A Break in the Clouds? Run for the Hills in Seattle

Looking up at Rainier from the trail (photo: Bryn Fluharty)
Living in Seattle will teach you one thing: when the sun breaks through the clouds you take advantage of it and get outside! As most of the country swelters in record-breaking heat, here in Seattle we are experiencing what has seemed to be a jump from spring right into fall. With cloud-filled skies and below average temperatures we have been shielded from the heat but denied the summer sun.

This past weekend the clouds parted and the temperature rose to a balmy 75°F. With a weekend full of promise a friend and I took off to the mountains to hike to Camp Muir, one of two base camps for climbing Mount Rainier.

Up and Up We Go

The sun shines bright in the sky at 9:00am as we pull into the parking lot at the Paradise lodge. At almost 6,000 feet already the 14,410 foot summit looms tantalizingly close. Grabbing our packs and ice axes we head out, past clumps of gawking tourists and groups preparing to attempt the summit.

In a month this area will be filled with a thick carpet of wildflowers which inspired the name Paradise, but today there is still snow covering the ground. About two miles in we hit the bare ground around Pebble Creek, which rushes out from beneath the Muir Snowfield only to dive again beneath the snow as it winds its way to lower elevations. Here the ground begins to tilt up as we climb up steeper and steeper slopes.

By early afternoon we have reached the small cluster of buildings that comprise the camp at 10,000 feet. From here we can see out over the Cascades to Mt. Adams and St. Helens who rise gracefully above the sharper, lower peaks below. Above us rises the smooth white dome of Rainier. How close it seems from here! It is hard not to think of making the trek up to the summit. Last year I climbed to the summit for the first time and have been itching to return. Today, however, is not the day, and we must be content with lounging in the warm sun and enjoying the view before heading back down.

Mt. Adams rises behind the Tatoosh Range South of Rainier (photo: Bryn Fluharty)

A Threat to Paradise

Climate change is threatening the beauty of this area. The glaciers are beginning to creep back up the slopes throughout Washington, leaving behind them bare, gray rock, the scars of a warming climate. The glaciers of Mt. Adams have already been reduced to almost half of what they were in 1904. This melting will forever change the face of these iconic mountains and our state. It will also impact water supplies for our urban and agricultural areas and for wildlife.

Be Out There to Fight Climate Change

Getting out into the mountains and experiencing the wonders that our natural lands have to offer us has inspired me to work for organizations like National Wildlife Federation and fight for changes in policy and culture to help mitigate the impacts of our changing climate. With younger generations so plugged into technology they are not always exposed to the great outdoors in the same ways. Unplugging kids and getting them back outside will help inspire a new generation of conservationists who are connected to and strive to protect nature.