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Labor Day Weekend Trip Report

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Labor Day Weekend Trip Report

Here is the Mount Rainier portion of the trip report of our recent 8 day trip to Washington State to visit Mount Rainier & Olympic National Parks. The Olympic part will be posted in its respective forum.

Thursday, September 2

The 5 hour flight from Atlanta to Seattle was fine, not crowded. There was a picture perfect view of Mount Rainier on our approach to Sea-tac Airport. We arrived at 1 pm. It took a while to find our way to the rental counter. The Enterprise lot wasn’t very convenient. They gave us a Malibu. We were not impressed with the car. It felt slightly uncomfortable.

It was a beautiful sunny day in Washington State. We took I-5 to SR 512 (exit 127) and stopped at an Albertsons a few miles down the road for provisions. They did not have any coolers, so we left and stopped at the Safeway just beyond. We thought Safeway was better. We got our groceries and began looking for a place to eat. Surprisingly, we did not see very many restaurants along the way. We finally stopped at Copper Creek Inn Restaurant in Ashford and had a very good meal there. I have already reviewed the restaurant on this site. Later, we arrived at our final destination, Paradise Inn, around 5 pm.. Parking was very limited, Whatever you do, don’t drive down past the hotel entrance unless you have to because you will be on a miles-long one way road. I made this stupid mistake. Once we made the loop around, we checked in with no difficulties. My review of Paradise Inn is also posted on this site. After our long day of traveling and coming from eastern time, we were not up for much. we took a short stroll around the hotel and turned in early.

Friday, September 3

We were up early, driving over to Sunrise for hiking. The drive took around 1 1/2 hours to get from Paradise to Sunrise. It was a another crystal clear day, with picture perfect views of the mountain. After our picnic breakfast at the Sunrise visitor center, We started hiking over to the Fremont lookout, However, we decided along the way to do the Sunrise Rim Trail, about a 4 mile loop back to the visitors center. After our hike, we had a decent cheeseburger & salad for lunch at the small cafe inside the visitor center. We started our drive back toward Paradise after lunch, visiting the Grove of the Patriarchs along the way. Oddly enough, there was road paving project going on for several miles on the way back to Paradise making for some very long delays. We were not sure why they decided to do this during labor day weekend. It seemed like it took around 2-3 hours for us to get back to Paradise from Sunrise. By then, the parking situation was worsening. We were glad to know we would not be driving during the rest of our time at the Paradise Inn, We enjoyed the late afternoon on the hotel veranda with a great view of Mount Rainier & the Tatoosh mountain range. We had an OK quick meal at the lobby cafe and hung around the main lobby listening to the very good piano player until 8 pm. Time to retire for the day.

BTW an incident occurred that evening which made us understand how quickly things can change at this elevation (around 6.000 feet) We both awoke around 3 am with the full moon & stars shining so brightly from our window that we felt like we could just reach out and touch them. When we woke again at 6 am, the fog outside was so thick, we couldn’t see anything!

Saturday, September 4

We started our day with a cereal breakfast in the hotel lobby. It was good that we bought provisions at the grocery store because dining options at Paradise Inn are very limited. Many folks brought food in with them. It’s a good idea to keep it mainly in the car, as there have been mice reported in the guest rooms. We saw no evidence of this, but it is a National Park, after all.

We waited around the hotel that morning for a short while hoping for the fog to lift and it did, at least at our location. Our plan was to hike the Skyline trail. The trailhead started right at the hotel parking lot.. The High Skyline Trail is approximately 5 miles with a 1500’ gain in elevation. As we began our hike, we gradually hiked into the clouds and visibility became limited. We were hoping to come out above the cloud cover as we gained elevation, but this did not happen. Still, we saw much. We loved hiking through the snow fields, a first for us. As we began our decent back down through the meadows, we came out of the cloud cover and enjoyed the magnificent view of Paradise coming down to the hotel.

After our hike, we made a visit to the new visitors center next door. We were not impressed. it was crowded, being Labor Day weekend. The food was very limited and very expensive. We considered taking the shuttle down to the National Park Inn restaurant in Longmire, but finally decided to have dinner in the Paradise Inn Dining room. Out meal was pretty much as previous reviewers described, It was OK, but not very good, the service was OK, but it was a little pricey for what we got. My review is in the restaurant section of this site. After dinner, we had an enjoyable evening in the Hotel lobby by the fire, visiting with other guests and enjoying the live piano music. We really enjoyed our evenings in the lobby during our stay.

Sunday, September 5

Our morning began with another cereal breakfast in the lobby. We checked out of the hotel and drove to Longmire, where we hiked the short trail of shadows. Then we said our goodbye to Mount Rainier National Park and started our drive over to Forks and Olympic National Park.

Many thanks to all who post here for helping to make our trip so easy & enjoyable!

western WA
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1. Re: Labor Day Weekend Trip Report

Thanks for writing in, Stan.

Your post reinforces a lot of things we get tired of repeating.

"we did not see very many restaurants along the way" -- once you're out of greater Seattle, you aren't really in civilization anymore!

"there was road paving project going on for several miles on the way back to Paradise making for some very long delays. We were not sure why they decided to do this during labor day weekend" -- Got to make hay while the sun shines (or pave roads when there is no snow, even if you have to pay union road crews overtime to do it).

"which made us understand how quickly things can change at this elevation" -- Actually, it can change from crystal clear to socked in rain at any local elevation just this fast. Lucky you woke up to see it at 3am! It sounds beautiful.

"it is a National Park, after all" -- Struggling to get by with a very small budget and a huge infrastructure.

Reading through it again, I'd like to know more. Other than meals and parking, what did you think of the park itself?

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2. Re: Labor Day Weekend Trip Report

"once you're out of greater Seattle, you aren't really in civilization anymore!"

Actually there seemed to be quite a bit of civilization along the way, just not a lot of restaurants. I mentioned that so others would not wait too long before stopping for food along the way.

In regards to the paving, I too thought that the short summer might be a reason why. I suppose there were only a couple of weeks left before it would be too late to do any road work. Seems a shame that they had to do it on a Holiday weekend, but I imagine that it's crowded there all summer long.

"Actually, it can change from crystal clear to socked in rain at any local elevation just this fast. Lucky you woke up to see it at 3am! It sounds beautiful."

This was probably a poor choice of words. I should have said this part of the country. I was thinking from a viewpoint of how clear the skies were at that elevation. You never the skies like that in the south. Too much haze in the air down here.

My remark about it being a national park was not to denigrate the park hotel, but to emphasize the remoteness of the facilities. The Paradise Inn is a clean, well run National Park Lodge, I thought. Being inside the park, it is subject to sharing space with all kinds of wildlife. Many of the reviewers of the park lodges don't seem to understand this.

The park is truly amazing! I wish we would have spent another day there at least. This park is much like Glacier, but in some ways, it is superior. The Sunrise area offers many beautiful scenic vistas to the rugged east and an upclose view of the Mountain. The Paradise area is aptly named. Is is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen anywhere, and I have traveled quite a bit. Mount Rainier itself was staggeringly beautiful! It is so close, you can look at it all day and not get tired of it. We were lucky to get 2 clear days to enjoy it while we were there. People were saying that it can be covered in clouds or mist, like it was the day we hiked the Skyline trail, for many days at a time. But even when the clouds are out, there is so much beauty! The alpine meadows, the deep forests- all gorgeous and very accessible. I would have to rank it in the top 5 of all the parks I have seen.

3. Re: Labor Day Weekend Trip Report

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