After seven hours on a Southwest flight, I peered out the plane window to be rewarded with my first glimpse of Mt. Rainier. It was so clear that not only could we see Rainier, but we were also offered the rare sight of Mt. St. Helens’ and Mt. Baker’s snowcapped peaks.
Two and a half hours later we were offered an up close view that most visitors never see.
We plopped ourselves in a rental car and were set to make the two hour drive to Mt. Rainier National Park. Leaving the freeway, Google directed us to a winding two way mountain road. As we climbed to higher elevations, we were offered peeks of Rainier which those that live around the area don’t see very often. Seattleites can see Rainier on average of once per week, and sometimes even being in the National Park doesn’t even offer you a view of her 14 thousand plus feet. We were extremely lucky to see Rainier with absolute clarity for three consecutive days.
A little over a third of the way up the side of Mt. Rainier sits Paradise Inn and is aptly named. Here we rested our heads for the night. With its 121 guest rooms, many of which do not have private restrooms, Paradise Inn is exactly what a mountain lodge should look like. It is full of wooden beams, rustic furniture, and complete with a gigantic fireplace in the main room of the lodge where people gather to play checkers, build puzzles, read books, sip hot chocolate, or listen to informational Ranger talks. Stepping into the lodge, I was transported back to 1916, the year of its inception.
Our room wasn’t a luxury accommodation, but it was full of charm. It held a double bed, a sink, a few towels, a doorless closet, and a couple of straight-backed chairs. We were to share bathrooms and showers with those on our floor. There were no elevators which meant lugging our 50 pound bags up three flights of stairs. (I did mention this place was rustic, right?) Once we arrived in our rooms on the hottest day of the year, (89 degrees) we Floridians were a little concerned about the lack of air conditioning and the west facing window that was turning our room into a little oven. However I threw up the window hoping to catch a breeze and prayed that the room would cool when the sun went down, and it did enough to offer a decent night’s sleep.
We then went off to find some dinner in the Paradise Inn Dining Room. The food is based off the farm to fork idea and the menu changes according to what the local farms have on hand. Geoff and I opted to share the Yakima Spinach Salad with grilled chicken. The spinach, apples, blue cheese, and candied walnuts were delicious, but the chicken was dry and not worth its extra charge.
After dinner it was off to the deck to watch the mountains turn pink as the sun set and moon rose over them. It truly is hard to describe the beauty of the snow-capped mountains as they changed from white to pinks and oranges before vanishing into the dark sky. Not long after the mountains disappeared, we headed to bed after a very long day of travel.
Have you been to a National Park lodge? What were your impressions?