It doesn't really matter where you are in the Seattle area, on a good weather day, you can see Mt. Rainier looming over everything. At over 14,000 feet, it's rather formidable, and certainly the highest mountain I've ever seen. But let's also not forget that it's an active volcano.
We admired Mt. Rainier from afar on a few occasions during our whirlwind week of house hunting. We had some downtime on Saturday, so we decided to give it a closer look. Lance plugged Mt. Rainier National Park into his tomtom GPS, and off we went in our rented Subaru Forester. From McChord AFB, it was less than 2 hours.
It's a nice drive, which takes you past scenic overlooks (none of which we stopped at, unfortunately), a petrified forest, and adorable little backwoods towns. One of these towns is Elbe, where we stopped for a couple of photo ops.
As much as I don't relish spending time in cars, I actually very much enjoyed this drive. There is a lot to see. But we finally arrived at Mt. Rainier National Park. It's $15 per car to get in, or you can buy a yearly pass for $30 (which we will probably do next time we go.) The $15 pass gets you admittance for a week. (We asked, but they don't offer military discounts.)
The park ranger gave us a map, which revealed to me that the park is much more massive than I imagined. He told us that we could only go as far as Paradise, which is maybe 1/4 of the way through the park. But that was okay, because we hadn't planned on making an entire day of it. We just wanted to spend a couple of hours. And it took about that long to make it out to Paradise and back, stopping at a few other points along the way. Since we hadn't planned on doing any sightseeing at all during this trip, we didn't exactly pack hiking boots and appropriate outdoors gear.
I can tell you that if you're just there for a picnic, it's a great place to do it. We didn't picnic there (although we did eat at the grill restaurant at the visitors' center), but there are plenty of scenic areas to enjoy al fresco eating. And it should go without saying that there are numerous hiking trails of various lengths and difficulty levels. You can camp, if you like roughing it...but there are also several inns within the park's borders, if you prefer more civilized accommodation.
It actually took us about an hour or so to drive to Paradise (stopping at a waterfall and a couple of scenic overlooks on the way). The visitors' center there is one of the two main ones in the park, and it was packed. It took us ages to find a parking spot, and we almost gave up. But persistence pays off. One finally came available, and we parked and went inside.
There, you will find a bookstore/gift shop, an expensive grill/snack bar with surprisingly good cheeseburgers, and a museum. We spent roughly an hour there. I bought a postcard at the bookstore, and was surprised to see the woman behind the counter wearing an Ohio State shirt. So I asked her where she was from, and she said she relocated to Washington from Worthington, OH!! That's very close to where I'm from (it's all the Columbus area, anyway). So we chatted about what a small world it was and talked about the Ohio State Buckeyes for a bit. It was really a thrill to meet someone from my hometown there in Washington.
But I digress...
After we got a thorough look around Paradise, we decided to call it a day. It still took some time yet for us to get out of the park, so our total time there was about 2 hours and 15 minutes.
And we got back to McChord just in time to stop at the commissary for items to make dinner (our lodgings while we were there were basically like a 1 bedroom apartment) and watch Ohio State pound Penn State...woohoo!! :)
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Again, we had most of the day free, so we decided to explore some sights along Puget Sound. Lance talked to our real estate agent that day, who recommended some specific areas. So from Tacoma, we made our way out to Dash Point State Park, a park that really isn't that far from where we will be living. But we took the scenic route to get there, which was nice, and got to look at some of the real estate along the Sound...yowza! I can't even imagine how much those homes cost, even the ones that are in really poor shape. The view is incredible!
We got to Dash Point, which doesn't seem to have much to it except for picnic areas and a small, but rather nice beach that has an amazing view. There is a little stream flowing through the park that runs over the beach and into the ocean. This was, believe it or not, my first up close look at the Pacific.
We didn't stay there long. We hopped back in the car and drove up to the town of Des Moines (where we had some houses picked out, but never made it there to look at them). Des Moines is a nice little town, but most of the houses there are under the flight path of SeaTac Airport (guess we dodged that bullet, didn't we?). By the way, locals pronounced Des Moines with an S at the end, not like the Des Moines in Iowa. Des Moines has a public marina with a long fishing pier. So we stopped there to take in the views.
At that was it for our tour of Puget Sound. We were fortunate in that the weather was so nice during our entire stay in Washington, except for one day when the weather was very typical of the area. We had especially nice weather on the weekend for our two sightseeing excursions.
Anyway, we both really like what we see so far of Washington state, and we expect to live there quite contentedly. Everyone is so friendly, the scenery is beautiful, and I love both the mountains and the ocean, so I'm getting the best of both worlds.