Washington State: day nine
13.07.2017 - 13.07.2017
What a difference a day makes
Or rather, in this case, a night!
Fog in Mount Rainier NP
We had fallen asleep under clear skies but woke to thick fog obscuring all the surrounding mountains and indeed everything apart from the trees closest to the lodge. A perfect demonstration for us of the way that the mountain creates its own micro climate, but not an especially welcome one. Look at the difference in the view from our room, yesterday and today:
We had a light breakfast in the lodge's café, hoping to see the early morning sun appear and burn off the cloud, but the fog persisted, as it did while we lingered for a time in the hotel lobby before giving up the wait, and leaving Paradise.
So much for plans to spend the morning on a slow drive through the park with stops planned at Reflection Lake in particular. We could barely see the lake, never mind the classic view of Mount Rainier reflected in it.
You will have to take my word for it that this is Reflection Lake
To compare what we saw with what we might have seen, have a look at the photos on the Visit Rainier website.
We had slightly better luck at our next stop, Sunbeam Creek, where appropriately a watery sun appeared and a glimpse of blue sky between the wisps of fog.
At Sunbeam Creek
Flowers in the mist
We toyed briefly with the idea of returning to Reflection Lakes but knew that it would still be some time before the mountain emerged from behind the clouds. As we drove on the fog closed in again almost immediately, reinforcing our decision to press on.
Our next stop was at Box Canyon where we did the half mile walk to the viewpoint. This leads past lichen-covered rocks which looked rather atmospheric in the mist. There were pretty tiger lilies growing beside the path, also small-flowered penstemon, bunchberry and several I couldn't identify.
On the Box Canyon trail
Tiger Lily and (I think) Penstemon
At the furthest point of the trail it turns to cross a wooden bridge over the canyon. This is a slot canyon, narrow and deep. The waters of the Muddy Fork of the Cowlitz River tumble through it, 115 feet below you.
You can then follow the river on its far side back to the road where another bridge, this time of stone, also afford good views.
On the far side of the canyon
View from the stone road bridge
We stopped again at Falls Creek, where a pretty waterfall drops 45 feet (in two sections) right next to the road - accessible to all. There is no trail here though, so we didn't linger long.
We decided against doing the popular Grove of the Patriarchs trail near the park entrance as the weather was still gloomy and damp and we had already enjoyed the old growth forest of the Olympic Peninsula at Hoh. Instead we carried on to Ohanapecosh where we had a pleasant stroll on the short Hot Springs trail.
On the Hot Springs trail
This was once the site of a spa-style resort, long since gone. The springs themselves are small and seemed to me to be warm rather than hot, with only a hint of steam rising from one pool, but the surroundings were pretty and there were some lovely delicate grasses and wildflowers to photograph.
Don't you think the centre of this flower looks like a cat's face?!
Scenic route 12
This was our last stop in Mount Rainier National Park. It had been a brief visit but a fantastic one, especially on our first day when the sun shone and the air was fresh. But now it was time to move on - we were, after all, on a road trip. And the road in question now was SR 12 which led us east, through ever-improving weather, towards White Pass. Before reaching that point however, Mount Rainier had one more surprise for us. We pulled over at a viewpoint when we spotted other cars parked there, to discover a wonderful view of the mountain which had at last emerged from that morning's shroud of fog. So we were able to say our farewells to this most majestic of peaks.
Farewell to the mountain
We stopped for a coffee in a shop/café at the top of White Pass and again a little further down the road at a scenic viewpoint, Clear Creek Falls Overlook, to eat a picnic lunch. We were amused by the antics of a cute chipmunk who was enjoying his own meal of leaves from the shrubs growing near our picnic table.
Clear Creek Falls and our lunchtime companion
By now the weather was warm and sunny, the morning's fog left far behind. When we had started out that morning, the car's temperature gauge showed just 50 Fahrenheit; by mid afternoon in the Naches valley it had hit 90 F. And the scenery had changed, from mountain forests to a wide valley with some dramatic rock formations towering above it.
On Hwy 12
We made a few more photo stops, the first at a picturesque old farm stand, the Little Red Schoolhouse, which caught our eye while driving past sufficiently to prompt a turn-around for a closer look.
The Little Red Schoolhouse
We also detoured briefly into Naches, a small place with a one-street downtown.
We arrived in Yakima, our destination for the night, by around 3.00 PM - a little earlier than planned because the poor weather had curtailed our explorations at the start of the day. We drove into town in search of refreshment and found it at Essencia, an artisanal bakery and coffee shop on 3rd St. I had a great iced coffee here - perfect in the afternoon heat. What a contrast to our breakfast coffee in chilly Paradise!
Resolving to return to Essencia for breakfast the next day, we decided that for now an early check-in to our motel would be a good idea, giving us an opportunity to cool off and also catch up with messages, mail and news, as we had been offline while in the national park.
The Guesthouse Inn is one of several motels in a cluster just east of downtown Yakima, near the Interstate. This was by some way the cheapest overnight stay of this trip, but the price was a reflection rather of Yakima's relative lack of tourist attractions (we had chosen it for its convenient location on our route) than of the motel's qualities. While not fancy, it has everything you'd expect of a US roadside motel and we had a comfortable night here.
Our first floor (US second) room was a good size with a king-size bed and all the necessary bits and pieces - even an ironing board! The wifi was fast, the TV screen large and the a/c worked well, albeit noisily. There were a few rough edges (cracked glass on a framed picture, scuff marks on the paintwork, a stain on the carpet) but on the whole the room was good for what we paid.
For dinner that evening we went to the only option within walking distance, Bob's Burgers and Brew, located one street away beyond the Holiday Express. Here we had an enjoyable evening, with good beer (Irish Death porter), casual food (mine a great chicken jalapeño wrap) and a chat with our waitress and a couple of locals who sat near us - actually Hawaiians, but recently moved to Yakima. The latter had never seen snow so were interested in the fact that we had experienced some just yesterday in Mount Rainier NP. Good food, good prices and good company - we did like Bob's!