It’s been a typical Seattle winter, rain, rain and yup, you guessed it more rain. It’s a never ending cold, dark, damp, drizzle. This last week has been the very oddly foggy and freezing cold. I mean so foggy it was hard to drive or see more than a few yards in front of you even at high noon. The weatherman says there is some weird “Inversion layer” hanging over us and it will be like this for another week. Another week? I cannot even remember the last time I seen the sun. So when Jen said we should go snowshoeing at Mt. Rainier next weekend and I was like “Yeah, sure sounds like fun” in my most sarcastic voice.
Well, Saturday morning arrives quickly and we throw a bunch of clothes and our snowshoes in the truck and hit the road at the crack of noon. It’s 28 degrees and thick fog and it’s a 2 hour drive. I’m not looking forward to this, but the mood lightens as we listen David Sadaris on the radio read from his book “Me Talk Pretty One Day“. He helps pass the time with his hilarious observations as we groan on about what we’re gonna do all weekend if it’s gonna be like this. There is not a chance in hell we will be able to see anything, except for maybe a couple of beers at some redneck bar in Elbe, WA. One thing to look forward to is Jen had made a reservations a couple days ago to spend a night near Mt. Rainer, and in of all places a tree house with access to a wood fire hot tub and sauna. Yes, a tree house and odder yet the place is owned by our old roommate Sky’s hippy mother Sunny at Well Springs Spa. It sounds like our kinda place, but we skip check in and head right for the Paradise, because of our late start.
We had been driving in thick fog the entire time, until we round one corner near Ashford, WA near the Paradise entrance of Mt. Rainier and it’s all of sudden crystal clear out and we can see the entire mountain in all of it’s glory. It’s sunny and unusually warm out in a blink of an eye. I mean mid 50’s if not close to 60 out and swear to Gawd it’s T-shirt weather. WTF is going on here? We grab a quick six’er at the last store before the park entrance just in case of sudden “dehydration” from all that snowshoeing at high altitudes.
Wow, I kinda forgot what nice weather was like or the sun for that matter and major bonus is that there is absolutely no wind. It’s like we’re on drugs, (from what I’ve heard) its so nice out. The ranger at the gate tells us that it was 62 degrees at Paradise visitor’s center on Thursday 01/17/2013. We quickly pack a lunch and get going up, up and away. Holy shit, am I outta shape. We quickly strip a layer and I luckily thought ahead and pull out my iPod. If I’m gonna make it up this thing I’m going to need to distract myself from this relentless uphill battle of will and monotony. It’s hard to get a sense of scale or perspective when you’re staring up at a mountain that is 14,410′ tall and the summit is probably less than a mile away.
As we climb we can feel it getting warmer and warmer, which normally the direct opposite of what you would expect. As we approach the last very steep section before our destination of Panorama Point I tell Jen that she should take off her snowshoes because everyone else has kick stepped a staircase up to the point, but does she listen? When I say steep I mean everyone else around use is wearing crampons and/or ice axes. It’s scary steep and it’s a long slide, although going up isn’t as hard as going down. But I have a plan where on the way up I scoped out a long round about loop route that looks “fail safe” from avalanches or getting lost.
Well, surprise, surprise there is a steeper section (basically a cliff) on the backside of Panorama Point and we would have to climb a lot higher to go around, so that slight flutter of butterfly’s we felt in our stomach about going up such a steeps section starts to feel like angry bees. It’s a feeling where we’ve got ourselves into this mess, now let’s get ourselves out. We had planned on eating lunch on top, but I felt it was best to use this time when the snow is at it’s softest to get down to a safe spot before we eat. Although, having a “last meal” before we die thought had crossed my mind.
As a reward for surviving we treat ourselves to a nice cold micro brew. I’ve got to say those beers never tasted so good. We sat there for a good long time just staring at things big, small and ginormous. I found myself taking pictures of the same thing with just the minimal amount of change like it’s going to be some miraculous work of art or Ansel for that matter. Then I realized that there is nothing to put things into perspective in this land of giants, except for maybe the random passer by. I take this picture below and I thought it turned out so well I went over and offered to send it to them. He appreciated the gesture so much he returned the favor. (photo credit above Glen Grover)
Wow, look at the time and we still have an appoint with a wood fired hot tube and sauna to get to. We arrive and quickly pull all of our supplies up to the tree house 15′ above by a bucket on a rope and pulley. A quick change into our suits and we’re off to the wood fired hot tub. It’s couldn’t be better and all of those aches and pains are slowly fading away with each passing minute and cocktail. If there was a way to bottle this feeling I’d be a rich man.
If you ever get a chance to stay at Well Spring Spa in Ashford, WA I would highly recommend it. It’s right there at the gates of Mt. Rainier’s Paradise entrance.
So the moral of this story is to get out there despite the weather, because it maybe better than you could have ever imagined.