There’s this couple I follow on Instagram who travel fulltime and their entire Instagram feed is just happy pictures of them. They are, according to social media, the happiest people in all the land.

They’re happy in the desert, they’re happy at the beach, they’re happy in the mountains, they’re happy in the morning, they’re happy in the evening, they’re happy inside their RV, and they’re happy outside while sitting around a fire.

Every picture is some version of: beaming smiles a mile wide, one looking lovingly at the other, both of them looking off into the distance, one or both with arms raised in a demonstration of euphoria. Every caption is a lengthy screed about the joy they feel, their love that knows no bounds, the gratitude that wells up deep inside them and fills their hearts with warmth as they consider their great fortune to travel this wondrous country.

Lately, every time I see one of their posts, I think: “Oh, shut UP already.”

I know. But don’t tell me for one second you don’t want to tell the endless joy peddlers to shut their pie-holes once in a while.

There’s a damned pandemic going on, the economy is in a recession, half the country literally wants to shoot the other half, everyone is overly anxious, overly frustrated, and *this close* to a complete mental breakdown. The last thing anyone wants to hear about is people who are happy all the time.

So, what does all that have to do with Mt. Rainier? Well, my last several posts have been about our admittedly idyllic Summer travels. And they truly have been pretty perfect. Our visits to Yellowstone, Glacier, and North Cascades all featured fantastic weather, ridiculous scenery, and relatively carefree living.

Meanwhile, due to Covid and assorted other catastrophes, a bunch of our friends were stuck in places they didn’t want to be, not doing the things they thought they’d be doing, probably wishing that, just once, we’d have the decency to have a really crappy day.

But, god bless em, they dutifully read my posts and some even commented (while undoubtedly grinding their teeth into teeny tiny nubs) about just how glad they were to see us having so. much. fun.

There is no question that I have some good and loyal friends because I promise, if the roles were reversed, by post number five of the utterly grating “Kevin & Laura’s happy camper covid chronicles” I would 100% be screaming: “Oh, shut UP already!!”

Trust me. I get it.

And, honestly, the news for those good and loyal friends isn’t great this week. Luck was – once again – on our side at Mount Rainier which means I’m about to post a bunch of blue sky, sunshiny pictures that are gonna be super annoying. But, friends, stick with me, because I promise, after this one last happy-go-lucky post, the universe is gonna take a gigantic dump on our heads.

Don’t lose faith. It’s coming.

Crossing the Cascades

In the meantime, let’s talk about Mount Rainier. Actually, let’s start with getting to Mount Rainier, because that was kind of a cool process. When we last chatted, we were parked on the east side of the Cascades in an arid, desert landscape presciently opining, “Man, it looks like everything is about to go up in flames!!”

In order to get to Rainier, we had to cross the mountains, and the easiest way to do that was to drive due south to the area of Yakima, spend a night at the local Walmart, and then head west over a not-too-terrible part of the mountains.

The interesting thing was watching the landscape so quickly change from dry desert to mountain greenery.

Near Winthrop, the contrast between the natural landscape and what can be achieved through the magic of irrigation was on full display:

Route 97 in Washington. Irrigated fields across from dry landscapes

There was also plenty of evidence of past fire damage:

Fire damaged trees along the road

And confirmation that we were driving through a tinderbox:

Digital sign warning of High Fire Danger

But once we made the turn west, we suddenly started seeing real signs of life. It wasn’t much at first:

Road following large river.

But, within a matter of minutes, green became the dominant color:

Mountain road with evergreen trees on both sides of the road.

And before we knew it, we were gawking at one big-ass volcano ahead of us:

Mount Rainier rising in the distance

At 14,411 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier is the tallest mountain in the Cascade Range, and you can see it from miles away in all directions. It is truly a sight to behold.

It’s even better up close.

Kevin standing in front of Mount Rainier
“Tis a fine looking mountain. I will climb it in the morn!!”

Mount Rainier – Fire & Ice

Mount Rainier entrance sign

When you’re a tourist, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that Mount Rainier is an active volcano that could legit go off at any time (It last erupted in 1894). Given its current status as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the U.S., and given this video of the Mount St. Helen’s eruption, it’s safe to assume if you find yourself desperately looking for a sign like this, you’re having a really bad day.

Volcano evacuation route sign

But assuming you don’t find yourself at Rainier at the wrong time, what you’ll notice most is ice.

Mount Rainier is the most heavily glaciated volcano in the lower forty-eight, with 25 named glaciers attached to its surface.

Mount Rainier's glaciated surface

The glaciers cover some 30 square miles and support five different rivers in the region.

Close up of Mount Rainier's glaciated surface
While it looks like a snow capped mountain from a distance, up close, you can see the blue ice of the individual glaciers.

It is the presence of these glaciers that make Rainier so dangerous. Whenever it erupts, all that ice will give way and immediately begin to flow downhill, creating something called a “lahar” – a violent mudflow full of pyroclastic material, ice, and rock debris that will swamp entire towns located below the mountain. Lahars are basically huge mudslides that can be hundreds of feet deep and travel at speeds over a 100 miles per hour.

When compared to Mount St. Helens, not only does Rainier have many more glaciers attached to it, but it is also a larger, more powerful volcano. Additionally, it’s located much closer to heavily populated areas. So, let’s just hope it doesn’t erupt anytime soon.

The Skyline Trail

The go-to trail at Mount Rainier National Park is the 5.5 mile Skyline Trail. The trail is located in the Paradise area of the national park, which faces the southern side of the volcano. Paradise is also home to one of the park’s visitor centers and an abundance of wildflowers – which is one of the reasons for its name.

The entire first section of the hike offers consistent views of the volcano

Mount Rainier from the Skyline Trail

Turning around in the opposite directions provides views of the surrounding mountain ranges. This is the Tatoosh Range:

The Tatoosh Range from Mount Rainier

There were plenty of people at the park, but it didn’t feel overly crowded – especially as we continued to make our way up.

Kevin walking toward Mount Rainier on the Skyline Trail

On a clear day, which we had, (I know, I know… just remember, the turd is coming…), you can see the other famous volcanoes that reside in the Pacific Northwest. In the back here, on the left, is Mount Adams:

View of Mount Adams from the Skyline Trail

Here is Mount Adams again on the left and to the right, very faint, you can see Mount Hood:

View of Mount Adams and Mount Hood from the Skyline Trail

And this is Mount St. Helens way out in the distance:

Mount St. Helens from the Skyline Trail at Mount Rainier

The trail offers a fair variety of terrain with some ankle twisting sections on the far side. Nothing terrible, but plan to take your time and bring hiking poles if you have them.

Hiking a rocky portion of the Skyline Trail at Mount Rainier NP

The late afternoon views on the second half of the trail were sensational

Late afternoon views from the Skyline Trail at Mount Rainier National Park

Late afternoon views from the Skyline Trail at Mount Rainier National Park

and with less people on the trail, we got to see some small wildlife – marmots, chipmunks, and such.

A marmot in a field of wildflowers

Toward the end of the loop, Mount Rainier came back into view, this time providing the backdrop to grassy meadows:

Mount Rainier stands behind a large meadow

and plenty of colorful wildflowers:

Wildflowers in front of mountains

Waterfalls, Reflections, and Ancient Trees

Later in the week, we visited the park to check out some of its other popular features. There are two easily accessible waterfalls. The first, Myrtle Falls, is located near the end of the Skyline Trail. Alternatively, visitors can access it directly from the visitor center parking area.

Myrtle Falls with Mount Rainier behind it

The second, Narada Falls, is famous for its silvery reflections

Narada Falls at Mount Rainier

and is actually more impressive in video form:

Reflection Lake is famous for its, well, reflection of Mount Rainier. You can imagine what it would look like at sunrise with beautiful shades of pink and orange lighting up the sky, and the mountain’s snow capped reflection appearing in the glassy surface of the cold water. You can also imagine me curled up in bed which is why I am offering you this much less impressive late afternoon capture:

Reflection Lake at Mount Rainier National Park

Finally, we checked out the Grove of the Patriarchs, which is a 1.5 mile trail cut through a grove of ancient trees – primarily Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar – on the southeastern side of the park. The grove is actually located on an island, accessed by a suspension bridge:

Suspension bridge to Grove of the Patriarchs

Parts of the trail are on a boardwalk, while other parts are dirt trails. All of it is easy. Really, the most difficult part is finding a parking spot, but these enormous trees are worth the effort.

Kevin walking by ancient tree

Visiting the Park

Mount Rainier National Park is quite large, with trails, campgrounds, and sightseeing available in several regions. But, like North Cascades NP, there are no bustling towns near the entrances. We stayed just outside the southwestern Nisqually entrance and found it to be a good choice. Just be forewarned, if you decide to visit the park, you’ll want to have everything you need with you. The nearest large supermarket is almost an hour away.

Mount Rainier behind wood fence

Next up…. well, you know what’s next. Details soon.

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Where we stayed: Mounthaven Campground, Ashford, Washington

36 COMMENTS

  1. Breathtaking photos. No pictures of Thor 🐶❤️. Can’t wait for the giant turd episode 😁. Seriously this was great post as always.

    • Thor demanded a week off from his modeling work. He said we’re expecting too much and if he doesn’t get a break, he’s going to start his own union to demand better wages. Such a primadonna… But don’t worry – he’ll be back in the next post. 🙂

  2. Very interesting! There’s another group of readers you’ve forgotten to mention, folks like me who’ve been to places you guys are visiting, we get to pleasantly re-live it again through another person’s eyes! You noticed the same thing I noticed when I made a road trip from eastern to western Washington, the changing climate and geography. My post about it is only 3 years old . . . https://lalaironwheels.blogspot.com/2017/07/climate-regions-in-washington-state.html
    But what caught my eye was your viewpoint of the glaciers, your photos show less glaciers than mine which were taken from the northwest side. So I did some research, there’s 35 square miles of glaciers and they’re losing a bit every year . . . https://www.nps.gov/mora/learn/nature/glaciers.htm#CP_JUMP_6057075
    I loved the Mount Rainier area, spent a month in the area at the county fairgrounds . . .
    https://lalaironwheels.blogspot.com/2017/07/enumclaw-ee-num-claw-of-washinton-state.html

    • Yes, we definitely did seem to key in on the same things, especially with the change in scenery from desert to mountains. It’s interesting how quickly it changes from one extreme to another. We, too, noticed the glaciers and how small they looked compared to pictures we’d seen online. I’m not sure if that’s a function of climate change or if it’s just that we were there toward the end of the summer season. It’ll be interesting to see how much the expand over the course of this winter. Love your photos from your visit as well. It is such a bucolic area.

  3. I have to say, if given the option, I’d rather have the doom & gloom morons shut their pie-hole! That being said, WOW! We’ve got to get to Mount Rainier before it blows its top. Hopefully it will wait for us, as we are on our way back to FL to get ready for the tree selling season. Great post, sorry to hear about the impending turd!

    • You make a good point. The “doom and gloom morons” are almost as annoying as the “endless joy peddlers.” Hmmm, not really sure which is worse, now that I think about it. I’ll keep ruminating on it and get back to you. 🙂 I can’t believe it’s already time for you all to head south, but then I consider that we’ve run our propane heat twice this week and I realize it really is about that time. Safe travels!

    • That video I linked to was the first one I’d watched. I’d seen still photos from the eruption, but never video footage. What a terrifying sight that must have been. You’re right though, the Pacific Northwest is stunningly beautiful!

  4. Beautiful pictures! I love the marmot. Looks like great places to wear the hiking clothes I bought and never got to use 🤣😂. I completely remember when Mount St Helen’s erupted. That was devastating. Let’s hope Mount Rainier stays quiet! Glad you had some nice times there, it looks stunning!

    • I was just a bit too young to remember when that eruption happened, but I can only imagine how shocking it must have ben. From the videos I looked at, it looks like they had an idea it was coming, but so many people didn’t take the warnings seriously. Some things never change…

  5. There is no way anyone can begrudge you your glorious summer adventures. You guys have had your share of crappy life experiences while RVing, and you’ve kept it real all the way along, sharing the good and the bad. If there weren’t long stretches of beauty and ease and fun, no one would sign up for this lifestyle!

    This has indeed been a long stretch of not-so-much-fun for many of us, but your adventures and gorgeous photos have been a bright spot this summer. We were only at Mt. Rainier for a couple of nights many years ago, but we did manage to hit the explosion of wildflowers and hiked the Skyline Trail. I’ve always wanted to return to do more exploring, and now you’ve provided a perfect guidebook for when we get back there. Thanks for a beautiful (and hilarious) post.

    • Like you and I have talked about, there seems to a cyclical nature of RV living. Just at the point where you’re saying “Oh, to hell with this!”, you have some amazing experience and decide the aggravation was worthwhile. We all seem to have these ups and downs. I guess it’s no different than life in a house somewhere, but difficulties seem more pronounced when you’re on the road. This year has just taken the cake for a lot of people in a lot of ways. I think we’ll be hearing one enormous sigh of relief when the clock strikes midnight on December 31.

  6. Excellent routing getting there stating on the east side of the Cascades. You hit it well taking in some great sections of what that mountain and area have to offer. A return trip possibly? That glacial green/blue water under the suspension bridge takes me back to that hike.

    • It’s funny: we considered driving along Route 20 through North Cascades to get to the other side, but after driving it in the car, we decided that would be a bit too much of a white knuckler. You guys probably wouldn’t have any issue with the diesel, but it would be a loud ride for us! We skipped the whole Olympic Peninsula this time, so a return trip will most definitely be on the schedule at some point. Washington has a LOT to offer. We really enjoyed our time there and look forward to getting back.

  7. Wow, so beautiful! I’m glad you have had a stretch of easy, fun travel, though I admit it’s easier to be glad now that we are back on the road! This is a hard time for so many, and for our country, but dwelling on all the negative only makes it harder. I’m sorry to hear there’s a turd coming, but I suspect you will be able to find some humor in it, you are so good at that.

    • Thanks! I know you guys are happy to be out and about again. It’s nice to have that change of scenery especially with all that’s been going on. A nice big dose of sunshine doesn’t hurt either!

  8. I, for one, have no problem with folks posting happiness and, truth be told, wish more people were. Not like the couple you describe in your opening paragraph, though — that’s just silly. I was eagerly anticipating your visit there and would never, ever complain about it being idyllic. When Rainier shines, she shines brighter than almost anywhere on Earth, and only really mean people would be upset about others’ fortune to witness that.

    It was nice to see your photos of Rainier because, believe it or not, as natives to the area, that was our least-visited section of the park mostly because it was the furthest from where we lived. The great thing about Rainier is that, no matter which area of the park you visit, you’re not going to be disappointed with the views. The falls in the southern area are spectacular, and your photos make me want to go back to explore more. They also help me appreciate just how fortunate we were to have lived there and had the ability to tromp all over The Mountain.

    • Ya know, I’ve seen some photos of that park in the Fall, and you are definitely right. Everyone talks about the wildflowers, but I think the Fall colors might be even more beautiful. Really, every season there is spectacular. We noticed how large one of the river beds leading from the mountain was. I can only imagine what it must be like during the spring melt. Anyway, I have no doubt you are right – every region of the park offers its own distinct feel and the mountain will look completely different depending on where you are. It would undoubtedly be worth returning again and setting up in a different spot. You guys were fortunate to live so close and it sounds like you took full advantage of your proximity to it.

  9. I was there when Mt St Helens blew, wound not want to be there for Mt Rainier!
    Your photos are better than my memories of the Evergreen State Your timing was good with a few great hikes under blue skies.

    • I’d love to hear about your experiences being up there during the eruption. I just watched a couple videos about it and was blown away. What an incredible moment that must have been. And yes, we were fortunate to be there at the right time, weather and crowd wise.

  10. Your photos are spectacular, as always, and I am particularly taken with the waterfall photos. The shot of Myrtle Falls is gorgeous, with the awesome light on the distant peak. Your shots over the mountains to some of the distant famous peaks are awe-inspiring as well. I’ll bet you had a hard time picking out the best photos for this post because everything there looks lovely. The scenery sure is a major reversal from the tinderbox of the east side of the Cascades!

      • Thanks! That Myrtle Falls was ridiculous. I mean, how did THAT striking waterfall end up right in front of THAT stunning snow capped mountain?? It seems like it must have been man-made, but alas… sometimes Mother Nature just wants to show off! And Narada Falls was gorgeous too. Between the clarity of the water and the angle of the sun, it was absolutely mesmerizing.

        As for social media, I just like when people are honest and real. Stop trying to sell me stuff, stop trying to market a lifestyle, just be normal so we can hang out over a beer. I wish people would stop trying so hard all the time.

  11. I’m so glad you were finally able to visit Washington State to see and enjoy all the beauty we have here. I am fortunate enough to live about 30 miles from the Nisqually entrance of the park and get to see the mountain nearly everyday as it is pretty much visible everywhere around here. Hopefully you make it it over to Olympic National Park to experience Hurricane Ridge and the peninsula’s beaches. As for the looming turd hurtling towards the next upcoming post…well…I hope it lands somewhere outside this state!

    • Hi Bill, Thanks for your comment! We were shocked when Rainier came into view 50 or 60 miles away from the campground we were headed to. It really is enormous and it must be so cool to spot it from anywhere and everywhere! We decided to leave Olympic National Park and the Olympic Peninsula for a different trip. We know there’s a lot to see there and decided we didn’t want to give it short shrift, so we’ll be back at some point to properly explore it (hopefully post-pandemic so we can check out some of the cool restaurants and shops and everything.) And yes, fortunately we have nothing but love for the great state of Washington. The turd didn’t strike until we got to Oregon. 🙂

  12. Okay, so do spill – what it this Instagram couple’s name?? You know I want to check them out now so I can be with you in spirit cheering them on to shut their pie hole! 🙂

    Beautiful pictures, as always. And that’s really interesting about the glaciers, never knew.

    • Hahaha! I’ll never tell!!! I mean, honestly, they’re probably fine people in real life. Some folks are just over the top on social media. Or, who knows? Maybe they’re over the top in real life too?? Could be….

      As for the glaciers, I had no idea either. And it’s interesting to me how these volcanoes are all different even though they’re not all that far from one another. Nature is never boring; that’s for sure!

  13. Your photos and commentary are great as usual. The photos remeind me of back in the olden days of 2018 when we were in the area. So beautiful…
    Our happy glamping has been great, but like you we have had our fair share of crap. Like on Thursday when we left the heat of Las Vegas to enjoy the heat of Lake Elsinore, and then our back air conditioner quit! Plus, we were in one of the not so best in the world campgrounds for the night..
    I”m a little scared to hear about your turd…..eeks!

    • Ugh, timing the weather is just tough. You guys are still dealing with significant heat, while here in Oregon, we’re looking at potential snow this weekend! Seriously! I think you win, though, with your AC going out. That is not helpful at all. Hopefully it’s a quick fix. I am hearing a lot of horror stories about long wait times for parts and service these days. It’s always something, isn’t it??

  14. Yet another one of those memory filled visit to one of the most gorgeous national park. Your great photos gave me a different perspective since you had wildflowers to stop you and take pictures of them in addition to the overall scenery. Our visit was in Fall and the fall colors were incredible! And I even have a picture from almost the same angle you took, check this out 🙂
    https://lowestravels.files.wordpress.com/2016/10/2016-09-29-wa-1510924-edit.jpg

    I thought your next stop after North Cascade was the Olympic Peninsula and a change in scenery from mountains to ocean 🙂 But you did the right choice for you will still get the turd there too on your way down south.

    • Wow! That picture is STUNNING! The fall colors are just mind boggling. I think we did a very similar late summer route this year to your late fall route a couple years ago, so it’s cool to compare the photos – especially here and at North Cascades. It helps, too, that we seem to have a similar photographic eye!

      We considered visiting the Olympic Peninsula on this trip, but I figured that area was worth a couple weeks to explore, and I figured a lot of shops and restaurants and things we like would be closed or limited due to Covid. So, we decided to just hold off for another trip. We’ll get there eventually!

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