Monday, May 2, 2011

Snowshoeing on Mount Rainier

Last week, I told my new shipmates that I wanted to start exploring the area with a hike on Saturday.  There was a sudden twinkle in their eyes and the gears in their noggins started churning on the plan for a most excellent outing to Mount Rainier National Park

They told me I would need snowshoes.

This excited me, because I've been wanting to try snowshoeing for a while, and I was disappointed there wasn't any snow on the ground when we arrived in NH for Christmas this year.

There is an excellent outdoor recreation place called Pacific Edge Outfitters at Naval Base Kitsap.  I stopped there on Friday and rented snowshoes and poles, plus some snow pants.  I thought the prices were pretty reasonable.  It cost me $20.75 to rent the gear for the weekend since they're closed on Sunday and I would have to return it on Monday.

We left the Kitsap area around 7 a.m. and started the approximate 2 1/2 hour drive to Paradise on the southern side of Mt. Rainier.  There was a pitstop at Starbucks, then a rendezvous with some members of our group at Krispy Kreme, then another pitstop at the Rainier Basecamp.  By the time we finally made it to Paradise, got suited up, and ready to set forth from the parking lot into the snow, it was 11:15 a.m. 

The snowbanks were about 3 times as tall as our truck.

View of the mountain from the parking lot.  Note how high the snow is on the lodge.

Tunnel entrance into the lodge.

It was pretty cold when we got there, too.  The thermometer on the truck said 31F.  I was glad I rented snow pants and brought my big snow boots.  There were 8 of us total.  Two members of our group had been here before and were experienced snow-hikers.  We got all bundled up in multiple layers of clothing and headed out.

 Time Stamp - Leaving Parking Lot

I didn't keep detailed notes on the trail, but the initial timeline went something like this:
11:16 a.m.  Set out from Paradise Visitor's Center parking lot.
11:20 a.m.  Snowshoes on, commence trudging uphill through the snow.
11:21 a.m.  If I were on the elliptical or exercise bike at the gym, then it would have dinged, saying, "Target Heart-Rate Reached, Resistance will change to maintain heart-rate at XXX bpm."
11:22 a.m.  Sweating.  Took off winter hat.
11:23 a.m.  Still sweating.  Took off gloves.
11:24 a.m.  Sweating profusely.  If I were on the exercise bike at the gym, it would be making angry beeps at me, "Reduce pace to lower heartrate."
11:25 a.m.  Burning up.  Took off jacket and removed fleece liner.  Stuffed fleece liner in backbpack, put jacket shell back on.
11:26 a.m.  Doing better without the fleece, but still wishing I had NOT put on that long-underwear and heavy wool socks.  Unzipped jacket.

Actually, from then on it wasn't too bad.  Next time I will definitely not wear as many layers.

On the trail, heading up the Skyline Loop Path clockwise from the Paradise Visitor's Center.

I'm pretty sure that's the TOP of a very TALL tree.

Looking back the way we came.  
Can you see the footprints going waaaaay off into the distance up the hill?

Right here, we are hiking over this waterfall.
(Click the link to see what it looks like in summer.)

The scenery was spectacular throughout, and I'm very glad we went.  Unfortunately, the battery on my Garmin Forerunner is dead, so I don't have a link for you to see our trip stats on MyGarmin dashboard.  Using Google Earth, I think we went approximately 2.1 miles and climbed approximately 800 feet in elevation (starting around 5,400 feet and going up to about 6,200 feet). 

Time Stamp back in the parking lot.
(Elapsed time almost exactly 3 hours.)
We made it back to the Visitor's Center just in time for a Park Ranger to tell us about the National Park.  I have yet to be disappointed by listening to a Park Ranger, and this one was no exception.  His description of previous expeditions to the summit was both educational and entertaining.  They show a 21-minute video at quarter-past and quarter-til the hour, and the video was excellent, too. 

Aside: < rant > Will someone please explain to me why Pepsi has a stranglehold on the Pacific Northwest???  EVERYWHERE we go, it's always Pepsi.  You don't have to read my blog for long to know that I'm a Diet Coke addict, so this has been a frustrating part about moving to the area.  As much as I hate eating at McDonalds, I will now go through the McD's drive through simply because it is one of the few bastions of Coca-Cola products in the state of Washington.

Case-in-point:  The Cafe in the Paradise Visitor Center

Recommendation:  Bring food and beverages with you, or be ready to shell-out movie theater prices at the Visitor Center.  $3.23 for a soda the size of a medium at McD's, seriously???  < / rant >

To end on a positive note, we were able to stop at the REI in Tacoma on our way back and take advantage of some of their end-of-winter sale prices.  Then we had some dinner at a Mexican place I hadn't tried yet and was very good.  I owe some of you a review of the various Mexican restaurants I've tried so far on the peninsula though, so I'll cover that in another blog post to come.

In the meantime, if you would like some beginner info on snowshoeing, check out the REI website here.  Next on my snowshoeing to-do list is Hurricane Ridge.


Tanya said...

Awesome! I've always wanted to try snowshoeing. Glad to see the NW through your explorations! Hope all is well over there.

Tabor said...

I like the idea of coffee and doughnuts before such an expedition! A really neat trip and I am envious although I do not have the energy these days to do that. Thanks for taking me along vicariously.