At the very beginning of 2020, in early January, my family was struck with a sudden death. Soon after, the world was beset with the coronavirus, and we had to make some pretty big lifestyle adjustments along with everyone else. So in late summer, my sister and I decided to reconnect with nature for healing and guidance. We ventured to isolated places with masks ready. We spent mornings on the Oregon shores, found secret hiking spots to explore, and discovered the splendour of Mount Rainier National Park.
I had found a cozy little cabin at the Gateway Inn in Ashford, Oregon, right outside of the park. So one Saturday morning my sister, my niece, and I headed for our destination. We lost our internet connection as we drove into the town of Ashford, and had nothing but working cameras, each other’s company, and the beauty of Mount Rainier to focus on.
My niece was incredibly excited to go on some hikes, as she was still reeling from a hike we had taken two weeks prior to our trip. Hiking filled her with more joy and energy than I have ever seen. Each path was an adventure to a new paradise waiting around each bend.
The most strikingly beautiful thing about Mount Rainier was its glacial streams. The water looks clean and cloudy at the same time, similar to the waters of a mineral pool. This milky appearance is credited to a fine sediment in the glacial streams called “glacial flour.”
Many of our first treks involved getting a closer look at these gorgeous waterways, although you can get some beautiful views of them while driving into Mount Rainier National Park from the Ashford entrance.
In Packwood we found the most wonderful path that led to Kautz Creek, the Kautz Creek Trail. The glacial stream on the trail flows from the Kautz Glacier at the summit of Mount Rainier.
We spent some time taking in the spectacular views at the creek, just listening to the rushing waters and watching the sun rise over the mountain on a Sunday morning; our holy Sunday mass.
The creek is named after Army Lieutenant August V. Kautz, the first known person to attempt reaching Mt. Rainier’s summit in 1857. His summit attempt was unsuccessful but his explorations led to the naming of the creek. Kautz Creek flows into the Nisqually River.
The paths got a little more difficult for us after Kautz Creek, with some uphill climbs, starting with a short but steep walk to Christine Falls. The path is mildly difficult if uphill battles aren’t your strong suit, but it is completely worth the breathtaking views.
The 69-foot falls cascade into a pretty aqua pool below, under the Christine Falls Bridge. They were named after mountaineer and writer P. B. Van Trump’s daughter, Christine. P. B. Van Trump was the first to summit Mount Rainier in 1870.
There’s a spectacular viewpoint of Mount Rainier as you are driving towards the peak just after Christine Falls on a little turnoff road, called Ricksecker Point.
After this viewpoint, we made the most difficult climb of our trip, a very steep hike to see Narada Falls. It was no problem for my five year old niece, but a killer for my out-of-shape lockdown body! But again, very much worth the climb.
It would have been bathroom breaks and refreshments at Paradise, but we could never find a parking spot, even after circling for a half hour. And there was still much of the park to explore past the Paradise Ranger Station, but it was time for us to head back home.
We were in better spirits than we had been all year. The fresh air and exercise was invigorating, and the wonder and majesty of the park reminded us that nature can bring us back to a blissful and very peaceful state of mind. It reminded us that nature is always there to guide you to a better place. Being without internet for a day didn’t hurt, either. Since our visit, I made a conscious decision to spend more time with nature each day, simply breathing it in, listening to the birds, the rain, and the wind, whether simply sitting by my backyard firepit, gardening, or taking a walk at the park.
They say the mountain blooms with a rainbow of wildflowers in the spring; I would love to go back someday and see it!