There is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weatherJohn Ruskin
It is well known that mountain climates can be unpredictable, and Mount Rainier in the US North West is no different. After a perfect day in Paradise we had fallen asleep under clear skies; but we woke to thick fog obscuring all the surrounding mountains and indeed everything apart from the trees closest to the lodge. A perfect demonstration for us of the way that the mountain creates its own micro climate, although not an especially welcome one.
Look at the difference in the view from our room, yesterday and today:
We hoped that the sun might emerge and burn off the low cloud and soft dampness in the air. But despite lingering over breakfast at Paradise Lodge, and for a while afterwards, we eventually had to accept that we would probably not see Mount Rainier again. With some miles to drive to our next planned stop, we loaded the car and set off.
Stevens Canyon Road
So much for plans to spend the morning on a slow drive on scenic Stevens Canyon Road, looking forward to seeing, and photographing, Reflection Lake in particular. We could barely see the lake, never mind the classic view of Mount Rainier reflected in it. Soft mist hung over the water, draping the trees around its shores with moisture.
We had slightly better luck at our next stop, Sunbeam Creek, where appropriately a watery sun appeared and a glimpse of blue sky between the soft wisps of fog.
We toyed briefly with the idea of returning to Reflection Lake but knew that it would still be some time before the mountain emerged from behind the clouds. As we drove on the fog closed in again almost immediately, reinforcing our decision to press on.
Our next stop was at Box Canyon where we did the half mile walk to the viewpoint. This lead us past lichen-covered rocks which looked rather atmospheric in the mist. There were pretty tiger lilies growing beside the path, also small-flowered penstemon, bunchberry and several I couldn’t identify.
At the furthest point of the trail it turns to cross a wooden bridge over the canyon. This is a slot canyon, narrow and deep. The waters of the Muddy Fork of the Cowlitz River tumble through it, 115 feet below the bridge.
We crossed, then followed the river on its far side back to the road where another bridge, this time of stone, also afforded us good views.
Just before leaving the park we had a pleasant stroll on the short Hot Springs trail at Ohanapecosh. This was once the site of a spa-style resort, long since gone. The springs themselves are small and seemed to me to be warm rather than hot, with only a hint of gentle steam rising from one pool. But the surroundings were pretty and there were some lovely delicate grasses and wildflowers to photograph. I loved the softness of the grass seed heads.
Equally soft were the lichens and mosses that cloaked many of the trees here.
Ohanapecosh was our last stop in Mount Rainier National Park. It had been a brief visit but a fantastic one, especially on our first day when the sun shone and the air was fresh. But now it was time to move on – we were, after all, on a road trip.
And the road in question now was SR 12 which led us east, through ever-improving weather, towards White Pass. Before reaching that point however, Mount Rainier had one more surprise for us. We pulled over at a viewpoint when we spotted other cars parked there, to discover a wonderful view of the mountain. It had at last emerged from that morning’s shroud of fog and was now girdled with soft white cloud. Here we were able to say our farewells to this most majestic of peaks.
When I saw Ann-Christine’s Lens-Artists Challenge theme this week I immediately thought of the soft mists, soft grasses and soft lichens of this day.
I visited Mount Rainier in 2017