In the past, I haven't had much luck with the weather when hiking in Mt Rainier National Park, always finding the summit of Rainier shrouded in clouds for the duration of my trip. On one particularly memorable trip, Andy and I were practically chased off the mountain by an unexpected summer lightning storm. Needless to say, when we left home to clear skies, with a cloudless view of Rainier in the distance, I was hopeful my luck had finally changed. Maybe the mountain would reveal herself for the Alpine Trails Book Club! When our group hit the trail from Sunrise at 9 AM it was under a cloudless sky, but soon drifts of cloud began to gather around the summit, partially obscuring our view of the mountain. Even with the mountain hidden by clouds, the bloom-scented alpine meadows and panorama of surrounding peaks made this spectacular hike a new favorite of mine.
We climbed gradually from the trailhead, the group slowed by me pausing every 20 feet or so to admire the view and take photos. Even though I'd hiked in the park before, the views from this particular trail were new to me, and I couldn't get enough of the up-close view of Rainier. The wildflowers scattered along the trail weren't bad either! While climbing, we came across multiple marmots, including one big guy feasting almost in the middle of the trail. As he scampered across the trail and down the hill, he stopped to give me the stink-eye for so rudely interrupting his lunch. I'm sure he found something good to munch on a little further from us noisy hikers!
The day was warm enough that I was glad for the patchy clouds and the occasional shade they provided, especially since the rocky slope we hiked through provided none. Before I knew it, we'd reached the lookout. Even with Rainier hiding behind a veil of puffy clouds and a haze of clouds on the horizon, the views from the lookout were spectacular. While we sat in the shade of the lookout discussing Lassoing the Sun, our conversation quickly drifted to favorite memories of family trips to National Parks, and parks we hoped to visit in the future. I asked the group the same question Mark Woods asked nearly every park employee he interviewed: what is your favorite national park? Sitting on the shoulder of Mt Rainier, I'd have to agree with the most memorable response he got - the one I'm in at the moment.