Happy Birthday To Me!
I can’t think of a better place to celebrate my birthday than on vacation in Mt. Rainier National Park, WA. I’m not a huge party person (although my 50th birthday party was a lot of fun), so spending the day on my own was right up my alley.
As part of my 10-day vacation, I stayed a couple of nights in the park, at the National Park Inn, near the Longmire entrance. It’s a lovely old inn, very basic (no TV, cell service, internet, in-room fridge) serving as the winter and spring gateway into the higher elevations of the park. If you want to get to Paradise, you’ve got to go through Longmire.
That morning, I hopped in my little rental Fiat and drove the dry, plowed road up to the Paradise area to capture some great photos of The Mountain.
The sky was blue, the sun was out, there was a gorgeous lenticular cloud surrounding the summit, and (luckily) the snow was just mushy enough for me to get a good foothold without snow shoes (I knew I should have used my Stay and Play coupon for a free pair from the Inn).
As you can see, the snow pack was pretty high. I stayed in this lodge back in 2010 on the second floor (identified by those triangular-shaped little garrets in this photo). I can’t remember which, but one of those garrets was my room!
After spending a couple of hours along the packed-snow trail, I realized I’d forgotten my water back in the car (along with my Clif Bar). By now, the day was quite warm and the snow even mushier, so I carefully re-traced my route back down to the car, avoiding the chunks of snow spewing forth from the snow blower and arcing over the side and onto the path in front of me.
Munching on my energy bar, I watched with interest the snow blower spewing recently-plowed snow onto the already-high snow bank. A few intrepid snow shoers also watched before heading up those very same snow banks for their day on The Mountain.
Later that afternoon, I took on a .7 mile hike around Longmire Meadow, called the Trail of The Shadows.
I had completed this relaxing little walk the day before, but didn’t have the right lens to capture that silky water effect on a little waterfalls alongside the trail. This second time around the trail, I had tripod and graduated ND filter with me.
The interesting thing about this particular hike is the fact that there are all sorts of bubbling mineral seeps and springs in the meadow around which the trail circles. A reminder that Mt. Rainier is a “napping” volcano, subject to burps, snores, and other exhalations.
This red spring below is called “Iron Mike”. James Longmire touted the medicinal properties of these natural springs, indicating they could cure whatever it was that ailed a person. Nowadays, there are signs next to these pools of colored water warning people not to drink the stuff.
The bubbling spring and algae seen at Travertine Mound:
Bubbling waters in Longmire Meadow. Hot water heated by Mt. Rainier runs down to the lower elevations (the meadow), where it bubbles up through the cooler soil, releasing the trapped carbon dioxide and other minerals in solution.
This view was a source of inspiration for James Longmire.
Just a few hundred yards from trail’s end, I thought about stepping off of the path, onto the snow-covered bank, and thence onto the road since the Inn was right across the highway. After my first step sank up to my calf in the snow, I decided it would be in my best interest to remain on the path.
It’s the little karmic / kismet-y things that create for that noun called “serendipity”, which favored me on my birthday.
At trail’s end, I looked up and across the highway to see this beautiful little creature eyeing me. Looking both ways, she carefully crossed the highway, padded right past me, and quietly went on about her foray. I noticed a wide collar around her neck to which a tracking device was attached. Somebody was keeping tabs on her comings and goings.
Had I stepped onto the road instead of following the path, I would have missed seeing the little fox, and that would have definitely been my loss.
It was a very good day, and I can’t think of a better place to have celebrated my birthday.