Well, here is something one doesn’t do often in the summertime—taking a ride in a ski resort gondola to the top of the run—complete with restaurant and outdoor patio for an in-your-face view of Mount Rainier. The above image shows the resort base looking toward the car parks, which there are a lot of. This is the largest and highest elevation ski resort in western Washington. The views don’t get any better, once at the top. And, it’s all alpine skiing.
I decided to take the plunge and get suspended in the air for about a 14 minute ride to the top. This took a lot of bravery on my part. I don’t like being suspended high up in the air. The top of the gondola run is at over 6800 ft elevation. There’s even a higher point at 7000 ft at another part of the mountain resort. There are 9 ski lifts, all together. That’s a lot! Might I add that going on the gondola ride is not for the faint of heart, people prone to panic attacks, or those who fear heights. Not sure if some small children would be frightened, either. Needless to say, I was scared and felt helpless all the way up. It’s a very steep climb. Make sure you use the bathroom beforehand! So, here we go! Lots of neat photos of the surrounding area and, of course, the titan Mount Rainier.
Looking at the image below, you can see some of the craggy summits of the Cascades. There is still some smoke haze out there from some of the forest fires. If you look to the left of the image, you can barely make out Mount Baker, which is far to the north, near the Canadian border. On a clear, smokeless day, you would be able to see it nicely without a problem. One can see Mount Adams to the south, too, but there is a major fire going on there, as well, and it occluded some of the mountain view.
Okay, I’ve saved the best for last. Here’s your reward for traveling to the top in a suspended gondola—a sight not to be believed! Enjoy these images of Mount Rainier—elevation 14,410 ft. The only thing separating one from it is a vast river valley.
And, there is a very nice restaurant at the top of the resort with outdoor patio and lounge chairs to relax in and take in the view. How’s that for an eyeful!
I would like to warn parents with small children to hang on to them for dear life because there is no barrier at the cliff edges whatsoever just inches from the front of the lounge chairs. I was rather surprised at this. It’s a straight drop down. The restaurant is a rustic lodge style setting and the dining menu is more high end. The food is excellent and plentiful. Down at the base of the resort, there is another restaurant that serves more fast food style items. Here is a view from inside the restaurant. From either side you get eye popping views: Mount Rainier and the scenic Cascades, along with deep valleys.
Time to head back down. I was nervous about this, too. This time the wind was a factor. What is the worst possible thing that could happen suspended up there in the air, coming down a mountain? Yep, the gondola stopped, half way down. I almost had a panic attack. This was the last thing I wanted to happen to me all by myself stuck in this thing, swaying in the wind. Thankfully, it only lasted a minute. But one minute was too much for me! When it started moving again, the swaying motion almost gave me vertigo. Then it stopped again, but only for a few seconds. I think I had said a prayer at the time. I asked the attendant at the bottom was caused the gondola to stop. He said they had to stop it to load a tourist onto it with a wheelchair. I really don’t care to do this again. One time was enough! But for anyone who wants an adventure, this is one of the best viewing experiences of Mount Rainier you will ever have.
How does one get to Crystal Mountain Resort? It is located on the northeast side of Mount Rainier, just off state route highway 410, the gateway to Chinook Pass and Mount Rainier National Park. The summer gondola rides will available until September 20. Visit the resort website to find information on rates.
All photos property of Peggy A Thompson