The sun is dead, long live the night king!
Stark said it best: “Winter is coming.” (Boom. That’s how you win over a very specific demographic.) So needless to say, our outdoor options are battling both the daylight and the cold. Fortunately, Mt. Rainier’s Paradise Trail to base camp has never looked more dashing.
- What to Buy in Preparation– A doughnut, maybe? Don’t let anyone pressure you into only packing protein bars, let alone those sexist Luna bars. That’s right. I took a stance on Luna bars. Anything with carbs will get you to the top, but overpriced energy snacks like Shot Blocks quite literally consisted of nothing but sugar and red food coloring. Bro science. What really matters is that lovely Northface Jacket you specifically bought to help you survive those many adventures. And if you value your life, be sure to wear something warm and breathable underneath topped off by something waterproof. Hell, a garbage bag – a.k.a poncho – works wonders.
- On The Road– Now that you look the part, it’s time to hit the road with your best friend! Not your dog though, since as the last time I checked, most national parks have an irrational hatred of the canines. Bring your human friends. However, I would only pick the friends on your Myspace’s Top 8, as an hour and a half car ride, plus the thirty minutes it takes to get from the entrance up to the beginning of the Paradise Trail , will surely test your seemingly well thought out friends list. As far as a soundtrack, I would suggest something antiquated yet appropriate. Mumford & Son’s goes over well unless you appreciate classic bluegrass, then simply hand over the reigns to Pandora. While Washingtonians are known for their commuting, the country roads can be quite sleep inducing, passing through such lovely towns like Enumclaw, which received its 15 minutes of fame from that bestiality scandal; and Elbe, a town whose economy subsists entirely upon the overpriced food of a restaurant within a train. That being said, stop at every gas station past Enumclaw (there are two) to stretch your legs, relieve yourself, and find camaraderie with fellow pilgrims en route to the mountain.
- Uphill Cement, Steps, Switchbacks and Snowfields– You’ve arrived and that’s half the trip. It’s all uphill from here. Don’t waste your time at the visitor lodge unless you’ve never seen a stuffed bear before, or unless you enjoy century –old documentaries with guys named P. B. Van Trump. I know I do. All trails from the center lead to the top, so have at it. You will be met with an uphill cement battle that will make seasoned hikers question their fitness; but once the terrain levels, all is well. Eventually, you will hit the steps in the form of rocks, so take your time. After the steps, you will be greeted by switchbacks that tend to weed out the serious and not-so-serious climbers. And by serious, I mean you actually want to see what snow looks like, not Reinhold Messner, German climbing maniac extraordinaire. This is where you can collect desktop background wallpapers for Microsoft as the views here are truly noteworthy. You will literally be looking down on the clouds.
Hey, look. A snowfield. From here on out, things get a bit tricky since I didn’t take the “What to Buy in Preparation” section seriously. You didn’t happen to buy crampons, did you? Fret not, as there is actually a lovely cluster of rocks cliffside that will lead you all the way to Camp Muir. It’s not as bad as it seems as it’s kind of like rock climbing with a 45 degree incline. Beats 90 degrees, right? I’m not going to spoil the end of the journey at Camp Muir as it’s different for everyone, but I will say that if you’re religiously inclined, (SPOILER) you will find the Second Coming here.
- Stargaze at 6,400 feet – For those of us who don’t take punctuality seriously, you will likely get to your car at around 9 p.m. You will find that your car is the last in the lot. At this time, the road downhill is usually frequented by an obnoxious amount of foxes that you aren’t suppose to feed. After you feed the foxes, stop at one of the viewing lots on the sides of the roads and take in the stars. Shooting stars are pretty frequent at 6,400 ft. so it’s pretty ideal for making a move. Now the ride home will be reminiscent of a pleasant Subaru commercial or a very awkward Michael Cera movie. Cheers.