Saturday, September 23, 2006

Camping at The Mountain

I can see Mount Rainier from my living room window. I live up on a hill, and can look off into the distance and see the mountain turn pink with every sunset - a vision of grandeur, seeming to float in the sky.

Although a regular in sight, it's impressiveness never ceases to dazzle the onlooker. It's truly majestic in appearance.
This last week I joined 24 fourth and fifth graders on a camping trip to Rainier. It rained. A lot. The kids hiked. A lot. For the actual tally, there was a hike Tuesday evening, Wednesday morning, Wednesday evening, Thursday afternoon, and two short hikes on Friday. The most notable was the cold wet one on Wednesday when it rained, snowed, sleeted, hailed, was windy, foggy . . . that's the gist of it. It was pretty tough. And that's Mount Rainier - unpredictable weather. I think we turned around somewhere just above 6300 ft, and cut the hike short at 4 miles. We reached Comet Falls on Thursday - the highest falls in the park that you can actually hike to. The ranger told us 30% chance of rain, and we decided that we encountered the 30% chance that it would rain 100% of the day.

Aside from the rain, the the trip was actually really rewarding. It was a challenge, but the kids learned to face it head on, and came out proud of what they could accomplish. We set up a group camp like it was tarp city, but still couldn't avoid getting soaked. Some who came ill-prepared soon had nothing left dry and had to perservere. Some of these kids weren't campers and dealt with the challenge of being away from home. Several kids were simply fatigued from the hiking and the mountain air. Above all, it was cold. I usually wandered about in 4 layers, then added a fleece coat, and a gore-tex coat over that. I lived in wool socks, wool gloves, and a ski hat. In fact, I slept in my hat too.

I didn't get much sleep at all - partly due to the rain, partly due to camping with so many people. By Thursday night, we were all wet and tired and cold, but we'd made the decision to stick it out one last day rather than go home early. In the middle of the night, I was awakened to escort a child to the bathroom down the road. Pitch black, and a little bit scared, we clutched flashlights and walked through the trees to the road. Walking along, we stopped, turned off our flashlights, and looked up beyond the trees. We could see stars - millions of stars. One might expect such a thing in the mountains with no city lights, but thus far, we'd only experienced clouds and rain. Stars meant two things - clear skies, and a huge white mountain. The kids awoke Friday morning to clear blue skies and a mighty majestic mountain looming over us. This was their first glimpse of the mountain after four days of camping at the base of it. It made the whole trip worth it for them.

My daughter had an interesting comment about the mountain. She said that somehow, when you're up that close, it just doesn't seem so impressive after all. It looks like you could climb right up. Kinda funny, but I have to agree with her. I have a wish to climb it someday, but for now, I think I prefer to admire it from afar while it turns pink at sunset against a lavender sky.

12 comments:

JustRun said...

Beautiful! I love blue skies like that.

D said...

I think you've convinced me to move to your part of the country. That photo is beautiful. I can't imagine having that type of view from my house!

What a great learning experience for the kids!

Sarah said...

Yep, the ranger we spoke to on Saturday said it had rained 10 days straight. Sounds like a great character building trip for the kids! If we let the rain stop us we'd never do anything here in the PNW, right? : )

Josh said...

Amazing! I have got to get out there for a visit.

GirlGoyle said...

OMG...there is just nothing worse than being cold and wet for an extended period of time. It's just miserable!!! Nice pics!

D said...

You should see how that first photo came up on my Bloglines - it practically filled the entire screen...awesome!

Jessica Deline said...

I love your Mount Rainier view. Wow! It was so blue and clear this weekend. What good timing you had :)

angie's pink fuzzy said...

what gorgeous photos!

Sarah Elaine said...

Fantastic photos (as usual). Your daughter has quite the insight, doens't she?

Danielle said...

Very cool, but rainy not so fun for camping...I have the coolest picture of Mt. Rainier taken from the Space Needle on my one trip out to Seattle a few years ago...you can just make it out in the picture and it just looks surreal...I can see why you love it!

Just12Finish said...

Nice post and beautiful pictures. So scenic and rugged.

My kids went to 5th grade camp with mom last week. Nowhere close to what you endured. Roof over their heads, meals in a mess hall, bunk beds with mattresses, sheets pillow and blankets from home. Not quite the Ritz, but far from roughing it :)

Joe said...

Great photos!