Mount Rainier Nature Trails
May 21, 2000

I was teaching a class on glacier travel and crevasse rescue on the Nisqually Glacier at Mt. Rainier on Saturday, so I had Maren and Bryden meet me Saturday evening, and the three of us spent the night at a nice hotel just outside of the park entrance Saturday night. On Sunday, the three of us walked some of the nature trails around the south side of Mt. Rainier. The weather forecast hadn't been great, but we lucked out with a stunningly beautiful day to do some exploring! After a good breakfast at the National Park Inn at Longmire we started out by walking the "Trail of the Shadows", just across the road from Longmire. This was a great trail for Bryden to walk by himself - at 3/4 of a mile and only 80 feet of elevation gain, it's perfect for a 3 1/2 year old, or a 7 month's pregnant wife! There's some beautiful views of Mt. Rainier to be had over Longmire Meadows, some beaver dams to see, an old cabin you can walk inside of, plenty of bridges across small streams to play in, old stone cisterns where guests of the Longmires would soak in the medicinal waters, and a travertine mound, bubbling and oozing minerals. Along the trail, a mule deer approached us and walked right by, passing within 5 feet of us, seemingly completely unconcerned with our presence on the trail. Bryden got quite a kick out of that! Matt and Bryden in front of Longmire Meadows and Mount Rainier
Matt and Bryden in front of Longmire Meadows and Mount Rainier

Bryden and Maren walking across one of the many short stream bridges
Bryden and Maren walking across one of the many short stream bridges
After we returned to Longmire, we drove a short distance back toward the park entrance, and walked the Twin Firs loop trail. It's about a half mile long, and Bryden walked most of the way on his own again. This trail didn't have quite the variety of scenery to offer as the Trail of the Shadows did, but it was a pretty walk through deep forest, with plenty of trillium in bloom, and soft, pine needle covered trails to walk along. The large trees proved perfect for hiding behind, and we each took turns being the dinosaur that would jump at and growl at each other, which Bryden thought was a little frightening and terribly hilarious at the same time!

Bryden was getting tired after all this walking, so we headed back to the car and drove up to Paradise. On the way, we stopped at Narada Falls and walked out onto the bridge to look over the falls. Bryden thought this was pretty cool, and liked the spray coming up into his face, but he also thought it was a little scary with the drop off underneath us.

Back in the car, we completed the drive up to Paradise and had lunch in the visitor center there. After lunch, we walked up onto the snow a short ways so Bryden could use some of the construction equipment he had brought with him to dig in the snow. He enjoyed himself, but decided he liked digging in sand better, because it didn't make his hands so cold! There was as group of students from one of the other alpine clubs practicing crevasse rescue just above the parking lot, using the high banks of snow as their crevasse lip. We sat and watched them for a while, and Bryden liked watching the "victim" hanging in their harness by a rope 20 feet above the parking lot surface, although he wasn't quite sure he wanted to do that just yet (smart boy!).

Thinking it was probably time for a nap for Bryden, we got back in the car and started driving towards the SE entrance of the park. We took the drive nice and slowly, and sure enough, 5 minutes after leaving Paradise Bryden nodded off and slept pretty much the whole way to the Stevens Canyon entrance. Once there, we turned around and pulled into the parking area for the trail that goes to the Grove of the Patriarchs, just 100 yards or so inside of the park entrance. This was another great trail for Bryden, about 1 1/2 miles long again, and with 160 feet of elevation gain. We walked along the trail for a ways, ducking under fallen logs and looking down at the Ohanapecosh River here and there until we came to the suspension bridge across the river over to the island where the big trees were. Bryden was a little leery of the suspension bridge, and made sure I went all the way across first so I couldn't jump up and down while he was crossing and make the bridge bounce!

They're doing some wonderful upgrading of the trail around the island, raising it off the ground (and off of the roots of the trees) in most places, so there's a very nice boardwalk to stroll along. The size of some of the trees are just unbelievable! The grand daddy of them all is almost 50 feet around at the base - Bryden was very impressed! We walked down to the river on the other side of the island and spent some time throwing rocks and sticks in the water, something Bryden can do for hours without getting bored!

On the way back, I convinced Bryden that a group of hikers that was a little behind us were really monsters chasing us, and he decided we had better run all the way back to the cars. After we crossed the suspension bridge again, and climbed the short hill back up to the main trail, that's exactly what we did, all three of us running as fast as a 3 1/2 year can, back to the parking lot - Bryden's got very strong legs!

It didn't take long after we got in the car and started driving for Bryden to fall back asleep again - it had been a pretty big day for him with lots of exercise and fresh air. That worked out just fine, because by the time we had driven half way up from the Stevens Canyon entrance to the White River entrance, we hit the rains that had been forecast for the day, and we were in dark clouds and rain all the rest of the way home!

Bryden and Matt sitting on the trunk of an ancient and huge cedar tree
Bryden and Matt sitting on the trunk of an ancient and huge cedar tree

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