This past weekend the weather forecast looked spectacular, so we decided to head back west to see Mt Rainier, and hopefully Mt St Helens, as well. As luck would have it, the weather was even more spectacular than originally forecast, and we were greeted to perfectly clear skies in the morning. Off to the park!
Our hotel was a mere minutes from the entrance to Mt Rainier National Park, and we wasted no time in getting to the gate. Boy were we surprised when we also learned it was free entry day! Score! From the east end of the park, we drove the winding road to Paradise, stopping at most of the vistas along the way for some stunning photographs of this huge mountain. We crossed paths with a few animal species, as well, including a fox with her pup, a sneaky chipmunk, and a grouse.
We spoke to the rangers about a few day hikes we can do, some without gear, and some with snowshoes, after we found out that we could rent them from the gift shop. Yes, we went snowshoeing in June. First stop was up the slope behind the lodge. Boy, did that ever show me how out of shape pharmacy school has made me. I would get maybe 75 steps in before I was winded. Granted this was up a steep slope, with snowshoes on, but just last March I hiked to the very top of Yosemite Falls (3.6 miles one way, with 2700ft elevation gain) with seemingly less effort than this, carrying a 30lb pack, along with snowshoes (which we used). There's some real insight to be had from getting winded that quickly, with no pack. I have to start working out more, concentrating on cardio, and shaping up my eating habits. I can't conquer mountains if I get beat on the first hill. Ultimately, we ended up hiking for slightly over a mile, and even with that short distance, we had gained enough elevation to see over the nearby peaks, all the way to Mt St Helens. We also came back with a nice sunburn. Being raised in Florida, sunscreen is a necessity, but only during the summer months. We overlooked that tiny detail about reflection, and how it can really do you in. Oops.
We took it easy the rest of the day, completing some of the easier hikes, while still taking in some great sights. I wasn't too fond of turning back on a short, 1.5 mile hike, but my body was not cooperating with me. Back to the hotel and dinner around 5pm, a full day, complete with amazing scenes, and slight disappointments.
Sunday absolutely SUCKED. When we awoke, we were greeted with nothing but gray skies and rain. No way we can view mountains when the ceiling is at a mere 5,000 ft or so. Back to Spokane! We finished the day with a short visit to Cat Tales, an independent big cat zoo, that was interesting, albeit small.
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