Friday, September 23, 2011

Days 83 - 84: Mount Ranier National Park, WA

Mount Ranier is the most heavily glaciated peak in the lower 48 states and is the fifth National Park, created in 1899.

They had some interesting books in the museum gift shop.

The park has lots of historic structures and a little museum.
I think this is Charlie the Cougar.  He was taxidermied about 100 years ago.

Mount Ranier had some buses similar to Yellowstone and Glacier but they no longer use them.  There were only five made, and this is one of the last remaining three in existence.

Cool vintage gas station with the pumps still there.

Doesn't look like much in the photo but this waterfall is about 90 feet tall.

The day we arrived, the mountain was completely obscured by low clouds.  This is the visitor's center at "Paradise".  We had no choice but to camp for the night and hope the mountain would show itself tomorrow.  The Park Rangers warned us that Mount Ranier makes its own weather and can remain hidden for weeks!

We camped for the night in a light drizzle and met these two characters, Ian and his father Stan.  They were about halfway thru hiking the "Wonderland Trail," which circles the base of Mount Ranier.  The hike is 95 miles long and takes about a week to complete!  Ian had forgotten his rain pants and they were afraid of him getting damp and not being able to complete the hike.  I loaned him mine and they hiked on the next morning.  We got to spend some time with them, drinking beer and listening to Stan play guitar.  He knows a bunch of classic rock and folk songs like Woodie Guthrie, Eagles, Neil Young, etc.  Good times!  We exchanged information so I could retrieve the pants and Ian is letting us stay at his place in Portland!

The following morning the mountain showed itself for an hour or so and disappeared again!  It's really breathtaking because it's not part of a range.  It just stands alone and dominates the landscape.

"the most luxuriant and the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I ever beheld in all my mountain-top wanderings."
-John Muir


We did a sub alpine meadow hike and it was teaming with flowers, deer, marmots, and even some snow still on the ground.

This is Park Ranger Casey educating visitors about the Pacific Rim volcanoes, especially the ones along the west coast.  The Ranger programs are great and the Rangers are really passionate about their jobs.

This illustrates how frequently the western US volcanoes have experienced eruptions.  Ranier is not expected to seriously erupt anytime, but it is considered dangerous because of all the glacial ice stored on the mountain.  If there was a landslide, this could create a "lahar" or mudflow that could devestate Tacoma and even Seattle.  There's evidence of one 5000 years ago that reached Puget Sound.  The mountain was believed to have been over 16,000 feet tall before the lahar decreased its height and then the glaciers eroded it even more. 

In the meantime, it's a beauty to behold.  That afternoon, the summit appeared again but the clouds never completely lifted.  Still, we feel lucky we got to see it.  In the foreground is a glacial moraine where the Nisqually Glacier scraped a huge trough.  The toe of the glacier is visible about half way up the moraine.  It's covered in dirt and rock but you can see where the melt water starts, that is actually ice!

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