Tacoma and Mount Rainier, Washington

We went from city to mountaintop as we began our visit of Washington state with a stroll through Tacoma and a hike into Mount Rainier National Park.

The clouds provided a good cover for a comfortable walk through Tacoma, Washington. With just a few hours to spare, we walked through downtown, admiring Chihuly’s glassworks adorning the Bridge of Glass and Union Station, and we indulged in locally made coconut pineapple cupcakes.

Although the we enjoyed the city, we longed to see the natural beauty of the area. Our local friend took us to Mt. Rainier. We stopped for lunch at Mt. Rainier Railroad Dining then we headed up to visit the historic Paradise Inn, a 1916 lodge featuring a cozy yet vast common room and spectacular views.

We followed the Wonderland Trail (a 93-mile hiking trail that circumnavigates Mount Rainier) for a little while into the woods and admired the lake as seen through the eyes of a local artist. We took deep breaths, filling our nostrils with the fresh scent of evergreens, admiring the poignant beauty of Steller’s Jays perching up high on bare branches, the deep purple of mountain bog gentians, the pale purple of spiky asters, and the fiery orange-red of paintbrush flowers.

The Grove of the Patriarchs humbled us with the quiet wisdom of ancient trees (Douglas firs, Western redcedars, and Western hemlocks), towering over one of the richest and most productive ecosystems in the world. These old trees (as old as a thousand years!) house more than 200 types of plants and provide a canopy for a myriad of insects, fungi, and small animals.

We stopped to take in the spectacular landscape created by glaciers and volcanoes some 90,000 years ago, and the dramatic Martha Cascade falling down an impressive elevation. Even a little pika (a small mammal, related to rabbits) joined in our reverent observation.

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