Patrick Robinson
Mt. Rainier as seen from Admiral Way in West Seattle.

Many Splendored Mt. Rainier

By Georgie Bright Kunkel

Yes, I know. You have learned all about Mt. Rainier and don’t need another reminder of its glory. But hear me out. No single view is a duplicate. The Puget Sound area is blessed (if I may use that religious term) with this majestic eruption of lava which has become our area’s landmark. Our family inherited a view of this peak when we built our new house many years ago. I could look out of my kitchen window and be distracted from doing dishes, at least on clear days.

No matter how many thousands of people have experienced the mountain up close and personal our family called it ours. My oldest brother, Ray, was a park ranger at this mountain for many years. My brother Norman, the long distance runner, climbed it with my sister Sarah. My sister, Grace, spent many weekends exploring the trails. And her daughter worked in the gift shop giving her a chance to meet her future husband who became a park naturalist there. No wonder that one of her splendid quilts was an original design of Mt. Rainier.

Some months ago when my fellow and I drove up to Sunrise on the mountain we met my niece, browsing in the gift shop. She was following in her mother’s footsteps by saying hello to our mountain again. On that visit the road to the canyon was closed and so we didn’t get to drive all the way around. No matter. The warm weather of late beckoned us once more and we were on our way to Sunrise again. This time we could drive clear around to Paradise, appropriately named I must say. The drive, with all those switchbacks contributing to our careening about on the curves, presented pristine beauty at every turn but I didn’t dare look down until we reached the viewing point at the top.

As I always remark, nothing is ever perfect. At the picnic area, where we spread out the checkered tablecloth and opened the ice chest, mosquitoes began attacking in their silent manner that didn’t give us warning until I noticed blood on my leg. I hate to admit that I wore shorts and a sleeveless top amidst the pests of the mountain meadow.

Resting in the visitor center were dozens of travelers—some from Germany and others from Japan. One family had moved here from Florida and could not stop talking about this wonderland of ours. They spoke of driving over roads blasted through the massive rock terrain. Some marveled at the tall, skinny mountain pines which looked as if they had been placed there by some secret landscape designer.

Mirror Lake was available this time. The last time we had ventured there, the snow was still blocking the trails. Such a huge effort it has taken over the years to bring the mountain meadows back to their lovely innocence. Even though I had been to “our” mountain many times before, I always marvel at the delicate wild flowers—lavender fireweed, Indian paintbrush, buttercups and frothy bear grass. There are greenhouses maintained where alpine flowers are propagated. They replenished the ones that were once trampled and erased from the tourist areas when the park was first opened.

It was now time to head back to civilization through many miles of strip malls and roadside establishments. As we drove, we sneaked views of Mt. Rainier at every turn in the road. After we arrived back in Seattle my fellow said, “This may be the last time we will ever circle around this great mountain.” So we hailed the memory of the great and unspoiled mountain landscape. May it remain there to be enjoyed by future generations.

Georgie Bright Kunkel is a freelance writer who can be reached at gnkunkel@comcast.net or 206-935-8663.

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