Washington State - Part 2: Mount Rainier National Park & White River Campground
After Matt and I left Seattle we took an Uber to Auburn, Washington to pick up our Camper Van. This van was our home for 10 days as we explored the beautiful Pacific North West. We rented the camper van on Outdoorsy.com from the sweetest family ever. They were terrific! It was a very smooth and effortless process renting the van online and it was a great decision looking back. We had no issues at all.
It was the biggest expense on our trip but it was completely worth it. Having the van and being on the road allowed us to see so much more this way as opposed to renting a hotel or an airbnb. We wanted to be in nature as much as possible with few limitations and the camper van easily allowed us to do that. Having the van was so convenient and made getting epic photos that much easier. Matt and I loved being able to be parked right where we wanted to be for sunrises and sunsets. It was fabulous.
After we picked up the van we were off to Mount Rainier National Park...the most anticipated part of our trip. We knew it would be amazing and it truly was incredible!
Many travel enthusiasts and explorers, especially Washington residents, spend their entire lives exploring just Mount Rainier. I read on a mug in the Paradise gift shop, "Mount Rainier, a lifetime of exploration." I now know exactly why. You can explore this place your entire life and still never even scratch the surface of all the natural wonder it has to offer.
We only spent 3 days of our week long trip in Mount Rainier and actually thought about adjusting our entire travel itinerary to stay longer because it was that amazing. But we decided to just continue with the original plan, all the while talking about how we wanted to come back again and just do a trip to Mount Rainier. It was so hard to leave.
There's an area on the South Side of Mount Rainier called, Paradise. This was by far our favorite place! There is a gorgeous lodge (with fireplaces!), easy scenic hiking trails with lots of wildlife, a tourist/information center with restrooms, several gift shops, a cafe, and vast landscapes all around. It truly is paradise!
We expected that Mount Rainier would be the place where we would see the most wildlife on our trip. We were right. There were animals everywhere. No matter where you go, you will see some type of animal.
The chipmunks were so abundant and oh so friendly! I love this photo of a little chipmunk enjoying a nice sunny day in Paradise. He's so cute!
Here is me hiking the Skyline Trail up in Paradise. It was one of the most memorable and fun hikes Matt and I have ever done together (and we have done many). It was incredibly beautiful and we had such a blast! That's actually a waterfall in that crater-like area of the volcano. Epic!
Matt and I were sooooo lucky to have had this beautiful sunny and warm day. Unfortunately, many people who visit Mount Rainier don't ever get to experience a bright warm sunny day. That's because the weather up there is ever changing by the minute. Big clouds and fog are usually covering the entire volcano so it is often an obstructed view. I am extremely thankful for this perfect day and the memories and photos we made.
Mount Rainier is a 14,410 foot tall active volcano. It last erupted about 1,000 years ago. It became a National Park in 1899 and is the United State's 5th National Park. It has 25 major glaciers.
I found this 'Good Times' rock laying on a boulder. Sweet find. I left it there to bring other people good vibes too. Spread the love, right?
Christine Falls is right along the road on the way up to Paradise. You can literally just get out of your car and walk a few feet and you are at the falls.
It's pure glacier water so it's bright crystal blue and so clean. I love this view of it under the stone bridge. Lovely!
Beautiful hawk sitting up in the tree right next to the main visitor center parking lot!
There are so many macro photo opportunities everywhere. We went in the middle of September so not only did we see a lot of fall color but we also got to see some of the tail end of summer flowers.
I'm really proud of the hawk photos I took. Isn't he a beauty? I love birds. I used a 70-300mm zoom lens to get that shot. This was taken right in the parking lot at the Paradise visitors center. See? You don't have to go far at all to see wildlife here.
Our awesome camper van. It's a Volkswagon Euro Van with a top that pops up so you can stand up inside and comes equipped with a stove top burner, small closet, tiny fridge, and a pullout couch/bed.
I loved our camping spot at White River. This was the cascade right next to the campground. It's basically melted glacier water from the volcano. Lots of volcanic rocks and boulders as well as alpine trees surround the area.
It was a stunning campground with some awesome hiking trails too. One trail even takes you up the mountain and you are in for a treat when you reach the top...you see a beautiful blueish green glacier lake (pictures down below). It's stunning!
This bird is called a Ptarmigan or Rock Ptarmigan. It's about the size of a small hen. I read somewhere that if you see one, it's very special. They are hard to find and not many people get to see them in the wild. They are extremely well camouflaged and often sit inconspicuously among the rocks and brush. But we found one!
This little Ptarmigan was super busy and burrowing in some cold dirt. Normally they are brown in color but in the wintertime they actually turn entirely snow white. Look that up on Google because they are so beautiful against the cold winter's snow. I hope to see that someday.
The scene along one of the trails at White River Campground. Matt and I woke up early one morning, made breakfast, and decided to do a hike along one of the trails at our campground. We had no idea what to expect but when we got to the top, this is what we saw. I was speechless. So beautiful! A little glacier lake with pristine crystal blue/green water. I literally jumped up in the air when I saw it. What a gorgeous landscape!
Marmots are large rodents and are frequently seen at the higher and colder elevations of Mount Rainier. We saw dozens and dozens of marmots running around on the Skyline Trail hike. They are absolutely hilarious! They all live together on the mountain among fallen rocks and grass so they are constantly egging each other on. Every few minutes you will hear them whistling to each other across the landscape. It's such a pretty sound!
This bright blue and black bird is is called a Stellar's Jay and is related to the blue jay but only found in the Western USA. They were everywhere and very friendly.
This is what it looks like way down at the bottom of Mount Rainier. These are the scenes from the bridge going over the Nisqually River basin, a short drive from Christine Falls. So many rocks and boulders as well as flowing water. Incredible geological remains from thousands and thousands of years ago.
I love Mount Rainier! It's hard to put into words how incredible this place is and picking out pictures for this post was hard too because I want to share everything. It feels like home to me and Matt and we cannot wait to go back someday.
I purchased a pretty hand made glass Mount Rainier ornament at the gift shop so I can't wait to put it on our Christmas tree this year and for decades to come so that we are always reminded of the awesome time we had here together. <3
"Mount Rainier contains the most luxuriant and the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I ever beheld in all my mountain-top wanderings." -John Muir