Alder Lake to Paradise, Mount Rainier
September 14, 2012
My week at work after the Artist Point ride flew by. As soon as I would get home from work each day, I planned my route for the next bike ride. The weather forecast was good as I packed by bike and bags into the truck the night before I headed out for Mount Rainier. I left the house at 5:00 am in hopes of avoiding some of that lovely I-5 and 405 commuter traffic. Mapquest indicated 2 hour, 30 minute drive. It took a little more than three hours to get to the Alder Lake boat launch off of Highway 7. I was on two wheels rolling up the road shortly afterwards. After my Mt. Shuksan trip I purchased some colder weather gear. I had a nice pair of gloves and face protector. As it turned out, I didn’t need them this day. With a later start and thin cloud cover the temperature was much more comfortable that the week prior. Adler Lake was to my right side and with very little traffic this was a very nice start to the trek. I found the quaint town of Elbe at the east end of the lake. Elbe is the home of the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad. This place is one you will want to put on your NW travel bucket list. They provide a look into and an interactive experience with steam locomotive history. The Hobo Inn is housed in old railroad cars and caboose that have been refitted for lodging, dining, and shops.
I continued towards the mountain and passed through the small town of Ashford. I found that this was the last place I had a reliable cellular telephone signal so I sent a location update text message to Tawnee and others. The town people were busy preparing for some sort of outdoor festival as they set up booths, tables, and exhibits.
When I entered the Rainier National Park Entrance it was as if entering a world in a fantasy story. The road wound through the huge moss-covered trees as it followed the Nisqually River up the canyon. The river was now a fraction of its spring size. I looked peaceful and inviting but there was much evidence of the torrent it would be with the winter snow thaw of spring.
I stopped to photograph several streams and waterfalls along the way. This was an excellent excuse to catch my breath as it had been a steady climb ever since I entered the Rainier National Park.
Christine Falls is one of those must stop locations. When you are on the bridge you cannot see and appreciate how the water has sculpted and bored a hole in its attempt to find the center of Earth.
Another photo break point was up the road at Narada Falls. The view from the roadway bridge and the trail below provide a great photo opportunity. As I continued pedaling uphill I was surprised with how difficult it was. Each of these mountain treks presents its own unique challenges. This one was a long steady uphill climb for many miles without a break in the grade. The percent of grade slowly but surely increased from the park entrance to the Paradise parking lot.
The air quality was poor due to the Wenatchee area forest fire smoke that was being pushed west over the Cascade Mountains. I turned the last corner and saw the Paradise Inn framed by the immense Mt. Rainer glaciers. This lodge has been a tourist destination since being built in 1916.
I found myself a nice little corner of the Inn’s outdoor deck and kicked my feet up on this wonderful sunny day. I was very comfortable in my shorts and light shirt. I enjoyed my meal of beef jerky, dried fruit, and Gatorade. I met several nice people and visited with them for the next 45 minutes. I met Skip who is now retired and living in Spokane. He told me stories of his many experiences as a soldier in Vietnam and working as a deputy and forensic technician for the Pinellas County, Florida Sheriff’s Office. A trio of retired women from the southern states shared their excitement and joy of this experience and their anticipation for the Alaskan cruise they would start the next day. A man from Scotland and woman from Colorado told of their world travels and shared mountain biking in the Colorado Rocky Mountains stories. On each of these bike trips I have new and interesting people. It was a little after two o’clock before I headed back down the mountain road. The moss-covered trees and waterfalls I had enjoyed and photographed on the way up were now blurred as I sped by. It had taken me a little over four hours to climb from the 1,200’ Alder Lake boat ramp to the Paradise Inn at 5,450’. I was back at the truck in a little over two hours on this downhill ride. This trek is another great memory that will stay with me forever. Now it’s time to rest up and plan my next trip. Will this great weather hold? Maybe I’ll hit Mt. St. Helens.