New Photos of Mount Rainier! Plus Super-Cute Critters

It’s been a long but fruitful day, my darlings. B and I took a little trip to Mount Rainier for you. We hadn’t yet hit the Sunrise VC, you see, so we decided it was about damned time we went. Can you believe I’ve been going to Rainier for years and have never been to top of that road? Scandalous! Now remedied.

Here’s the mountain peeking at some lovely andesite columns you will get to know very well later on:

Image shows gray andesite columns poking toward the road on the right, with a shoulder of Mount Rainier and the jagged crags of Little Tahoma in the distance.
Mount Rainier, Road, and Columns.

Now. I’m going to set the non-geologists in the audience a question: what are the columns telling you about the valley at the time of this lava flow? No cheating by looking up stuff on Mount Rainier, kiddos. But you can go look at Callan’s handy guide to columns wot he made just for us. You can totally get this from just this photo:

Images shows a bunch of gray andesite columns pointed at us.
Here we’re standing direct across the road, with the valley behind us, looking the columns dead in the tops of their darling little heads. Nose of an indeterminate blue sedan for scale.

Right, now you’ve had a challenge, you shall get your cute! This poor little dude was so conflicted.

Image shows a little striped rodent sitting on a somewhat flat rock in an I'm-Very-Tempted manner.
Conflicted ground squirrel or possibly chipmunk, I am terrible at identifying these cute fuzzy things BECAUSE THEY ARE BIOLOGY NOT ROCKS AND I DO ROCKS OKAY?

On the one hand, there was this humungous clump of grass with delicious ripe seeds and it really really wanted them so bad, only there were these people standing there, and it was a little afraid, but it wanted those seeds soooo bad. It spent a moment thinking about it, and dashed up and down a bit, and rushed the seeds and rushed away, and then decided “Sod this for a game of larks” and went and hid, so we left it to get its lunch in peace.

Now, we were up there specifically to look at Emmons Glacier, because I’ve been up the White River Valley it is responsible for, and would have gotten to one of its old moraines if Cujo and I hadn’t been stopped by the small but significant fact that the trail bridge over the river had washed out. So we went down to the Emmons Glacier Vista overlook thingy and had a nice look, and it was really gorgeous.

Image shows Mount Rainier's summit, Little Tahoma, Emmon's Glacier, and a gorgeous glacial valley with a glacier-fed river and lake. Also, much green, because PNW.
A view of Emmons Glacier, and the valley, and river, and a wee little turquoise-colored lake that I could probably identify if I wasn’t too tired at the moment.

Unfortunately, it was a bit hazy, and hot as hell, or we might have gotten better photos. Still. We got some good ones, and yes, someday, you will get more. But if you embiggen this one, you’ll be able to see some snazzy glacial features. Tell me all you can find, if you feel like digging!

We attempted the trail up Sourdough Ridge, but that’s all in bright sunshine, and did I mention is was at least 80 bloody degrees? And I’m not used to high altitudes and heat anymore. So we decided to tackle that in cooler times, and possibly when the air is clearer. We went down to Sunrise Point, where there’s a short-ish side trail to Sunrise Lake.

Image shows Sunrise Lake, a beautiful round pool surrounded by tall trees and mountains. The water is so still you can see the pines clearly reflected in it, even from hundreds of feet above.
Sunrise Lake is a lovely blue-green gem set at the bottom of a glacial valley surrounded by majestic, glacier-carved peaks. Alas, it is down in a valley…

This trail is mostly in shade with a wonderbar cool breeze. Trouble is, it is also a long way down to the lake. Down, of course, translates to up on the way back. But it was worth it. We got to see lots of pretty nature, and the lake, and there was this bird you will squee over when I show you it later this week, and, on a scree slope, this wee little rabbit-like thing running across the rocks with a big sprig of leafy something in its mouth. See if you can spot it in the shot of the slope I took.

Images shows a slope of platy gray rocks surrounded by the usual alpine greenery. There's a little critter on it. Very hard to see.
Wee beastie is somewhere on this scree, I promise you.

Really hard to spot, innit? Alas, I had the camera turned off to conserve battery when the little bugger first darted out, and by the time I had it on, our wee beastie had dashed further downslope. Take it from me, it was cute as the dickens, especially with its bit of greenery clutched in its mouth. Here’s a crop of the above image, and if you can identify they wee beastie from just this blurry pic, I will be very surprised. Also, I will suggest you become a cryptozoologist, because why not?

If you look at the gray rock at the very bottom center, then at the green bush right in front of it, then in front of that bush, you will see a timorous little brown fellow holding very still on the scree and clutching its little sprig.
If you look at the gray rock at the very bottom center, then at the green bush right in front of it, then in front of that bush, you will see a timorous little brown fellow holding very still on the scree and clutching its little sprig.

After the beastie and the birdie, we hauled our sorry butts back up that slope, and I can tell you my lungs haven’t ached like that for ages. Like a bellows, they were. I need to spend less time lounging with the cat and Christianist textbooks, and more time on mountains. So it’s a good thing B has decided we should go back to Mount Rainier before our current pass runs out. Weather permitting, we’ll be up there again at the end of the week. Then, depending on what the weather looks like, we’re off to either the Olympics or over the mountains to Ross Lake. Well, weather and our own energy levels permitting, I should say.

And I can definitely recommend sunset as seen from Highway 410 from outside of Sumner, looking over the Puget lowland toward the Olympics. Oh, my, yes. Alas, we were unable to stop and obtain photos, so I shall just have to ask you to imagine jagged black peaks against a salmon-orange sky, with the dark night blue above and the deep pools of shadow in the valley below, with city lights sparkling merrily, and a huge orange full moon rising over the hills behind. So, so wonderful.

New Photos of Mount Rainier! Plus Super-Cute Critters
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9 thoughts on “New Photos of Mount Rainier! Plus Super-Cute Critters

  1. rq

    I’d say ground squirrel because chipmunks are tiny with less fluffy tails and stripes on their back not the face, but those are the ones I’m used to – maybe you have weird, giant, fluffy-tailed chipmunks out on the west coast!
    As for the blurry one, groundhog? [/wild guess]

    I love the blue-green lakes among all those dark green trees. Like little shiny pebbles in dark moss. And those views of glaciers? Doing a lot to help me cool down right now (even though, I know, it was hot when you took those pictures!).

  2. 2

    Sorry rq, you’ve got it backward. Chipmunks have stripes on the face but ground squirrels do not. And we actually do have large chipmunks — Townsend’s Chipmunk, one of which I saw in my yard last year, is about the size of our native Douglas Squirrels. (Half the size of the accursed Eastern Greys, however.)

    As for the critter in the scree, you’ve got yourself a pika! Absolutely typical habitat for them, and you can’t miss those ears. I actualy thought “pika” as soon as you mentioned ears and I saw the rocks.

    I was actually halfway to Sunrise on Saturday, visiting an internet acquaintance at a renaissance faire in Bonney Lake!

  3. 3

    Oh, and all the way down Hwy 167 and out 410, I kept looking at those lovely flat valley floors with Mt Tacoma (I refuse to call it “Rainier”) looming over them and thinking about what made those floors so flat. Layer upon layer of steaming mud. Which will inevitably return. Bonney Lake, on the hillside, is pretty safe. Orting, in the valley below, not so much.

  4. rq

    Chipmunk that I’m familiar with, no real stripes on face. :) But you’re right about the ground squirrel – and you have some monster chipmunks out there. *shudder*

  5. 6

    Lovely pictures and prose to whet my appetite for my upcoming visit to Rainier. Two friends and I are planning an 11 day through-hike of the Wonderland Trail. Nothing here in the flatlands of southeast Michigan could prepare me for the huge elevation gains and losses we’ll encounter, but we’ve been training with full packs on what hills we can find. If you gaze toward the mountain between Sept. 2 – 12, give me a thought. Alas, I’ll have little clue about the geology I’ll be seeing (except for moraines and other glacial features. We know from moraines around here!), but I believe there are some andesite columns near the trail somewhere.

    Those ground squirrels, I understand, are thieving little bastards in camp.

  6. 7

    There are some AMAZING columnar joints at the South Puyallup Camp towards the back. Make sure you see them!! It’s a really nice place to camp BTW. I will do a sun dance for your trip : )

  7. 8

    Thanks Jane. I’m leaving for Seattle this Saturday. We’re hiking counterclockwise and the South Puyallup camp is our last stop before ending (collapsing) at Longmire. I’ll be sure to check them out! And thanks for the sun dance. BTW, we’re taking the Spray Park alternate too.

  8. 9

    Your week is looking good! (Saturday may be rainy.) Sun dance is working for the rest of the week. Spray Park alternative is great way to go. Stupendous views. You are going to LOVE your trip! It’s a killer but you’ll be in killer shape by the end. Best of luck to you!

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