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Outdoor Adventure

On the road to Paradise

Northwest Guardian

Published: 01:50PM September 21st, 2017
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For more information on passes or free entrance days, visit:

Whether you are new to the state or a Washington native, there’s no better way to enjoy the beauty of the Pacific Northwest than driving the road to Paradise, gazing at the cascading Myrtle and Narada Falls waterfalls or hiking the Skyline Trail at the state’s most magnificent natural icon — Mount Rainier.

From Longmire to Sunrise, once inside the gates of Mount Rainier National Park, there are a bevvy of beautiful sites to provide an afternoon or full day of exhilarating exercise and majestic eye candy. And, since it’s only a few hours from Joint Base Lewis-McChord and fall is upon us with moderate temperatures and brisk air, now might be a good time to enjoy the snow-covered landscape backdrop.

Mount Rainier National Park is one of more than 400 parks across the country that offer free entrance days — including the Sept. 30 National Public Lands Day. The park also offers free admission to military Nov. 11 and 12 for Veterans Day Weekend. And, free National Park passes are available for current military at the National Parks website.

“Goodness, it’s all amazing,” said Greg Reed, interpretive park ranger at the Longmire Museum, as he answered a visiting guest’s questions Sept. 14 about which site — Paradise or Sunrise — is a better location for a first time Rainier guest to visit.

Sunrise, he said, is about an hour drive up the mountain; whereas, Paradise is closer and offers equal beauty and trails.

“Personally, it’s all good,” he said. “Some people love Paradise, and some love Sunrise; I love them both.”

If one has time for the extra drive, Sunrise will make it worth your while, he said.

“It’s on the highest paved road in the state,” he said. “There are some trees, a lot of meadows and when you look out — oh my God — the mountain is looming in front of you.”

There are lots of animals in the park, including black bears; but, not to worry, as long as you mind your own business they aren’t likely to bother you at this time of year, since there are plenty of huckleberries to keep the bears occupied, Reed said.

“Black bears have blinders on when it comes to huckleberries,” he said, adding it’s best not to approach or feed wildlife — whether bears or squirrels. “The only time we’ve had problems is when people get bit when feeding an excited ground squirrel.”

Visitors come to Mount Rainier from across the country and beyond. Kathy Carpenter and her husband, Keith, of Port Moody, B.C., spent Sept. 14 enjoying the sights and relaxing on benches near Narada Falls.

The couple is on a six-week vacation drive to New Mexico and had planned to visit Yellowstone National Park, but recent fires re-directed their route. They also were re-routed due to highway closures when they tried visiting Mount Rainier’s east side.

“If plan ‘A’ is derailed, you go with plan ‘B;’ I think we’re on ‘C’ or ‘D’ now,” she said.

As a retired surgical nurse, this was Kathy’s first trip up the mountain, but her husband said he visited Rainier about 15 years ago. The couple traveled to China and other Asian countries a few months ago and are planning a trip to Palm Springs in December.

“We like to get out and see the world,” Kathy said. “We are enjoying the fresh air and old growth trees. It’s too smokey right now in Canada.”

Lifeng Li also had to make alternate arrangements Thursday on his trip up the mountain with his parents Min Chen and Lin Li, who are visiting from his homeland of Nanchang, China.

The younger Li recently graduated from Arkansas State University and moved to Seattle about a month ago, hoping to pursue a career in computer science. He brought his cocker spaniel, Apple, on the Mount Rainier visit, only to find pets aren’t allowed on the mountain’s trails.

“We drove two-and-a-half hours to get here and can’t walk around,” he said. “But, it’s good to know for future visits.”

The family enjoyed lunch on picnic benches outside the Paradise Inn and Visitor Center.

“It’s all good,” he said, as he petted his pooch. “It’s so beautiful here.”