A Mountain Wonderland

from Wildlife Promise

Hiking up a steep slope with skis. Photo by: Bryn Fluharty

Just because it is winter doesn’t mean that you have to stay inside! There are many ways Be Out There and explore even if it is cold out!

This past weekend I bundled up and headed out for a cross country ski adventure right outside of Mt Rainier National Park. The park and surrounding areas offer an abundance of opportunities for getting outside. A couple of friends and I had rented the High Hut cabin through the Mount Tahoma Trails Association and we were out for a weekend of skiing and snowshoeing through the National Forest land.

Snow Covered Trees photo by: Bryn Fluharty

Cross country skiing offers a snowy escape to places that are otherwise inaccessible during the winter months. Climbing up the steep grade the only sound to be heard is the swish of my skis breaking through the snow as they bring me higher and higher up the trail. It is hard work to climb the 2,000 feet to the cabin but well worth the effort. Spreading out below me is a lush green valley of trees which quickly breaks to the white, glaciated slopes of Mt Rainier. With the cloud cover we can only see about half of the 14,410ft volcano but its presence was unmistakable.

The weather around Rainier can change moment by moment and soon the cabin was shrouded in a thick cloud which brought visibility outside down to only a couple of feet. The cloud cover stayed above us but by the next day the visibility was much improved offering the ability to do some back country skiing, dipping and weaving through forest and brush, lunching at the edge of a frozen lake and enjoying the spectacular beauty of the forest.

Mt St Helens at Sunset. Photo By: Bryn Fluharty

We were hiking back up a steep slope as the sun began to set. The western horizon was filled with the sharp outline of mountains ablaze in reds and oranges. In the distance the gaping crater of Mt St Helens glowed red. To the east of St Helens Mt Adams was delicately capped by a lenticular cloud sitting above its smooth white glaciers.

Looking out at Mt Rainier as the Sun Rises. Photo By: Bryn Fluharty

By 1am the clouds had burned off and Rainier was awash in the cool glow of an almost full moon. The summit loomed high above but seemed almost close enough to touch. By the morning the bright blue sky further highlighted the white of the glaciers and the dark scars of crevasses that cut deep into the thick ice.

Turning to leave and head back home was a difficult move. The air was warm for this time of year and the sky the type of brilliant blue that you can almost forget can happen during the winter in Seattle. The trip down the steep slopes was a lazy one full of birds chirping and the sound of melting snow dripping from evergreen branches.

Rainier followed me back home as an ever looming presence in the rear view mirror reminding me that even as I headed back to the city it will always be a short distance away.

The beauty of Rainier and the other mountains in the Cascades is threatened by Climate Change. Due to continuing warming of the planet the majestic glaciers are melting at accelerated speeds. Mt Adams is a prime example of what is happening and why we need to do all we can to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions and help mitigate the effects of climate change. If we don’t the beauty of the mountains will be changed forever.

Have your own outdoor adventure this winter! Be Out There and enjoy the great Out of Doors. Where is your favorite place to get out in your area?