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Showing posts with label Mt Rainier. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mt Rainier. Show all posts

Authentic Northwest Experiences with PanEarth Escapes

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For me, nothing says "the Authentic Northwest " quite like these three iconic places in Washington : Mt Rainier, Olympic National Park and San Juan Islands. For every out of town adventurer who wants to enjoy a classic Pacific Northwest getaway filled with hiking, kayaking, cycling, snowshoeing, rock climbing, bird watching, wine tasting - these are THE three Ultimate Adventure Playgrounds to visit.

Sometimes when you are pressed for time, but would still like to see/do as much as possible, it's tough to squeeze all these adventures in one visit...Tough, but possible...

Pan Pacific Hotel Seattle in partnership with EverGreen Escapes Cascadia has developed a program called PanEarth Escapes

This relationship will combine a customized adventure with an authentic Pacific Northwest luxurious lodging experience. PanEarth Escapes will integrate superior eco-friendly first class vehicles, naturalist guides, scrumptious northwest “Cascadian Safari” meals, fine local brews/wines and rare flexibility of itinerary that can traverse the magnificent contrasts of mountains, rainforest, islands, and coastlines of the Pacific Northwest.

PanEarth Escapes will offer full day tours to all three places ( Mt Rainier, Olympic National Park and San Juan Islands ), but if it's too much ( or too "hard core" (?)), you can always opt for a shorter ( or "softer" ) outing, like a half day tour of four of Woodsinville’s most acclaimed boutique wineries, or learn about the beer-brewing craft and the history of Washington breweries on a half day Seattle Brews & Views Tour.

Whether it was the full day of adventure or a half day of drinking, back at the hotel relax the mind and your body at Vida Spa ( I was especially intrigued by ''Swedana'', a west coast cedar steam cabinet customized with herbs based on your dosha ( mind and body type )).

If the selection of tours is not up to your interests, visit EverGreen Escapes web site to find something that might suit you.

I haven't had a chance to explore our state with this company, and even though I'm not a big fan of guided trips, I'd like to learn more about my favorite Washington places from a different perspective.

Cross Country Skiing And Snowshoeing MTTA ( Mt Tahoma Trails Association )

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Below is the most detailed, first hand, personally provided information on xc ( cross country ) skiing and snowshoeing MTTA in South District to High Hut, Yurt and Bruni's Snow Bowl Hut.

Hut-to-hut skiing is extremely popular in Europe. The most spectacular of hut-to-hut trails, the Haute Route through the French and Swiss Alps, is also spectacularly crowded: Cross-country pilgrims share the circuit with about 200 other skiers each day, then bunk with them at night in huge dorms festooned with sopping garments.

North America has built its own portfolio of equally impressive hut-to-huts in the years since WWII, when at least one veteran who had served as a special ski trooper in Europe returned home and later re-created the famous Alps circuits in his own backyard.

Hut-to-hut backcountry skiing has been on my Bucket List since I found out you don't need to go to Europe to have this unique experience.

A series of snow huts south of Mount Rainier near Ashford offer this amazing adventure. The Mount Tahoma trail and hut system has about 50 miles of trail (20 of it groomed), three huts and a yurt.

My plan was to spend a night at High Hut, and to wake up the next morning to have my breakfast with the view of Mt Rainier ! But unfortunately, due to its popularity, the huts were booked quickly that weekend , so instead, I had one of my epic mini/day adventures.

Here are a few tips I wish I knew before going to MTTA:

  • Do stop at the MTTA office in Ashford to get the latest info on road conditions, and directions to the Snow Park.
Look for 29815 Washington 706, Ashford, WA 98304  The address is for Ashford Fire Station, and MTTA office is located BEHIND it ( there was no sign, and was confusing to find ).

  • MOST IPORTANT -  don't forget to bring BOTH - Discover Pass AND Snow Park permit ( you can also buy both at nearby Whittaker Mountaineering store ( $22 for a day/$42 for annual Snow Park permit ). The MTTA patrollers are Nazis when it comes to writing out tickets for not having either one of the permits.

Directions to the Snow park :
  • Chances are, at MTTA office you'll be given a crappy, confusing map to the snow park. Here is an easier way : when you turn right on Kernahan Road, look for Paradise Estate on your right, stop, and look closely for the sign to the snow park (SF 85). If you continue on HWY 52/Skate Creek Rd, you'll end up on a snowmobile/snowshoeing one way trail ( me and another idiot actually drove our cars on that trail until we realized we were lost ).

The drive to the Snow Park :
  • Honestly, unless you drive 4x4 or you have faith in your vehicle, I wouldn't drive there in winter.
The road is a narrow, two way dirt road that is dotted with potholes. The few days before my visit the area had experienced a heavy snow storm which turned the road to the snow park into a one way, poorly plowed, rails-free death track. Even if you have 4x4, make sure you carry chains at all times as the weather at Mt Rainier is very unpredictable.

All three huts (High Hut, Yurt and Bruni's Snow Bowl Hut) are located in South District, and share the same Snow Park/trail (to certain extent).

The Trail:
  • The first ~1.5 mile the trail is gradually climbing up to the junction. This is the portion of the trail that is wide, groomed and well packed. 
  • This portion of the trail is so packed, that, honestly, you wouldn't even need skis or snowshoes. You can just hike ! It will keep you light and fast ! ( as you can see from the picture on top ).
Also, this portion of the trail is groom and very hard packed, but... there are NO broken tracks for xc (cross country) skiers ( which makes it hard to ski), and because it's hard pack, it really doesn't make sense to use your snowshoes.

The Junction:

  • Here the trail breaks into two directions : to High Hut (on your right), and to Yurt and Bruni's on your left.

From Junction To High Hut:

  • This portion of the trail is "poorly groomed". The tracks for snowshoers are narrow and barely broken. Once again, no tracks for skiers. I ended up hiking this part of the trail also.

The Hut:

  • Honestly I imagined it to be a bit ... roomier. Depending on occupancy, the hut can get pretty crowded. There are a couple of bunk beds on the "first floor", and more floor space on the "second level".

 Snowshoeing/Skiing With Dogs ?

  • Dogs are allowed on MTTA trails, BUT... NOT in the huts.... Also, if you're traveling with your dog(s), PLEASE KEEP THEM ON THE LEASH !

The Atmosphere:

  • Are you a social butterfly ? Do you like spending your nights in the company of complete strangers ? How about listening to their boring pathetic life stories ? Personally, I lasted about 15 minutes before getting the hell out of there, and I was glad I didn't reserve the night in the hut.

But if you're an introvert like me, and do decide to spend a night at the hut, and have your morning breakfast with the killer view of Mt Rainier, consider brining some booze, ear plugs, and your favorite book to survive the night.

Kerry Park - The Best Place To Take The Most Amazing Picture of Seattle

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Beautiful view of Seattle with Mt. Rainier in dawn light from photographer Gary Hamburgh in Kerry Park

There are many great spots to take beautiful pictures of Seattle : Seattle Space Needle, Columbia Tower, from the deck of a Bainbridge ferry, while parasailing on Puget Sound, but Kerry Park is not only a great place, but it's also FREE !

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Snowshoeing Mt Rainier With EverGreen Escapes

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Snowshoeing at Mt Rainier is #1 on the list of "10 Ways To Experience Mt. Rainier This Winter" suggested by the official website for Mt. Rainier travel and vacations.

With more than 16 trails of various length and difficulty, it might be a bit overwhelming to decide where to go, especially if you're new to the area ( or snowshoeing in general ).

After my last snowshoe trip , I finally decided to pull the plug on this hobby, sold my snowshoes, and was getting ready to switch to ski touring. Skiing up to Camp Muir and then down to Paradise has been on my Bucket List for a while. But after our "failed" attempt to reach Paradise in December, I was a bit freaked out to drive there and almost gave up to ever see Mt Rainier in winter.

Before, I mentioned that there were a few ways to visit the park...but mostly in summer. If you're visiting our state ( or like me, hate driving ) in winter you're pretty much limited to : driving with a friend, renting a car, or joining EverGreen Escapes on their Full-Day Mt. Rainier Snowshoe Tour

Unlike big tour buses, their small (but luxury ) Mercedes van provides intimate atmosphere and a chance to get to know people you're traveling with. We made our first stop at Kautz Creek trail head to stretch our legs, get a cup of coffee with some pastries, and to snap a "preview of the Mountain".

At Paradise, we strapped on our snowshoes, and after a short briefing were on our way to explore the park's winter trails.

Another thing I loved about the tour was "the freedom to roam". Unlike many "organized trips" I've been on before, the atmosphere during this trip was very casual.

Though, you are expected to stay with the group, you can still keep up your own pace. If during the summer months you would have to stick to the trail, in winter you can chose to use the existing trails, or feel free to forge your own path !

My only concern was about a few people, who might have underestimated "the Mountain". I can't stress enough the importance of being prepared in the outdoors, and especially in the mountains.
Weather in the park is notoriously quick to change, and sudden storms can appear with little or no warning...
Though it was a picture perfect bluebird day, the wind was reaching 25-30 MPH with the temperatures in the low 30's. A couple people were not wearing any headgear, gloves, another person was wearing very light hiking shoes...Our guide mentioned that a week before they had to hike in complete white-out conditions.

Remember, surviving in the mountains is not just challenging, it's also expensive :

Lost Mt. Rainier Snowshoer Burned Money to Stay Alive

What To Do at Longmire, Mt Rainier in Winter

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"Mt Rainier...within an easy drive from Seattle..."

The drive to Mt Rainier can be pretty exhausting...2-3 hours along HWY 7 or 161 is a torture ( for me )...But with the right company it's a breeze

Fee-free weekend over this Veterans Day was the first time I decided to take my 4 year old to see "the Mountain". Weather forecast for Saturday looked very promising ( snow accumulation of 4-12 inches ).

We were planning to visit Paradise for some fun snow time and may be go for a short hike...
Between November 1 and May 1, all vehicles traveling in Mount Rainier National Park are required to carry tire chains. This requirement applies to all vehicle types in all weather and road conditions...Weather in the park is notoriously quick to change, and sudden storms can appear with little or no warning.Link
It was snowing hard ! Half way up I decided to turn around.

Before, the only time I visited Longmire was to pick up a climbing permit. When we pulled over and got out of the car we had no idea what to do.

During summer time this area is famous for great hiking with trails like Eagle Peak, Rampart Ridge Trail, and of course, the famous Narada Falls. But in winter there is not a whole lot to do.

The first ( and the most obvious ) choice is the Longmire Museum. It's small, but very cozy with lot's of pics and stuffed animals.

A ranger at the museum suggested that we should check out the Trail of the Shadows across the road from the museum. It's only 0.7 mile and leads to a homestead cabin built in 1888 by James Longmire who discovered mineral hot springs here, and later built a resort.

While crossing the street I saw the sign for the Wonderland Trail, and momentarily thought about taking my son for a "short" 93 mile hike...But then settled for a picture and a short hike up the trail...

I'm still planning to hike the entire length of the Wonderland Trail next summer, so at least now I know a good spot to begin...

But the highlight of the trip was...

...they instantly became best friends...

Visit Mt. Rainier Video That Really Inspires To Visit

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I'm not sure who's in charge of marketing at Mt Rainier National Park, but I know they've been doing a pretty bad job inspiring people to visit this one of the most beautiful and unique parks in US.

I think the video below really brings up all the excitement, adventure, and discovery that you can find at Mt Rainier.

"It's more than experience. It's a way of life"

Climbing Mt Rainier ( again)

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Unfortunately, this year I didn't go with my friends to climb Mt Rainier, since I had my own "climbing" Mt St Helens to do ( which was OK , but honestly, cant be compared to Mt Rainier).

I didn't get too much info on the climb. They went to Paradise on Thursday, stayed a night at the Paradise Lodge, and took off early in the morning.

Just like last year,they didn't use a guiding company. Two of them summited Rainier last year, so they had enough experience, practical and theoretical knowledge to climb and lead others. Other two were newbies, but they've been training for quite some time and were in pretty good shape.
Though the plan was to start climbing on Friday night, the wind was so strong that they had to wait till Saturday. It shows how unpredictable the weather up there can be and how important it is to use good judgement.

Below you can see some pictures from this year climb.

If climbing Mt Rainier is on your " to do " list, make sure you start training way before your climb. I know that many people use Si Mountain as their training grounds, going there as often as possible with the weighted backpack ( 40-50 pounds).

Also, if you don't have friends who are experienced mountaineers, you probably should look into climbing with one of the guiding companies.They will not only guide you, but will also provide the necessary training.

You will also have to rent some of the gear needed for your climb.You can rent out your get at REI or Backpackers Supply in Tacoma.
For my last year climb, I went to Feathered Friends in Seattle.On their web site I couldn't find rental information, but they do have it. And they've got some great deals. For three days rentals of axe, boots, crampons, hamlet and down jacket I paid just $100. Great deal !

Take a bus to Mt Rainier.

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This is just in :
On July 20, Mount Rainier National Park will become the official owner of a vintage 1937 Kenworth Touring Motor Coach. Historic bus returns to Mount Rainier
This coach transported visitors to Mount Rainier between 1937 and 1962 from the historic Winthrop Hotel in Tacoma and Olympic Hotel in Seattle.

Sweet Classic Ride

According to Mt Rainier Park officials : "The park plans to have the coach on display at various times throughout the summer".
So, I guess, you can't take that bus to visit your favorite park. That's too bad, because it's a pretty sweet ride. It’s got the old original engine, a stick-shift tranny and the most fun part - the whole top folds back. According to the owners, Art Redford and Frank Pupo of Gig Harbor, the “coach” is one of only five built by Kenworth between 1937 and 1938. Two others still remain active – one in Sitka, Alaska and one in Montana.

Many out-of-state visitors often ask me this question :" How can we get to Mt Rainier, if we don't have a car ?"

Well, one option -take a Gray Line of Seattle's scenic bus ride from downtown Seattle.
It's not just a ride. Along the way to the Park, they stop at several scenic lookout points. Back to Seattle they a different route, taking in even more great scenery. The price ? $ 62 + tax. Big disadvantage - tours are offered from May 1 to September 30.

Another tour operator- Seattle Tours offers same- day trips to Mt. Rainier in one of their clean, comfortable 24-passenger mini-coaches with large windows, high back seats and air-conditioning. One big plus - door-to-door service from downtown Seattle, SeaTac,Tukwila and Bellevue hotels, hotel’s specific pick-up time. Cost- $88.58 plus tax

This tour operator is on the bottom of the price list, but at the top of service providing. Yes, you will pay $ 185, but you will get much more for your money.This full day retreat, with Evergreen Escapes, to Mt Rainier glaciers,waterfalls and wildlife offers ample opportunities for adventure, exploration, learning, and just plain having fun ! Your naturalist mountain guide will lead you out on a short hike or snowshoe along the Nisqually Vista trail or possibly something a little more challenging. Advantages : pick up- city hotels and cruise terminals
season- spring ( snowshoeing !) and summer

And finally ! The winner !The money savor ?! FREE National Park Service Shuttle from Ashford to Paradise !
Drawback - getting to Ashfod. Couple options:
•Ace Taxi: 253-589-1000; Round trip transportation between SeaTac airport and Ashford.
•Yellow Cab Inc: 253-848-2930; No airport pickup but available for return trip to SeaTac from Ashford. Also available to pickup anywhere in Tacoma area.

Hoenstly, I haven't had a chance to use the shuttle and can't vouch for it, but it's in my plans. For more information about the shuttle, call 360-569-2211.

Other than that, unfortunately, there is no public transportation to Mount Rainier National Park.