even halfway around them. I stood in the middle of the road for a photo, arms outstretched, embracing this mountainous place I love so much. It felt like the first time I'd ever been here, but at the same time, I knew I was adding another layer of experience that made all the other times that much more rich.