Photo above: Summer view of Mt. Rainier from a walking path in Mount Rainier National Park. Photo courtesy National Park Service. Right: Mt. Rainier from Eagle Peak in 1908. Source: Library of Congress.
Yes, it's a big mountain, all 14,411 feet of it, and a very popular national park for those interested in hiking, mountain climbing, and witnessing the huge peaks of this Washington State gem and its twenty-six glaciers east of the Tacoma and Seattle area. Hey, and it's also a volcano, with two over one thousand feet in diameter centers. And folks have been visiting and witnessing these peaks for a long time, from the times when Indian tribes inhabited the area to those of George Vancouver, John Muir, and its dedication as Mount Rainier National Park by President William McKinley in 1899.
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Mount Rainier Then
Geology at Mount Rainier- Lava from 840,000 years ago and it's present cone from 500,000 years ago. Two major mudflows have occured within the last 5,000 years, one, the Osceloa Mudflow reached Tacoma, and more recently, 500 years ago, the small Electron Mudflow. The volcano last erupted in the 19th century.
Recreation at Mount Rainier- Although what we would call recreation today, i.e. Mountain Climbing, Hiking, etc. did not occur when George Vancouver came to the area in 1792 and named it after his friend, it has become part of the area's appeal for over a century, since its initial climb to the summit by the Hazard Stevens and P.B. Van Trump in 1870. Hmmm. Distant relative of the President? Doubtful. The land was set aside in 1893 as part of the Pacific Forest Reserve and six years later became a national park.
Photo above: Camping party and their tent at Indian Henry, Mount Rainier National Park, 1911-1920, Curtis and Miller. Courtesy Library of Congress. Photo below: Wild flowers and the mountain. Courtesy National Park Service, Sue Russell.
Mount Rainier Now
There is more than one peak at Mount Rainier, actually three, with the highest named Columbia Crest, and others Point Success and Liberty Cap. And climbing the summit is an annual trial for around 10,000 people, althought it is an arduous task only for the most experienced climbers who have the ability to climb the largest glacier in the United States south of Alaska.
But there's a whole lot more to do than climb the summit, and that's what the majority of the over one million visitors do at Mount Rainier National Park each year. Depending on the way you enter the park, there is a visitor center nearby with exhibits, ranger guided walks, and hiking trails galore, including the mother of them all, the Wonderland Trail. There is Sunrise Visitor Center in the northeast, the main Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center near Paradise in the south/central area of the park, and Ohanapekosh Visitor Center near the southeast corner. The Sunrise Visitor Center is new, as of 2011, with lots of interesting exhibits in the rustic and beautiful building.
The Views - In the above picture, top center, you can see just one of the summer views of Mt. Rainier from a walking path in Mount Rainier National Park. These views abound all over the park, from the developed areas to the trails that wind from them.
T-Shirts and Souvenirs
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Things You Should Not Miss
1. Take the drive up to Sunrise, the highest spot where you can drive. Although it's far from some of the main areas around Paradise, it might just be the right spot for you to view the sights of Mount Rainier.
2. The new visitor center at Paradise has a park film that helps orient the visitor to the park. Might make a good first stop for those new to the area, and even to veterans who have not yet seen the film.
3. Take a hike, whether it be the guided variety by a park ranger, or by yourself. Remember, you are at altitude, of some variety, everywhere, so only hike we're you're capable. Ask at the Visitor Centers what might be the appropriate trek for you.
4. Listen to a ranger. Whether that be on that guided hike, snowshoe walk, patio talk about a volcano or the Paradise Inn, astronomy, these men and women know their stuff and are some of the most interesting people to hear from in the USA.
Photo above: Interior of the exhibits at the Sunrise Visitor Center. Courtesy National Park Service.