Sunday. Everyone wants to be in Paradise. Who wouldn’t? And it’s especially true of nearly all visitors who approach Mount Rainier (Tahoma) from this side–in droves they drive or shuttle up to the area named Paradise, on the southern flank of the Mount, and its Visitor Center. Michael and Amy came from Gosh campground in the a.m. to spend the day in Paradise with us. Stunning area, though on a Summer Saturday the press of crowds, the difficult parking and need for shuttle busses might make even a Universalist reconsider a theology that admits so many to Paradise. (I kid). Still, just to be there filled your senses. At day’s end the mountain shrugs off its scurrying tourists like so many annoying ants. I could almost sense Tahoma sighing, asking to be alone. Later, after a ranger program in camp, we dared to return to watch the Perseid meteor shower from Paradise. Tahoma was mute, tolerant, illumined by starlight and snow. A ranger discussed the M92 globular cluster which we could view through his telescope, a pinpoint neighborhood of a mere 500,000 stars. Laying on our backs on a bench, we stared upwards for a half-hour into God’s heaven, occasionally streaked by a meteor, crowded with stars. The number of spiritual descendants of Abraham, the eternal population of Paradise, was promised to be as many as these. Put us on that shuttle, that’s our kind of crowd.
Saturday. Day three gave us Columbia River mist followed by the road-noise relief that comes when you replace I-5 with eastbound old US highway 12. Quaint farms there, and we narrowly escaped being a part of the Loggers Jubilee parade in Morton. To enter Rainier, or any national park, presents brown signs, visitor center films and flat-brimmed ranger hats, small signals that link to memories of childhood. Today this inner child bought a lifetime senior pass to all parks (Hey! $10!). National Park entrances transport us. Outside is ramshackle commerce (clapboard signs, kitschy motels posturing as resorts), inside is the lush forest. And crowds.
Setup at Cougar Rock campground site E23. Nice space, facing a forest, camper neighbors not too near. We had been invited by Michael’s family to attend their camping reunion that late afternoon which was held, coincidentally, at another Rainier campground. Amy is visiting there too, so–how can it be?–we are 1000 miles from home and yet able to see her and meet more of Michael’s fam. Their campground is Ohanepecosh, which I love to mispronounce Oh-my-gosh. There were cousins galore–too many names to recall, BBQ pork, fruit salad, wine, stories, campfire chatter–then a late evening drive back to quiet dark Cougar Rock for slumber under the Perseids.
Interstates are the dues you pay to get from here to there. They can also make you want to toss away your 70’s-era poster about how it’s the journey, not the destination. No, with I-5 it’s definitely a matter of the terminus. I concede that it gives better pleasures north of Redding than south. Maybe I’m tired–after all, the Siskiyous and Grants Pass were nice. Still, we rest tonight in a little WA State Park just north of Portland, tuckered out from rolling on asphalt ribbons through hazy valleys, almost considering that, for the trouble, we nearly deserve Rainier as much as anticipate her.
487 miles. 11 hours. Coffee in Dunsmuir, a sleepy burg (who lives in those little old homes?), lunch in Grants Pass at Black Bear Diner, Portland freeways jammed at 5pm, got off to stock up on perishables at Fred Meyer, crossed the Columbia. Paradise Point is an ok overnight, only issue is that I-5 white-noise is over the camp, a bad sub for forest sounds. But still ok- pull in, pop up, good night.
Yesterday after work was like a prelude, a two hour drive in the afternoon through Sac Valley heat that affords us a 117 mile advantage for our ambitions today. The payoff last night was wonderful eats and white wine with Greg and Marcy at their farmhouse at Dairyville Acres. Stories ensued on the back patio under their big sky, noting the stars, meteors. This morning’s sun is tame now, but will bake the valley floor in a few hours. We, however, will scoot north into Oregon.
The trailer and car sit in the dark outside. One day at work and then we wheel to the great northwest: Greg and Marcy the first night, Portlandia the second, then Rainier. Then on to Victoria, Hoh rainforest, Astoria, Lemolo Lake and home. We want to be still, breathe deeply, sleep soundly, stare at a star…
The map of our route