Saturday, October 28, 2017

Mt Rainier bearings

Mt Rainier from Paradise (Mt Rainier National Park)

We recently took at trip to Paradise.  Paradise, Mt Rainier, that is -- a mile-high area in Mt Rainier National Park, complete with two large parking lots, a visitor center, a newly refurbished inn (two wheelchair accessible rooms, according to a friend!), frequent marmot sightings, the trailhead to Camp Muir (a common overnight spot for mountain climbers), and a network of trails leading to views of "The Mountain," as locals call this 14,411-foot volcano.  Several of these trails are paved, opening up possibilities for wheelchairs and wheelchair hikers brave enough to tackle steep hills.  You definitely want a power chair with a good battery, an ambitious helper, or seriously strong arms.

I've heard that Deadhorse Creek Trail, while tempting, is steep enough to kill your power wheelchair battery (though I still want to try it in my Freedom Chair -- with Ted's help, of course).  I know that several people in wheelchairs have headed up the 1 mile (round-trip) paved Skyline Trail to Myrtle Falls from the north side of the visitor center parking lot (100' elevation gain). 

Instead, we headed to the Nisqually Vista Trail, a 1.2 mile paved loop, with 200' elevation gain.  The trail is usually accessed at the northwest end of the lower parking lot; however that trailhead begins with about 10 steps.  So, we wound our way to join the trail from the network of paved trails leading out of the visitor center.  The listed elevation gain was minimal, but the trail was comprised of lots steep, short hills, resulting in a continuous up or down.

The first thing we noticed was the blueberries.  Fields and fields of them.  Big, ripe, juicy, and mighty tasty.

As experienced hikers, we should have made the connection right away.  Where there are big, ripe berries, there are sure to be berry-eaters.  This close to hibernation, that necessarily means bears.

However, we were not thinking that day.  Until the solo hiker ahead of us came tip-toeing in reverse back toward us, holding his arms out wide to indicate something very large.  Then, finally, it all clicked, and we went all together, making low-toned, soothing (we thought!) noises, around the corner.

Nisqually Valley, Mr Rainier

The rest of our hike was a stop for taking pictures of the bear -- who really couldn't have cared less about us, since s/he was caught up in eating as many berries as fast as possible!  The snow report and the bear knew that, as in Game of Thrones, "Winter is coming."  So, what we didn't notice is the rest of the trail; we had to run to finish it after bear photography.  I know that there were views of the mountain and the trail's namesake, the Nisqually Glacier.  I know that there were still continuous ups and downs.  And I know we made it back in time, joining our group for the final group photo just before the bus left.  However, the path itself was a bit of a blur -- except for the berries and the bear!

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