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We moved to WA State 9 years ago. It was summer. August. And it was raining… We were newlyweds, but, really, rain in August? I almost strangled my newlywed husband – we moved here because of him – on the plane. “RAIN IN THE SUMMER? Where are you taking me?”

Nine years later, I know it is the rain that makes this area so gorgeous. And in summer, on non-rainy days, this is one of the most beautiful places in the world to be spending the summer. It’s hot, but not too hot, there’s lots of water all around – the rivers are running strong (unlike miserable trickles I’ve seen in other countries) and the lakes shimmer in the sun, salmons are migrating back to their “homes”, and abundance of green trees and plants and flowers are everywhere you look. It’s just perfect. And let’s not forget The Mountain…

Most of the year, Mt. Rainier hides behind a veil of clouds, but when it is finally out, it’s stunning. I recalled a quote about it in a book I read on our first year here, Indian Killer by Sherman Alexie.

The book is wonderful thriller. I’m not a big thriller, suspense, or mystery books’ fan, but this book got me hooked. Plus, the plot happens in Seattle and there are lots of mentions of places we visited. That only made the book seem more real and scary, especially on a dark, stormy, winter night.

Nine years ago we lived in a rented small single-family house. All my life up to that point, I lived in tall apartment buildings in the big city, with at least a dozen of neighbors, and where all the streets are completely lit with street lights. The transition to living in a quiet town, short houses at ground level, with distance between houses and neighbors, a random street light here and there, old windows with locks I could break with a toothpick, and a thin front door even I could break with a slight kick, scared the hell out of me. Especially on a dark, stormy, winter night. Especially when I was alone in the house. And especially when reading a thriller where the plot takes place partly in my town and nearby places.

My husband left for the gym (those were the days when we still worked out) and I stayed at home. All alone. By myself. I sat on the couch in the living and read the book. It was dark and rainy and windy outside – oh, I’ve said that already – and the trees’ branches banged against the roof, the wind shrieked through the window cracks, giant leaves flew in front of the windows like silhouettes, broken twigs scratched the siding. I looked outside; the darkness was so thick and endless. I dared not look out again.

Terrified and scared by the story of the Indian killer in addition to the storm outside, I froze and shrunk into the couch, my finger squeezing the pages of the book which I could not stop reading. I did not move, I did not get up, not even to pee, until my husband, finally, returned home.

Back to the mountain, I looked up the quote for you. Here’s how Alexie describes the mountain:

“The shadow of Mount Rainier rose on the southern horizon. On a slightly overcast day, the mountain was just a ghost, a subtle reminder of itself, a brief memory. With unlimited visibility, the mountain was spectacular and surreal, rising as it did over the urban landscape of Seattle. Daniel knew accidents had occurred on Seattle freeways because of drivers who were distracted by Rainier’s beauty. Local Indians had always believed that Rainier was a sacred place, not to be climbed or trivialized. Daniel wondered if any Indians had wrecked their cars because of the view of the mountain.” (p. 218)

On the first day at the park, Mt. Rainier’s summit (14,410 ft. high) was mostly behind the clouds.


As we drove higher and higher, all the way up to Paradise visitor center, the weather became more like winter (unlike the pictures in my previous post – a totally different climate). The trees were covered with snow,


some squatting under the weight of the heavy blanket of snow.


Lots of snow!

And the mountain was completely veiled behind the enormous clouds,


while the other side was sunnier

Paradise visitor center

We spent the night at Paradise Inn, a hotel that was built in 1916. I’m sure it was remodeled since then but it still feels old. Let’s just say it’s been years since I’ve seen one of these… No, it’s not a toilet;


It’s a sink with one faucet for hot water and the other for cold water.

Or this,


But the view from our room…


changed quiet dramatically:

IMG_1386 after 10 minutes
after less than an hourIMG_1388 a bit later…
… and the following morning


And here is The Mountain, basking in the bright sunlight and big blue sky


No photo does it justice.


Can you see little tiny us?


So I thought maybe if we go to Reflection Lake, you’ll get a better idea how gigantic and magnificent it is. But, Reflection Lake is still mostly frozen right now.


Here it is in 2001

And 2002


And from I-90 floating bridge (that’s about 3 hours drive from there…)

And from Vashon Island

And I’ll show you Mt. Baker (another volcano, 2 hours drive from here) with its own Reflection Lake. That was a fun easy hike…

What? Are you still here?

Go take a hike!


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Categories : Seattle/Pacific NW

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