Mt Rainier National Park
Come autumn, I love being out in the cool air enjoying the stillness that seems to accompany the season. At least I notice it…the stillness. There’s a quietude that permeates the air. Up in the mountains, the stillness is even more noticeable. It’s quiet up there to begin with, but even moreso in the autumn…if that’s possible.
I journeyed to Mt Rainier National Park yesterday. I was there two weeks ago, but things can change rather quickly in the park in October. For instance, Paradise had its first dusting of snow this past week, a bit early in the season. I had hoped that the snows would melt so that I could venture up there a few more times before the real snows hit. The snow falling when it did was a bit of a shock because the late summer meadow wildflowers were still in bloom. The weight of the snow had crushed many flowers and, along with the cold temperatures, put an end to their short summer existence.
Soon the purple, yellow, pink and white meadow wildflowers will be replaced by the deep reds and burgandies of the wild huckleberry leaves and heath ground cover. Usually by the end of October and early November, the meadows around Paradise give an autumn color- feast for the eyes. But one has to be quick about going there before the heavy snows hit, covering everything for the next six months or more. The color white dominates for ages it seems. I’m feeling a bit panicked knowing that another long winter season is just around the corner. I want to experience the mountain’s full autumn glory before the long sleep.
This time in the park, the mountain played peek-a-boo. At times she disappeared totally into the clouds. I found myself in the clouds as well. It’s always a mystical experience having clouds swirl around and pass through you. In a while, the shroud dissapated and moved on. The mountain reappeared and lit up against the intense blue sky.
I mentioned the quietude in the mountains. While I was standing still taking photos, I heard a loud, cyclic whoosing sound above coming up from behind me. I could tell that it was the wing beating of a large bird. I had thought perhaps that an eagle was about to fly over me. I waited and then looked up as the bird passed over me—it was a large raven. They are common in the park, along with the bold Gray Jays and the larger Clark’s Nutcrackers.
Once again, as with my last visit to the park, the whistling marmots called back and forth to each other. It sounded like someone blowing hard on a whistle. Soon these furry creatures will become quiet and hibernate through the long winter. The most common larger animal in the park to be seen is the black-tailed deer. If you wander among the trails, this is the most likely place you will spot them as they feed in the meadows or just off the trails in a thicket of pines.
Not all the dusting of snow that fell at Paradise melted away. I could see the snow sticking to many of the higher elevation trails that just a few weeks ago were pretty much snow-free. In fact, I encountered snow in a few places on the trail that I was on. I didn’t mind. The sun was out and it felt warm with the fresh mountain air!