Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Mt. Rainier National Park--designed for tourism

Entrance to the first master-planned national park.
Mt. Rainier National Park, created in 1899, was the first national park that had a full master plan from the start. It was designed for tourism with a well-maintained road system engineered and planned to take advantage of scenic views of the namesake mountain and the meadows, lakes, and forests within its boundaries. Creating the road system wasn't easy since it meant boring through mountains at several points.
Wildlife, mountains, forests, and meadows are among the many
 attractions in Mt. Rainier National Park.
The park first developed the familiar rustic style of architecture that has since been used in many other western national parks. In fact, it was designated a National Historic Landmark District because of the architecture. All this was notable for the park system, even though the main attraction will always be the majestic mountain itself and 97 percent of the park that is designated wilderness with no development.

Beverly and Larry at Narada Falls
in Mt. Rainier NP
Mt. Rainier is considered an active volcano, even though it hasn’t erupted in 20,000 years. But magma heated water (steam) still escapes from the summit and lava flows drape the mountain sides making it potentially the most dangerous mountain in the Cascade volcano range. Shaped by fire (volcanic ash is a building force) and ice (tears it down with scraping and scouring), the surface of the mountain is constantly changing. “Erosion always wins,” says a sign at the Paradise Visitor Center. Thus, Mt. Rainier can be a destructive force or a sanctuary depending on weather and geologic forces.
Clouds move rapidly across the mountain and provide fleeting
views of its peak.
The park is a magical land, always changing. It can be misty, foggy, sunny, rainy, or cloudy--all in the same day. Dozens of rivers and streams run through the park, and trees grow twisted and bent from the weight of snow and ice. Visitors gain a renewed appreciation for the forces of nature when visiting the national park.  Although 9,000 climbers attempt to summit Rainier each year only half that number actually make it. Its size and variety are an inspiration for nature lovers and photographers.

Beverly poses on a fallen tree during
a hike in Mt. Rainier NP.
On our first day in the park we stopped to take pictures of Christine Falls, beautiful and strong as it cascades down a cliff. Then we took a short walk to Narada Falls, one of the most spectacular in the park with water splashing 168 feet over jagged rock into the Paradise River.
After lunch at  the park's main visitor center, Paradise Jackson Visitor Center,we walked to scenic Myrtle Lake and extended the hike to Nisqually Vista, a pleasant trail through a sublime alpine flower meadow, among the prettiest anywhere in the world during summer's blooming period. During our September visit, remnants of summer wildflowers dotted hillsides with bright color. Next we drove on Stevens Canyon Road and through a valley, then on to Box Canyon for a stunning look into the deep, narrow canyon cut by a rapidly flowing river.

Sunshine on Reflection Lake one day rewarded us with this amazing
 but short-lived view.
Scattered rain and gray clouds had curtailed some of our walks, but as we returned on Stevens Canyon Road, the clouds began to move quickly, opening up the top of Mt. Rainier. For about 10-15 minutes we watched clouds blow across the sky and allow for our first pictures of the mountain. A rainbow shone in the sky, and reflections sparkled in Louise Lake on the drive back to our cabin. We were satisfied with all we saw that day, even while hoping for better views of the mountain on another day (and we were not disappointed!).

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

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