Snow! Christmas is fast approaching and the season has been markedly snow free. Of course, this is Seattle and not the ‘shire so the weather is as predicted. It was great to get out and enjoy the fluffy powdery white snow along with Eve and Lee, fellow New Englanders, at the base of Rainier on snowshoes and surrounded by what looked like magical Christmas trees.
Thursday, December 18, 2014. Hike: snowshoeing around at the Paradise Entrance in Rainier National Park, circa Mazama Ridge. Distance: a few miles? Elevation gain: no clue. High point: unknown.
As we drove south toward the mountain we could see the lower reaches, but upper 3/4 was entirely obscured in clouds. The forecast: rain at low elevations, snow higher. We reached Rainier mid-morning and chatted with the ranger at Longmire for a few minutes. No avalanche forecasting was available so early in the season and not yet a concern. In Rainier National Park, you’ll find the Longmire Entrance and Ranger’s station at the southern end of the park and 2700 feet elevation. East of Longmire is the Paradise Entrance and Ranger’s station situated at 5400 feet – 2700 feet higher! While it was raining at Longmire, there was nearly 2 feet of snow at Paradise! Lee, Eve, and I had to add chains to the tires halfway to Paradise. There was a handful of cars in the parking lot.
We donned our shells and gaiters, buckled our snowshoes to our boots, and set off into the white. We zigzagged up and to the right, following the tracks of another snowshoer. Walking along what looked like a path, we came to trail signs just poking up above the surface of the snow. We walked generally in the direction of Skyline Ridge and could barely see the ridge. Over a frozen river and across a wooden bridge. Snow fell lightly and thick clouds obscured all but the nearest slopes. Rainier could be anywhere. We couldn’t even get the vaguest view of the enormous volcano we were on.
Pictures over the water. Selfies. Selfies of selfies. We got to the top of the hill. Ate some snacks. Drank water and tea. Veered left and continued up. Winds blew harder and pelted us in the face with snow the closer we got to the top of the hill. Upper frozen river crossing. When we’d had enough of the pelting, we turned around and retraced our steps. Back down the hills, past frozen rivers and Christmas tree trees. We chatted with a couple by the lower river crossing and took pictures for each other. Solid snowshoe.