I must have been tired because despite waking up a couple of times for the toilet I slept through till 6am on our first morning. We were soon both up and ready to hit our first Hotel breakfast of the trip. It was the usual fare although the scrambled eggs were ruined by the chef unnecessarily adding peppers to them. You wouldn't catch Delia doing that. The rest was pleasant enough.
Today we had planned to visit Mount Rainier National Park. This was a 75 mile trip which we hoped would be worth the drive. Our first surprise was that after a few miles we hit a roundabout. Quite why we are not sure, perhaps the road planner had British heritage. There was no need for the roundabout where it was either and it had strange wriggly lines on the road to indicate the lanes, clearly the planner had never visited the NDR. The road planner must however have been very pleased with his efforts and then celebrated wildly at the office Christmas party as we then hit another 5 of them all within a mile of each other. It was most peculiar and I am still not sure how I feel driving the wrong way around them.
We then hit a major detour on the road to which the Sat Nav complained bitterly getting more and more irate that I wasn’t following her instructions to do a U turn. After about 10 miles we rejoined the correct route and she seemed to forgive me.
The weather was not great with low clouds and some drizzle which only worsened as we increased elevation as we got closer to Mount Rainier. We were disappointed especially as we only had today to visit before we moved on. Then literally out of nowhere all the cloud and mist vanished to leave clear blue skies. It was as if once the sun increased the ground temperature to a certain level it burnt it all off in a flash. It was amazing that it really did happen in an instance.
It cost $30 dollars to enter the Park. For some reason this park is not covered by the Annual Pass for the National Parks. I was not happy and said that this had better be worth it. It was.
We decided to start at the furthest point away that we wanted to visit and work our way back. This involved a long slow bendy drive for another 18 miles. We did stop at one vista en route to take a couple of pictures with Mount Rainier in the background. When we got out of the car there was that beautiful clear yet warm mountain air with the smell of pine needles. The trees were looking beautiful against the deep blue sky.
We were heading towards a place called Paradise. When we got there we realised everyone else had been heading there as well. We were pleased we were there early on a midweek day as apparently parking can be a nightmare. We wandered around the visitors centre grabbing Karen a coffee before heading out on one of the hiking trails. We decided to walk the Nisqually Trail as this took in the Wild Flower Meadows. They were stunning. Paradise gets the most snow of anywhere in the USA. Most of the year this National Park has roads that are closed due to snow. There is only a 6 week growing season for the flowers and we had managed to hit one of the 2 weeks that they are in bloom. Against the backdrop of the glaciers on the mountain it was breathtaking. The trail although made into a proper path was very steep at times and the thin mountain air meant we and everyone else had to stop occasionally to catch our breath. It did make all the effort of getting here so worth while.
We walked back to the visitors centre to get a much needed drink before driving onto Narada Falls still within the Park. They didn’t look much from the top and as the trail looked uneven Karen decided she would not attempt the scramble to the viewpoint below. It was a bit of an effort getting back up afterwards but was worth it for the view I had seen. What started as a narrow trickle at the top widened out to something rather nice down below.
Our final stop was the Longmuir Vistors Centre on the way out of the park. Apart from some nice chairs on the porch looking at a vista of Mount Rainier it was barely worth the effort of getting out of the car.
On the drive back we stopped at Yelm to go into our first Walmart of the trip. Pleasingly I bought some Levis for under $20 along with some more fruit and snacks for tomorrows journey. As it was getting quite late (6pm!) and we were starting to feel the jet lag, rather than going back to the Hotel we headed to our first Outback of the trip. We sat at the bar to eat. Whilst the food was up to the usual high standard, there were 2 disappointments. The first was the Outback Special was only being offered in the 6oz or 12oz sizes - I wanted my usual 9oz and so had to ‘force’ down the larger one. The second was that the place was ridiculously understaffed. The people working were doing their best but really couldn’t cope with doing the jobs of about 3 people each.
After this we went back to the Hotel and were both asleep by 9.30pm, wondering what tomorrow might bring.