Mt. Rainier may have just become my new favorite overnight spot. And not just because a cop told me to “do some donuts” for him after chatting me up about the Miata. This place is almost overwhelming in it’s lush array of the PNW’s unique flavor of natural beauty.
Here’s the first part to get you caught up! Although it does say “plans” please know that this was put together last minute with almost zero planning whatsoever.
As such we didn’t leave until 6pm Friday. It took a little under two hours driving to the northern border of the National Park and another hour checking all the campsites. An online search had shown the majority of campsites were walk-in only so we assumed it would be easy to find a place. Nope. Found zero campsites that weren’t full, and after lots of driving in the dark, we eventually set up a tent in the woods off of a side road. Alright! 10pm, time to eat! Delicious French bread, pizza sauce and mozerella made for a nice pizza boat dinner. Very fancy stuff. Fires were banned, camp grills are unnecessarily huge, and backpacking stoves are only good for boiling water, so I had picked up this cheap single burner Coleman unit off Amazon right before leaving. Forgot a pan, but still managed to cook three meals for four people with some careful use of tinfoil.
In the middle of our cookout, park rangers showed up in a Tahoe and said we’d have to leave. It was about 11pm at this point, and packing up our gear and leaving the park to find a forest service road in an area none of us were familiar with sounded awful.
So, we waited for the rangers to leave.... And moved our tents about fifty feet deeper into the woods. They only saw us in the first place because our phone flashlights were on to help with the food prep. We ate, cleaned up and split off into our two tents. Champagne was poured down throats, so we all checked “get drunk on a mountain top” off the bucket list! Slept like babies and had zero problems with the “authorities”. I felt kinda bad about it until the next day checking the map I realized that the “twenty minutes away” drive one of the rangers recommended as a potential campsite was TWO HOURS AWAY. Dick.
But whatever. Waking up we were greeted by cold, wet conditions. PNW baby! Packed up and drove everywhere we could. 8am start. There’s a lot to see here.
After we made it through the rain we entered a thick fog. This was when we did our one and only hike, an easy two mile loop.
We got back from the hike and saw this fantastic subie set up for a two week car camping adventure, according to the owners. I’m kinda jealous.... It’s the exact same year/color/trim level as mine but 1,000,000x cooler. Look at this! That camper tho.
Oh and let’s zoom out a bit so you can take in the scenery. Remember, it’s still foggy. Very light rainfall. Visibility... Well. Good thing my car is bright red.
And a quick picture through the windshield...
All this and it’s barely 11am. Briefly lose the map (her fault) and end up stumbling across a gorgeous lake on a side road. By some crazy luck saw a friend of mine at the lake and had her model for me. I was going for Northwest Adventure Hipster. Also know as Instagram Traveller. Did I nail it..?
(edit: HIS fault)
No, not good enough? Okay, time to bring out the big guns. Because nothing says hipster like strange artisanal beverages!
We left this lake, and soon found... Another lake! I wanted to hike down to it, but was out-voted. Sad.
We changed our grouping a bit for the next two hours, with the women taking the TT to a nearby lodge and my buddy and I going car-spotting in the Miata. We checked the parking lots, stood on the outside of high-speed curves and spent quite a lot of time waiting around for an interesting vehicle to show up.
We somehow went from 31° and foggy to 75° with blue skies in about ten minutes of driving. This meant... Top could go down! The best part? I managed to snap a photo showing two of the many different weather patterns rubbing up against each other that occupy the park. Neat!
Stancenation. That is all.
Figured I should get the peak of Mt. Rainier in here somewhere. It’s about 15,000' high if I’m remembering correctly. I’m probably not, so... Grain of salt and whatnot. In this picture I’m about 5500' high. The lowest point I can recall being at in the park was 1900'. GPS apps are great when you have no data connection for miles and miles in all directions.
We regrouped and headed for... Another lake! They’re everywhere! You’d think it would get repetitive, but no. Not at all. It’s mind blowing how diverse this place is. Look at ten different lakes and you’d think they were taken out of ten complet different ecosystems. Anyways, here’s lake three. NO SWIMMING
We went to a handful of other places, cooked some more meals, did some fishing (no license required here) and raced two M cars along a steep mountain road devoid of any other traffic. Eventually though, we had to head back towards Seattle. So we only ended up spending one night but the trip felt so packed full of sights and adventures it felt like we were there much longer. The four of us are already planning the next trip down here!
If PNW Oppos ever want to do a Europpo style trip I’m placing my vote on Rainier. If a lowered Miata with 350k miles can make it, so can you!