Trip Start Jul 11, 2007
12Trip End Jul 30, 2007
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Leaving Seattle felt like our vacation was starting all over again. We travel best in the car me with a map that I usually can't read and Joe with one hand on the wheel and the other on his camera. Road tripping was part of what we were so excited about for this trip and it felt good to get on the road. Seattle is one of the most amazing cities I have been to, but after 4 days in the heart of it, I was ready for something a little more desolate.
Traveling south through Seattle, Tacoma and Auburn, we came in to the capital of drive thru coffee stands. Seattle has Starbucks, Seattle's Best, and a myriad of other gourmet coffee shops, but outside Seattle, it's all drive-thrus. Little buildings, sheds, and corner hovels, these spots are goldmines. Just pull your car up, order your Americano because you won't get drip coffee out here, and off you go. With low rent and three dollar cups of coffee, drive thrus are the way to go. The problem is that the market is totally saturated. At some corners there are literally four drive-thrus at an intersection, one on each corner. The difference between "Java-ahhh" and "The Daily Buzz" are merely the convenience of what side of the road you are traveling so in order to be successful, make sure your window is accessible easily during morning rush hour.
In Ashford, we drove through a little tourist spot housing the Hobo Hotel. Constructed of actual railroad cars painted in motley of different colors, visitors can stay in the sleeper cars. Across the road was a drive up burger joint called the Scaleburger. In pure curiosity, we knew we needed to have one. A scale burger in turns out is one that will tip your scale after you eat it. Topped with cheese, onions, bacon, pickles and all the other good stuff, we decided to split one and enjoy the greasy concoction.
As we came into Longmire, home of the entrance to Mt Rainier, we noticed a large metal giraffe near the road. The giraffe is only one of many metal work sculptures of Dan Klennert. Joe and I were so excited to find something so quirky and out of the way as Dan's front yard art gallery. Dan's property, in fact, is covered with the metal artwork. Some a little edgy and some a little out there, there is no denying the talent and passion this guy has for welding metal. There are two outdoor viewing grounds, a gallery, and a gift shop. We stopped in and toured his property in awe for about ½ hour before making our way back on track.
Finally arriving in Longmire, we entered Mt Rainier National Park. Mt Rainier can be seen as far as Seattle and it seemed to wait patiently while we were in the city for our arrival. Now even closer, this sleeping giant greeted us with a very intimidating welcome. Some of the trails still can not be hiked even as late as May because of snow and ice and the summit of the mountain can not always be seen as it is surrounded by weather that looms over the point at 14,000 feet. The impressive Mt Rainier is the largest active volcano mountain in the continental US. At 14,000 feet, it is impressive. Excited to be somewhere, we headed directly to our first hike. Very flat and short, the Trail of Shadows is a one mile loop that takes its visitors on a journey through the history of the first settlers of Rainier. The walk gave us our first glimpse of the large old growth trees and a small pocket of water that bubbles from the gases underground provided by Rainier's active volcano. We then headed toward Comet Falls, one of the many glacial waterfalls throughout the park. The hike proved to be more challenging than the first as we navigated around a trail of rocks, high steps, and uneven paths. The views of the falls were amazing thought and we saw a doe and her fawn as we reached the turn around point for us. Joe hunted them out with his camera while I waited on the trail where I was met only feet away from the baby fawn in search of her hiding mom. We were forced with a decision and decided to turn around after spending time with the doe and fawn. It took us 2 hours to hike up as far as we had gone, but only one to come back down thanks to the steep downhill decent. Finally we headed to Cougar Rock Campground where we would tent camp for the next two nights. The park is so big that staying outside of it adds at least 40 minutes of travel to the day so staying inside the park is a smart idea. The campground is simple and doesn't have showers but it is clean, quiet, and private, and for 15 dollars a night, the price is right. We had everything we needed but a good fire and after trying to scrounge up some fire, we found a nice little lady, guarding a hut of dry fire wood for 6 dollars a bundle, a small price to pay at night at Mt Rainier.
We got camp set up just in time for the sun to go down. We made a fire and feasted on a dinner of cheese and crackers and turkey sandwiches. After treating ourselves to a well deserved beer from our cooler of ice, we hunkered down for our big hike the next day. Sleeping in the tent was surprisingly comfortable and despite the thunder and lightning storm during the night, we rested well and were ready to embark the next morning on our climb to Panoramic Point.
Where I stayed