Saturday, October 23, 2021

We Can't Leave The Mountains


That Tuesday morning, as we checked out of our Airbnb in Seattle, I was met with sad faces. The minis were not ready to leave the mountains. However, we had a LONG drive ahead of us and it was my goal to at least get to Spokane by the end of the day. I also had weather reports up on my phone due to a big storm over the Rockies. I did not want to drive through it with pretty much my entire life in the car. I figured we could stay in Northern Idaho for a day or two if needed.

However, as we set out on 90 West, the middle mini kept saying the line, "I can't believe we didn't go to Rainier. I really wish we could see Rainier." Even as we stopped at a state park to hike (just off of 90), it didn't stop the remarks about Rainier. The more I thought about it, the more I realized the kid had a point. 

I often tell them, "we may not have much time, but make the most of the time we do have." This time, I actually had the time. So, I decided the minis were right and off to Mt. Rainier we went! And that's where the real adventure begins. 

When looking at Google Maps, we were only an hour and thirty minutes away from the Carbon River entrance. By my calculations, we could go to Rainier, see the park (but not hike because they don't allow dogs on the trails) and still make it to Spokane. Instead, the Carbon River entrance was closed for the season. 

I could have easily turned around and called it a day. We already had great views of Rainier, so I was satisified. But we didn't give up. We drove completely around on small, two lane mountain roads to get to the Nisqually River entrance. It may not have been exactly what the minis were thinking, but we made it into the park! We drove about halfway through the park before being told they were closing part of the road due to impending snow. So, we made it out of the park through the entrance we arrived in, through small towns, with no cell service, and finally made it to I-90. We only made it to Moses Lake, WA (just over two hours from Seattle) before pulling into a Motel 6 and calling it a day. We were exhausted from driving ALL around Rainier!

I didn't realize that the "snow" sitting on Mt. Rainier is actually glaciers. A lot of them. I had absolutely no idea, so we spent most of our time in the park Googling all about Mt. Rainier. It wound up being an excellent, unplanned homeschool lesson! This park looks like it has stellar hiking trails, but the part of the drive we did do through the park was gorgeous, even in the clouds and rain. 

Our first hike for the day was Twin Falls Natural Area. It was a 3.6 mile hike to the falls and it was on this trail we decided to run through so we could go to Rainier afterwards. I mentioned above that some entrances to Mt. Rainier National Park are seasonal, well many of Washington's state parks close for the winter season as well. There were several state parks along I90 that looked gorgeous, but many of them were closed already (either due to impending snow or snow already fallen in the mountains).

We finally made it after what seemed like hours upon hours of small, twisty, mountain roads!

We stopped about an hour outside of the National Park to use a day use facility (for their bathrooms). As a hiker, one of the things I'll miss about Oregon and Washington are the easy access hiking trails that are right along highways and interstates. There's a number of facilities including bathrooms, picnic tables, etc. I wish the Midwest had easy access trails such as this part of the country does. It made traveling easy because we could pull over pretty much whenever we needed to, use bathrooms, and hike to stretch our legs. 

That's what we did at this stop (pictured below). However, I was incredibly disappointed by the amount of trash just thrown around in this day use area. It was a beautiful area, next to a raging river, that had fishing docks off of the trail.