After a brief, but fruitful day in Seattle, my family and I left for our next destinations in the Washington State. We would be spending the last two nights of our trip visiting a couple of the national and state parks, as well as getting a peek at the famous mountains, Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens. It would be a pleasant way to wrap up our time in the Pacific Northwest, and indeed it was.
From Seattle, we drove for about two hours to Mount Rainier, situated southeast of the city. We entered the national park, first stopping by the Longmire Museum which housed a small collection of wildlife species–birds, rodents, mammals–to keep an eye out for whilst in the area. While I don’t consider myself that into identifying wildlife, it was kind of fascinating, to say the least. There was also a chart of the tallest mountains in the world, in comparison to what Washington had. Admittedly, Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens aren’t very tall, especially the latter since it had lost about 1000 feet after erupting in 1980.
Any case, we continued on to Glacier River, which is where glaciers from the mountains had melted and now flow through the area. There were large stones covered throughout, as we stepped from one to another to access a single-railed wooden bridge (a bit thrilling) to cross over for the heck of it. Also tried to get a glimpse of Mount Rainier, but unfortunately, there were too many clouds obstructing the view. For the rest of the day, my family and I made it our mission to capture a photo of Mount Rainier…unobstructed!
Towards the afternoon, we checked out two waterfalls– Christine and Narada Falls–both which were pretty impressive. The former, named after the daughter of pioneer P.B. Van Trump (who made the first ascent up Mount Rainier back in the day), was pretty to look at, although its two-tiered falls were impossible to capture simultaneously in one photograph. Instead, we descended to the lower falls, which tends to be the more-iconic photo opportunity with the bridge over it.
Narada Falls was an absolute soak-fest, though: we had to make a small hike down a slippery snow portion of the trail (almost ate it, but caught myself—several unfortunate souls didn’t, though) before getting up close and personal with the lower falls (also a two-tiered one) to take a photo whilst getting myself wet from the intense mist. I was quite impressed by it!
Continuing further on, we made a short stop at the Paradise Inn to rest and to decide whether it was worth going more in hopes of seeing Mount Rainier unobstructed by the clouds, which were still in effect. We chose to go forward, and at a certain point, we stopped alongside a curvy road on the sloped path, having spotted some of the clouds just starting to move away from the famous mountain. While Mount Rainier was still perhaps 25 percent covered, we took the chance to snap as many photos as we could, since we didn’t know if it would clear up any more than it already was.
Soon after, we turned around to head towards the park’s exit. We stopped by Reflections Lake, which was still mostly frozen over, but the slivers of ponds offered pretty nice reflections (as its name suggests) of the trees surrounding it; I could imagine it being a full-on mirror in the summer! Just right before we were about to exit the park, we happened to catch a glimpse of Mount Rainier, fully unobstructed, and stopped once more to take a photo of it—happy we *finally* got to see it entirely before we left!
We left the Mount Rainier National Park, making the 90-minute drive to Kelso, one of the few towns nearby which served as a gateway to the national and state parks in the area. We would be staying there for two nights and after checking into our hotel, we headed out our first night to a Mexican restaurant within the plaza the hotel was located. It’d been a long time since I had Mexican food (no good ones in France, that’s why!), and I treated myself to some flautas and with my dad ordered some large margaritas…and oh boy, were they massive! I didn’t expect large to be that large—seriously, it was like the size of a mini cauldron! All the same, it was strong and tasty, with a cilantro-chile kick to it. Thankfully didn’t get drunk, but I was super full once we returned to our hotel.
The following morning, we spent the day at Mount St. Helens, located in a state park just an hour away. We left a bit later than usual, getting lunch at Subway before heading over for the afternoon. We made several stops at vantage points for photos with the iconic volcano that blew its top in 1980, since then having reduced significantly in size (but repairing itself!). Hopping from Elk Rock to Castle Rock to Johnston Ridge to Coldwater Lake, we essentially just took photos of the same volcano, albeit from different perspectives and scenery. It was a laid-back kind of day, and by 16:00 we headed back to Kelso, getting dinner at an Italian buffet before hitting the sack. We would be driving all the way back to Portland the next day, returning the rental car before catching our afternoon flight back to Los Angeles, thus ending our week in the Pacific Northwest.
…and there you have it! My week in the Pacific Northwest this summer was brief, but very refreshing—considering that I hadn’t been to the region before, I was glad to have explored it. While parts of it did disappoint (e.g. Portland, Cannon Beach) the majority of it were absolutely lovely, and I do appreciate how much greenery there is compared with the desert of southern California. Perhaps I’ll go back someday and even venture more north to Vancouver, Canada in general!
Thanks for reading about my adventures this summer. I promise that more is to come soon, whenever the opportunity arises! 😀
— The Finicky Cynic
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