With Jennifer’s Dad getting ready to celebrate his 90th birthday, we decided to stop in the Seattle area and McChord Air Force Base as a place to park the motorhome for a couple days to fly down to Texas. Our original plan was to set up for a couple days near Mount Rainer before heading to McChord, but after looking more closely at the roads to get there and the temps, we decided to just go on to McChord. We spent a couple days driving back and forth to Mount Rainer, then left the motorhome at McChord, while we flew down to Texas for the big birthday celebration.
McChord has a small, simple RV park where we have stayed before. In fact, in 2018, we stayed for the exact same purpose; to park the motorhome for a flight down to Texas. Fortunately, the RV park is located in a thick grove of tall pine trees providing a lot of shade, as the temperatures got up into the low 90s while we were there. Due to our last-minute change of plans, we ended up moving sites mid-way through our stop.
We did two, day trips to Mount Rainer from McChord. One to the northern area of the national park, Sunrise and one to the south area, Paradise. Mount Rainer National Park actually has five entrances. One was closed, two are for back country entry, and the other two are the main ones for folks like us, casual day hikers and sightseers.
Our first day was to the Sunrise area to hike the Mount Fremont trail. The day was absolutely beautiful, if not unseasonably hot. The views were WOW! It was a pretty strenuous hike for us, up about 1,100 feet over the course of around 3 miles outbound; with a deceiving “It’s not so bad” trail up for the first mile or so. They call Mount Rainer “The Mountain” and it proved itself worthy of the simple nomenclature with its imposing view. Not only was The Mountain in full view throughout the entire hike, but also the southern ranges. The trail had a long scree stretch section and a mile of relative flat near and around “Frozen Lake”, which was not frozen at 85 degrees in August! The second up section was a tough climb. It curved around and gave us some dramatic views of the entire valley and mountain range. The altitude got to us more than we expected. The trail starts at about 6400’ and climbs up about 7100’. This combined with the warmer than normal temperatures and being in full sun the entire hike really did have an impact on us. None the less, it was a tremendous, spectacular hike. We even saw a mountain goat.
Our second day trip hike was to the Paradise area. This is the main and most popular area of the park, which was readily evident by the full parking lot at 8:30 in the morning. Our hike for the day was a loop trail up to Glacier overlook. This time it was a 4 mile out-and-back up about 800’. What a different perspective approaching The Mountain from the south this time. It was continually in our foreground view the entire hike up. There is more moisture here and some shade which made the hike a little easier than the previous day. Even the wildflowers were still blooming some. It’s hard to describe the massiveness and majesty of Mount Rainer from this perspective. From the Glacier viewpoint,you feel like you are right on the mountain. The sky was so clear you could even see Mt Adams to the south. Even with the incredible warm temps ( for our hiking preference anyway) we know how incredibly lucky we were to be able to see Rainier with bright blue skies on the two days we were there.
During our second hike we took a short diversion to Myrtle Falls. Very pretty, but crowded.
Our final visit at Mount Rainer was a stop at the Longmire area. This was the original main visitor area of the park and the original lodge. It is well away from the main mountain, but very neat none the less.
One of our traditions is to visit the official lodges in national parks. We visited three lodges in Mount Rainer National Park, one in each area. The Paradise areas lodge is the main lodge, Sunrise has a nice smaller lodge, and Longmire has the historic lodge.
As we were at McChord, we took some time to do a little bit of touring around the base. They have a small historical museum which showcases the history of the local base and various aircraft and operations. Some interesting memorabilia. They also have a very nice small air park with static display of historical aircraft previous based there. On one occasion we were driving on the perimeter road and were treated to a C-17 coming in for a landing right over our heads!
As I mentioned, our primary purpose for the stop in Seattle was to have a secure place to store our motorhome while we went down to Texas for Jennifer’s Dad’s 90th birthday. We had a wonderful time. Jennifer’s sister and brother-in-law were also there, so Otis had both his girls. We played cards, told old stories, did some to-do list chores and just had a great time hanging out. So glad we were all able to be together to celebrate.
It was a busy 11 days, with lots of travel and activities, but it was a great stop and very convenient for what we wanted and needed. We got to visit “The Mountain” and celebrate family. Our next stop will be a sampling of island life.