Freeway Free in Washington – Mighty Mt. Rainier
Saturday – Day 7 Mt. Rainier National Park
Our camping spots at Cowlitz County Park are only a few dozen miles from Mount Rainier National Park. It’s a lazy Saturday morning, but after a fine breakfast we four pile into the Big Red Truck and head for the mountain. We move happily along past beautiful green meadows with occasional glimpses of Mt. St. Helen with her top blown off. Roadside stands offer blueberries and cherries. Then suddenly – brake lights ahead.
Evidently on a beautiful Saturday morning a lot more people than ourselves have thought that an outing to Mt. Rainier was a lovely idea. An hour and half of inching along later, I hop out of the car to buy some cherries from a stand, and see we are at the gates of the park. Once inside, we move along quickly past signs saying, “Paradise Parking Lot full,” and stop at the National Park Inn, the first place that offers food. As we turn on the front porch steps the mountain is looming above us, huge and white and clear against the blue sky. Wow.
We get a table at the Inn almost instantly, Pia the waitress assures us that she will be “right with us, in a flash” and literally runs away. 15 minutes later she reappears, takes our order and sprints off again. So far, so good. But we hadn’t noticed the number of tables waiting for food, and the very limited number of servers.
An hour later, we get our food. The sandwich is smushed into a basket along with some French fries, the soup is just warm. The fish and chips are “ok”. Short staffing is the issue. But where are all the teenagers and college kids who should be working in the national park for the summer?
The gift shop is a restorative stop, and then there is that mountain. After soaking it in for a short bit, we take the historic trail around the old mineral springs through a drop-dead- lovely fern/cedar/wetlands forest. We count 21 kinds of wildflowers, dip our fingers in the sulphur springs which were the first attraction near the Mountain, and marvel at the gnarled stumps of toppled cedars (rivaling redwoods, I have to say).
It is three pm and we must be back at the camp by 8:45. We drive up to paradise, stopping here and there for more Mountain views, now beginning to be enhanced by wisps of peek-a-boo clouds. We get to paradise. the parking lot is indeed full, with folks circling and circling. We abort and take the wonderfully scenic other road back down to Hwy 12 and our camp-. Dinner tonight by Miche and me – veggies burritos. Yum. Chris has two.