Mount Rainier National Park

2 11 2012

Mount Rainier from a meadow above Sunrise

Summer of 2012 featured a record 80+ days where it only rained one hour during that time! With the end in sight, and the inevitable rain switch about to be turned on, my friend Tully and I headed to Mount Rainier National Park for a last campout!

It was beautiful weather. There were wildfires nearby, and before we arrived, smoke obscured views of 14,410 ft Mount Rainier.

For us, the wind blew the smoke away. We were treated to crystal clear views.

We camped at the White River Campground. It’s on the eastern side of the park, higher elevation.


We figured we’d have the park to ourselves, since it was after Labor Day. But that was not the case and the campground had lots of guests in its not-so-spacious campsites. This was because the wildfires closed many nearby outdoor destinations, sending people here.

Sausages brown ‘n serve!

We planned to hike from the Sunrise area. This is a higher elevation staging area on the eastern side. It has a lot of trails. Some of the trails follow ridges with spectacular views in several directions! I could see Mount Adams to the south, and all the way to Mount Baker north. Looking all around I watch to see signs of big fauna – bear, elk, the elusive mountain goat – but see none. We catch sight of gray jays and ravens, as well as various unidentified raptors.

For dinner, we did a stir fry – which consisted of green pepper, carrot, nuts, pineapple, chicken, onion, broccolli, and baby carrots. Scrumptious! Another night we did a skewer meal over rice. Breakfast was pretty traditional – eggs, toast done on the grill, and this time instead of bacon – sausage patties. Sausage patties are a lot easier to clean up than bacon, because they don’t produce much grease! I’ll be cooking more of them in the future!


We also spent some time hiking the area around the Grove of the Patriarchs. It is in the Ohanapecosh area. While the grove’s hike is only 1.3 miles, it’s packed with incredible flora. 1,000 year old Western cedars, Western hemlock and old-growth Douglas fir! Quite a few of them! They’re simply huge compared those typically seen around the Northwest.

The Grove is located on an island in the Ohanapecosh River. It’s a place you can feel the history. These trees were already hundreds of years old when America became a country. They were 200 years old when Columbus landed in the New World!

You walk across a suspension bridge to get there – one at a time.


1,000 year old cedar in the Grove of Patriarchs

By far the best time for experiencing the outdoors in the American Northwest is September – after Labor Day.

After Labor Day, the weather is still dry and warm – summer. But kids are in school and parents home. Hiking trails and camping are generally a lot less busy!

So, if you can, make plans to head into the outdoors in September!


John Day River Area, Oregon, Day 1

18 05 2011

In early May I had a couple of days off and the weather forecast called for a couple of really nice days! Having extreme cabin fever brought on by months in the Portland, Oregon gray skies, I pulled the camping gear out and headed for north central Oregon!

In spring, even in May, most Cascade camping is snow bound. So if you want to car camp, you have to look elsewhere. North Central Oregon has the Deschutes and John Day Rivers. The John Day begins way east and it’s a snow melt-fed flow. It courses through sleepy valleys and ranches before wending its way into the canyons and fossil beds of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. There are sections where the road passes right by the river – truly beautiful, especially in spring, when the valleys are still green, and the mountains are so brown you’d swear you were in the southwest.

I started in Arlington, where Oregon 19 winds south through wind swept agricultural areas and is home to thousands of wind turbines…

All along highway 19 you view wind turbines.

The turbines stretch out in every direction. It’s an area prone to constant wind, so this comes as no surprise.

It is comforting to me to know that sizable efforts are underway to tap clean sources for electricity!

There aren’t many people out there. It’s wide spaces of farms with not much in between. Instead of flat farmland like Kansas, it’s as if that same land has been upheaved everywhere. In the distance you can glimpse snowy cascade volcanoes Mount Rainier, Mount Hood, and Mount Adams.

The first town you pass through is Condon. I’d never heard of Condon, but its lonely place in this part of Oregon is palpable. Its downtown has a cowboy feel, but also a feeling as its best years are behind, and that it is falling further into decay. Somehow I found this appealing.

There were architecturally significant buildings – crafted in the days when a human hand’s touch added character. But many were in disrepair. Still, I found this refreshing.
I’ve spend some time in Sisters and Joseph, and once in Condon, those places seem so fake – very gentrified. There, outsiders moved in and upgraded everything. Where as Condon is nakedly left alone, as it was, the bare bones of its old West Heritage laid bare. In some ways it is sad, in others, attractive.

The town still sports a Hotel, plus some other trappings of a frontier town…

The next town I came across was Fossil.

Fossil, Oregon, is another sleepy town quietly nestled in the hills of the John Day region. There, I witnessed cowboys passing the time with downturned hats on the porch of one of the general stores.

In Fossil, I realized I was nearing the John Day River. I saw postings advertising services for river running like shuttle services!

You are now in river running country!