Mt. Rainier - San Juans

August 31-September 4, 1998

There were many highlights on this trip but one of the biggest was seeing the Orca whales in the San Juans, but more about that later. We left Shop-Ko at 8:00 on a warm sunny day and drove up I-5, stopping at Wilsonville rest area for cookies, BetteBars and coffee. We took I-205 and picked up John Thomson on Portland’s Sandy Blvd. A short distance from Toledo, WA, we turned right on Hwy. 12 towards Mossy Rock and Morton. Our lunch stop was Mayfield Lake County Park, a nice recreation area about 5 miles west of Mossy Rock, with a large lake surrounded by rolling hills. After lunch we drove through Mossy Rock and stopped at a Mt. St. Helens viewing area, but it was a little too hazy to see the crater. We arrived in Elbe about 2:30 and everyone scattered to find cool spots as it had now become quite hot. Our train, the Mt. Rainier Scenic RR, left at 3:30 and most everyone rode in the open car and had some great views of the mountain and the Nisqually River, very gray from glacial melt. A bridge was out, so the train could not reach Mineral Lake and this was a disappointment. The trip lasted about two hours and we returned to the dinner trail where we drank ice water, relaxed and had dinner of chicken breast or Swiss steak. We checked into the Nisqually Lodge about 7:00 pm.

Next morning we discovered that Bob Tracy had a nose bleed that wouldn’t stop, so 911 was called and he was transported to the hospital in Morton. Hopefully we anticipated that Bob and Ellen would meet us in Anacortes but they got a ride to Centralia to a specialist, and took Amtrak home. He is fine now. We left Nisqually Lodge about 9:00 and went to Mt. Rainier National Park. (Luckily, with Golden Eagle passes we paid only $40.) Our geologist, Ewart Baldwin, talked about the Krause Mud Flow and we stopped at Krause Creek to see the devastation. We continued on to Longmire, where Ray Jensen, our trail’s leader, led a 0.7mile nature trail hike and others visited the museum and visitor center. We arrived at our picnic area about 12:00, which was a short distance from the Paradise visitor center and Lodge. We could not check into our rooms until 4:00 and Ray led a hike on one of the many trails in the area and others walked the short distance to the visitor center around the lobby of this magnificent structure built in the 30s by the CCC. There are four fireplaces, and an extremely nice dining room seating 1,000 people. We had dinner and breakfast (tour leader’s had free). Everyone had rooms with bath, although some were quite small, but comfortable. No TV. Most of us attended the evening program.

The mountain was splendid the next morning with the sun coming up; a large bear entertained everyone from a nearby hill. We left at 8:30 and drove toward the cut-off for Sunrise, stopping for a look at Box Canyon and views of the mountain. We stopped at Grove of the Patriarchs where Ray led a hike through this magnificent Old Growth. Others simply stepped inside the grove to reflect on the natural beauties of the area. We drove a short distance to Ohanapacosh where Ray led a short hike to the hot springs, which turned out to be murky, but the area has lots of history as it was once a resort and people came for their health to soak in the (undrinkable) hot springs. We drank juice and ate crackers furnished by co-leader Liz Reanier, and left for Sunrise arriving around noon. Our driver, Larry Edwards, did a tremendous job of guiding the bus around scary curves. Sunrise is much closer to the mountain and on arriving and seeing this 14,411-ft. snow-covered peak against the blue, blue sky was almost overwhelming. Perhaps the Native Americans were correct: perhaps the mountain really is Tahoma—“The Mountain that is God”. We had lunch here, enjoyed the many wild flowers, the hikers explored a short trail and we reluctantly left about 2:00. Our driver deftly maneuvered us down the mountain, through the Hwy. 405 heavy traffic and we arrived at the Fidalgo Country Inn to Anacortes about 7:00 pm.

In the morning we left for our Mosquito fleet boat about 8:00 but being early our driver drove us by Burl Ives’ home. We boarded the “Saratoga” and left for the San Juans about 9:00. There was a naturalist, Heather, and Capt. Michael Bennett (a former student of Ewart Baldwin) on board. Heather gave a running commentary on the islands we were passing and some history. There are 300-plus islands in the San Juans, some of which are covered at high tide. Orcas is the largest with the Rosario resort, built by shipbuilding millionaire Robert Moran, and Mt. Constitution, the highest peak in the area. Our destination was Roche Harbor on the island of San Juan. This was a large lime producing region at one time and is the location of the historic De Haro Hotel with several acres of lovely gardens. We quietly pulled into the dock among about a thousand boats of all sizes, and found our way to the Bar & Grill where we had lunch. Again, we reluctantly left about 2:00 and after a while Heather told us we were going to see some Orcas (killer) whales. Sure enough, we were among about 23 other boats, one having come all the way from Canada with about 10 people dressed in red suits on The Prince of Wales. Heather was very knowledgeable as these whales have become an important part of her life and we were very lucky to be a part of this. The Orcas stay permanently in these waters all year and travel in pods (families), never leaving the pod. Male Orcas weigh anywhere from 9,000 to 20,000 pounds. The Center for Whale Research is located in Friday Harbor and their studies have shown that there are 89 whales left, down from 92 a few years ago. The oldest is 65 years old. There were 15 or 16 in the pods we saw. A thrilling sight to see these large, beautiful black and white animals as they emerge and rise from the water. A perfect day in perfect weather.

We left at 8:00 the next morning, doing a drive by of Deception Pass and then on to Hwy. 405. Our lunch was at Olympia at the Farmer’s Market (has a flying pig on top). Everyone enjoyed eating at the various food booths and shopping in the bazaar. We were home by 5:30. Thanks to Ray Jensen for leading the hikes; thanks to Ewart Baldwin for talks on geology, and thanks to Larry Edwards for getting us there and back safely.

Riders were: Ethel Allen, Ewart & Margaret Baldwin, Helen Barnard, Mary & Rich Bentsen, John & Marian Borchardt, Mary Lee Cheadle, Kent Christoferson, Clair Cooley, Margaret Fea, Dora Harris, Barbara Hasek, Evelyn Hile, Jean & Ray Jensen, Rosella Jones, Virginia Kapsa, Ann Keating, Ben Kirk, Helen Knowlton, Gloria Layden, Dodie Leppmann, Marie Loome, John & Lenore McManigal, Allen Morris, Cleora Mersdorf, Barbara & Walt Miller, Frances Newsom, Virginia Prouty, Kathleen Schlenker, Millard Thomas, John Thomson, Ellen & Bob Tracy, Louise Thurber, Cristy White, Vera Woolley and trip leaders Bette Hack & Liz Reanier.


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