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PHOTO GALLERY INDEX > It’s Got the Word “Rain” Right In the Name

Mount Rainier National Park, WA   08/27-29/08 (Day 684-686)
It’s Got the Word “Rain” Right In the Name

Okay. So Mount Rainier in Washington state isn’t actually called that because it’s “rainier” than most (actually, English explorer George Vancouver named Mount Rainier after his friend, Rear Admiral Peter Rainier). But the Mount Rainier region does get an extraordinary amount of rain (about four feet a year). Then there are the years when things go just plain nuts.

Record rainfall in November of 2006 to the tune of 18 inches in 36 hours foiled our first attempt to visit Mount Rainier National Park since the catastrophic flooding closed roads, ruined trails, wiped out campgrounds and diverted entire rivers. The park is actually still repairing damage done by that monster storm, which becomes apparent when we head out of our prime site in the White River Campground (more on that later) and head out on the Glacier Basin Trail.

A flyer tacked up at the trail head warns that the first mile of the 3.5 mile (one way) route was washed away and dramatically re-diverted by flood waters caused by the November, 2006 storm. A new makeshift scramble through this devastated section has been identified by rangers and marked with yellow caution tape and walking through the area gives us a good look at the destructive power of so much water.

 Mount Rainier National Park Airstream
Entering Mount Rainier National Park on a foggy evening.

Drizzle and cloud cover persist as we reach Glacier Basin itself. A five site primitive campground here is a favorite base camp for climbers summiting Mount Rainier, which remains hidden behind thick clouds the whole time we are up there—tantalizingly close, yet invisible.

We have no trouble at all seeing the most rambunctious marmot we’ve ever encountered. Unlike its usually-lazy brethren, this one is up and at ‘em, scurrying across the gorgeous meadow like a cat, nibbling grass and flowers from one end of the small lake to the other and scampering up the nearby hillside emitting its trademark squeak as it goes—it's like a noisy child’s toy that's been wound up too tight.

We descend in the same drizzle and begin to think we might have better luck getting a good look at the mountain if we stopped calling it Rainier and started calling it by its Indian name: Mount Tacoma. The rain has stopped by the time we return to our Safari SE happily at home in the best campsite in White River Campground and, perhaps, the whole park.

White River Campground Mount Rainier National Park Airstream
The best campsite in the park and maybe the best one in the entire park system.

Site D29 is a pull through literally right on the banks of the White River. That’s great enough. However, this site also offers an in-your-face view of Mount Rainier just upstream. If the clouds would just scram we could see it from the window in the bedroom of our Airstream.

It’s so idyllic that we decide to stay for another night and the next morning we're rewarded with bright sunny skies and our first clear shot of the mountain.

Insulated coffee mugs in hand, we drive the 10 miles from the campground up to Sunset Point for even better views (and shots) of Mount Rainier. By 7:30 am the clouds are already rolling back in, but after two attempts and two years of waiting, we finally get our hour with the mountain and we can now leave the park satisfied.

Mount Rainier National Park
Worth the wait: on our second morning in the park
Mount Rainier is finally crystal clear.




** This isn't a normal photo gallery with a slideshow because this post originally appeared on our Airstream blog. **

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