Mount Rainier from Crystal Mountain Resort. Photo by Danielle Decker.
It was not quite a year ago that I conquered a major personal goal and stood on the summit of Mount Rainier. Just recently, I returned back to take an ever more leisurely trip to enjoy the mountain in an entirely different way.
Evergreen Escapes. Photo by Danielle Decker.
The most excellent day started as I hopped into the shiny sprinter van at my downtown Seattle pick-up location and before I even had a chance to buckle my seatbelt my teeth were sunk into the most divine crumbly scone that was waiting for me on arrival. Over the next hour, my fellow ten passengers and I were entertained by our incredibly knowledgeable guide who doubled as our driver with Evergreen Escapes.
The first stop was in the sweet small town of Enumclaw where the main street is lined in charming shops that beckon you with their county-like hospitality. Here we did a little antique rummaging and sampled some heavenly jalapeno salted caramels from Sweet Necessities before continuing on.
Gondola at Crystal Mountain Resort. Photo by Danielle Decker.
After our pit stop in Enumclaw we headed to Crystal Mountain Resort. I have been here a number of times to ride on their excellent terrain during the winter but have never had the opportunity to experience it during the summer. The base of the mountain had an abundance of things going on but we went directly on the gondola to an elevation of 6,872’ where the views of Mount Rainier and the surrounding peaks leave you in awe. Here you can head off on a number of hiking trails or do like we did and settle in for a great meal while enjoying a view like none other from the Summit House Restaurant.
After reluctantly bidding that view adieu we headed south, enjoying more spectacular views as we traversed the flanks of the mountain, until we arrived at the ever-so-perfectly named Paradise. The Paradise area is the stomping ground of mountaineering legends such as Jim and Lou Whittaker, Ed Viesturs, Dave Hahn and Melissa Arnot (to name a very select few), as well as being a visitor’s mecca. There is a beautiful new visitor’s center as well as the historic and elegant Paradise Inn where you can spend a day educating yourself on the mountain, enjoying a snack and a glass of wine or just lounging in one of the oversized chairs to take in the mountain air.
Paradise Area. Photo by Danielle Decker.
The minute the wheels of the vehicle come to a stop I couldn’t wait to race out to the hiking trails, set my course, get my blood pumping and take in the insane beauty of it all. There are a number of hiking options leaving the parking lot, even if you’re not quite ready to head to the top; there are five trails and are as short as a mile long including wheelchair accessible trails.
Paradise Inn. Photo by Danielle Decker.
After our brief immersion in Paradise we continued on our adventure down and out of the southwest corner of the park to the town of Ashford where at Alexander’s Country Inn we ate trout so fresh that is caught daily from their on-site cold mountain pond.
Alexander’s Country Inn. Photo by Danielle Decker.
With a full stomach and a full heart we finished the last leg of our trip back into Seattle and I reflected on the thought that while summiting the mountain cannot be trumped, every visit to Mount Rainier only adds to the collection of fond memories from one of my favorite places on earth.