Mount Rainier 2015: National Park Inn

I finally got the opportunity to stay inside a National Park!  And I didn’t even have to camp!  We stayed at the National Park Inn, which has a long and storied history. James Longmire (for whom the Longmire Historic District is named) was one of the first white settlers to visit the region and establish a business presence.

Longmire homesteaded in Ashford, the closest town outside the park, and began building roads and trails into the area. He transported tourists to the park via a wagon road to bathe in the Longmire District’s mineral waters. Over the next several years, he built a small hotel and expanded the trails in the area up toward Paradise.

A cedar stump showing what was happening at specific points.  This tree was alive when Lewis and Clark visited the Pacific Northwest.

A cedar stump showing what was happening at specific points in history. This tree was alive when Lewis and Clark visited the Pacific Northwest.

In 1906, the Tacoma and Eastern Railroad built the original National Park Inn, across the street from Longmire’s 30 rooms of assorted tents, cabins and hotel rooms. Longmire had died by this time, but his family was operating the business, and were irritated by this, and it soured Longmire’s relationship with the park’s administration. In 1916, the family leased their property to the Longmire Springs Hotel Company, who built another hotel and additional cabins.

A few years later in 1919, park administration achieved a long time goal of having only one concessionaire, and a deal was reached that transferred all the buildings to the Rainier National Park Company, who operated the 1906 National Park Inn. The 1916 hotel building was moved across the street and became the National Park Inn Annex – this building contained 17 guest rooms. The 1890 hotel, and all the tents and cabins that the Longmires had built were demolished, to improve the appearance of the area.

In 1926, the original National Park Inn burned down, leaving only the Annex, which is the current National Park Inn! What stories this old building must have!

The National Park Inn

The National Park Inn

Other historic structures in the Longmire District include:

  • General Store, originally built in 1911 as the Hiker’s Center
  • Museum and Visitor’s Center, built in 1916 as the first administration building
  • The Library, built in 1916 as the Community Kitchen
  • The Community Center, built 1927
  • The Administration Building, built 1928
  • The Service Station, built 1929.
The Administration Building and Visitor's Center at Longmire

The Administration Building and Visitor’s Center at Longmire

We checked in and made a reservation for dinner about 30 minutes later – enough time to change our clothes and refresh a bit. The restaurant in the Inn can be described as fine dining in a casual atmosphere; we were dressed in jeans and hiking shoes and didn’t feel out of place – perfect for a National Park!

The Porch at the National Park Inn

The Porch at the National Park Inn

Jon ordered the Rainbow Trout with a Deschutes IPA. I had the Pork Loin with tea to hydrate. Both of our meals were delicious and the service was excellent; the only disappointment was the price of Jon’s beer. $7.75 for a 12 oz. bottle! That’s sports stadium pricing! I decided to wait for my wine until we went back to the room; we had brought a bottle with us.

Jon's Rainbow Trout at the National Park Inn Dining Room

Jon’s Rainbow Trout at the National Park Inn Dining Room

Our room was simple, neat and clean but small, and the bathroom harkened back to yesteryear. There are no TVs at the National Park Inn, no cell service, no phones in the room and no Wi-Fi. Forced interaction! Jon and I went with the flow and played National Parks Monopoly until we got too tired and declared a draw. What a fantastic day!

The fireplace in the game room at the National Park Inn

The fireplace in the game room at the National Park Inn

The next morning, we woke up and went down to breakfast – our hotel stay included a voucher for their made-to-order breakfast – it was delicious! I had the Country Breakfast with eggs over medium, bacon and a homemade biscuit with tea, and Jon had the Veggie Omelet with an English muffin and coffee. Then we showered, packed our things, checked out and got out for a hike!

My country breakfast at the National Park Inn

My country breakfast at the National Park Inn

Mount Rainier 2015: Waterfall Hike!

How often do you have an opportunity to see three waterfalls on a relatively short hike?  We did at Mount Rainier!  After our snowshoeing adventure, we drove back down the mountain to the viewpoint for Narada Falls. From talking with the ranger, we knew that Narada Falls had a trail that extends past the falls and follows a section of the Wonderland Trail. The trail also goes past two other waterfalls – Map Cap Falls and Carter Falls.

We checked out Narada Falls, which is absolutely stunning. If you are visiting, you can see it from the parking lot, but to get the really good view, you really need to walk 0.1 miles down the paved trail to see it from below. You won’t regret it! The sun was shining on the base of the falls, and we saw a beautiful double rainbow in the mist at the bottom.

Narada Falls

Narada Falls

Double Rainbow at the base of the falls

Double Rainbow at the base of the falls

We made our way down the trail, and as usual, within a few hundred feet, all the other people melted away.  We found ourselves totally alone.  We had to do a bit of scrambling early on though, as there was a large tree down on the trail that we had to climb over.

Jon standing by a very old tree

Jon standing by a very old tree

We found ourselves hiking downhill (which Jon hates because it is hard on his knees), always near the Paradise River, making our way through amazing old growth forest. Being early in the spring for this mountain environment, there was lots of evidence of the winter remaining – leaning trees, broken limbs, patches of snow and mud, but nothing compared to a typical winter here.

Me on the Wonderland Trail

Me on the Wonderland Trail

I would guess that we hiked about 2 miles to reach Map Cap and Carter Falls. Carter Falls is a traditional waterfall, with a high plunging fall, but Mad Cap Falls is more like a series of rapids, a water slide waterfall! I would be curious to know if any brave souls have tried to careen down Mad Cap Falls in a raft!

Mad Cap Falls - would you go down these in a raft?

Mad Cap Falls – would you go down these in a raft?

Due to a miscommunication on my part, this hike ended up being about twice as long as I was expecting – I thought the Ranger had said it was 1.1 miles each way from Narada Falls to Carter Falls, but he must have been talking about something else… Oops! The hike back was beautiful as well, but we were both getting really hungry and tired. And the trip back was all uphill! By the time we got back, I figure we had hiked 7.5 miles for the day – 3.5 miles of it over snow!

Carter Falls peeking through the trees

Carter Falls peeking through the trees

All in all Narada Falls to Carter Falls was a great hike. Although it didn’t have mountain views, there was a peaceful serenity provided by the old growth trees, the sounds of the river, and the scenic beauty of three different waterfalls. Not to mention the fact that we only saw about a half dozen other people on the whole hike!

We made it back to the car about 5:30, tired but really happy with our hikes for the day. It was time to make our way back down the mountain to the National Park Inn – our home for the night!

Two Wines for Scorching Hot Days

The last several days have been scorching hot.  The lowest highs have been in the low 80s.  The highest have been in the high 80s!  As we generally only get a few days in the 80s all summer, this is very unusual, especially so early in the summer.

To keep cool, we have had our fans going all day long, and are trying to strategically open and close windows and blinds to let in cool air and keep out the heat.  It is only sort of working.  The first floor of our house was 80 degrees when we went to bed last night.  Our bedroom was several degrees hotter.

All that heat means summer whites!  I found a great New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  The Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc It is a pale straw yellow, with crisp acidity, and flavors of grapefruit and lemongrass.  It was so good!  A perfect patio sipper, and a steal at less than $10!

A couple days later, I opened the Evolution White by Sokol Blosser.  A kitchen sink blend, with Pinot Gris, White Riesling, Muscat, Gewürztraminer, Müller Thurgau, Semillon, Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner, and Chardonnay, this wine has nice tropical flavors of peach and citrus.  Though not as crisp as the Monkey Bay, it is a great summer white with its crispness balancing out the sweet, tropical notes.

Now if only I were on vacation!

Mount Rainier 2015: Snowshoeing!

Did you know that Mount Rainier is one of the snowiest places on earth?  Jon and I visited in April – a new National Park for both of us!

At the beginning of National Parks week, when the parks have their fee-free day, Jon and I decided to make a weekend trip down to Mount Rainier National Park. We didn’t plan for our trip to coincide with fee-free day, as we have a National Parks pass, but it just happened to be Jon’s weekend off and we wanted to make the most of it. We got up really early – 5:15 am, and were on the road at 6:30. Driving was easy and we reached the park just after 10 am.

View of Mount Rainier - a cloudless sky!

View of Mount Rainier – a cloudless sky!

We went in the southwest entrance of the park and passed by the National Park Inn in the Longmire Historic District – that’s where we would be staying the night. We decided to first go to the Paradise section – so we made our way up the Paradise Road. It is a really gorgeous drive, past bridges and waterfalls and old-growth forest.

We parked at Paradise and went to the Visitor’s Center to figure out what we wanted to do. There was still a covering of snow on the trails, so we decided to rent snowshoes! For $14.50 per person, you can rent snowshoes for the day – they aren’t particular pretty, made of blue plastic and rubber straps, but they do the trick.

Jon straps on his snowshoes.

Jon straps on his snowshoes.

We talked to the ranger about a couple of snowshoe trail options and headed out. The snowshoes took a little getting used to; you have to walk with your feet farther apart than you normally would and of course, you have to pick up your feet higher, as you are walking on snow. All in all though, they were easy to use and we found walking in the snow was much easier for us than others without snowshoes.

Me as we set out for our first hike on snowshoes!

Me as we set out for our first hike on snowshoes!

The first trail we did (about a mile round trip) was the Nisqually Vista Trail. In the summer, this is a 1.2 mile paved trail; half of it was closed when we were there, so it was a slightly shorter out and back hike.

The trail took us over a little bridge, along a small creek that was visible through the snow and out along a section of trail that had amazing views of the mountain and the Nisqually Glacier. We also had a view of the Nisqually River Valley. We loved the scenery!

Me with a view of the Nisqually River Valley in the background

Me with a view of the Nisqually River Valley in the background

After we finished the Nisqually Vista Trail trail, we decided we still wanted to do more snowshoeing. We decided to hike a bit out the Edith Creek Basin trail, which in the summer offers spectacular views of scenic meadows with wildflowers and crosses over one of Mount Rainier’s famous waterfalls, Myrtle Falls. The weather was beautiful, with lots of sunshine and temperatures in the 60s! It was crazy for April in Washington State!

Edith Creek looking up at Mount Rainier

Edith Creek looking up at Mount Rainier

 

We went about a mile out, crossing over the bridge over Myrtle Falls and heading a little higher up the mountain. Many snowshoers and cross country skiers go much further to Panorama Point, but we stopped and turned around for a couple of reasons. This late in the season, we would be heading into a section that has a high risk of avalanches. The spring weather with the melting snow makes the heavy, slushy snow that is well known for sliding down the mountain, and we didn’t want to be anywhere near it!

Looking down at the top of Myrtle Falls

Looking down at the top of Myrtle Falls

After we made our way back to the Visitor’s Center, we decided 3 miles was enough snowshoeing for the day, because we wanted to do some hiking as well! We had a great time snowshoeing and would definitely do it again! Plus, I want to return and see Myrtle Falls and the wildflowers in summer!

After snowshoeing, we headed back down to a lower elevation to hike and check out some waterfalls! Have you been to Mount Rainier? Have you snowshoed at Paradise?

Happy 5th Anniversary!

Jon and I have reached a milestone!  Five years of marriage!  That’s right, the wood anniversary!  I did not get anything wooden for Jon, but I did treat him to a romantic evening of flushing my horse’s mouth with salt water.  Jon got to man the syringe, while I held Biz’s mouth open.  Jon definitely got the better end of the bargain – and I got a couple of squirts of salt water in my face and ear!

Of course, it needed to be done, and wound care doesn’t wait for an anniversary celebration.  Fortunately I’m not particularly sentimental, and neither is Jon, so we’ll likely just pretend that our upcoming long weekend trip to Whistler is our anniversary.  Sometimes a little substitution works just fine!

I hope you are all enjoying your weekend, and celebrating whatever milestones come your way.  Cheers!

Biz gets drugs, I get beer…

This morning, Biz and I made the trip up to his vet clinic for his latest surgery.  Biz has EOTRH, a degenerative disease of the teeth that causes them to break down.  His incisors have been getting worse with the progression of his disease, and over the last four years, he has had three of his lower incisors pulled.

Biz looks a bit like a toothless Mr. Ed here!

Biz before his surgery – about a week ago.

With his last set of X-rays, it was clear that his upper incisors had deteriorated significantly over the last year.  We made plans to extract four of his six upper incisors, leaving only his two center top teeth.  I have to admit, I was a bit anxious, as pulling four teeth at the same time is much different than just pulling one.  Plus, the upper incisors are more complicated than the lower ones, because the nerve block is much more dangerous.  The nerve that affects the upper jaw is very close to the optical nerve, so if the nerve block is administered incorrectly the horse could be blinded.

Today’s surgery went well.  Once again, the nerve blocking was the hardest part, as Biz on his best day doesn’t love having his face messed around with.  Getting the nerves blocked on each side involved heavy sedation, one vet holding the needle, two other vets holding his head and me and the vet tech pushing on him to keep him standing straight in the stanchion – plus a blindfold, and a numbing agent under the skin at the location of the nerve block.  Oy!

Once the nerve block was done and had taken effect, the work of removing his teeth began.  The first one ended up being the hardest – he was not happy and kept tossing his head around (you find out how sedated they really are when you start the hard work!).  The first tooth also had the largest ball of cementum – which is where the tooth has tried to repair itself by creating a ball of extra growth to try to shore up the deteriorating root of the tooth.  However, the ball of cementum presses against the gums and the nerves in the mouth and is painful.

The rest of the teeth came out relatively easily – three of the four simply broke off when they applied the forceps, so the vets had to do a bit of digging around in the hole to get the remaining pieces of the root.  Once they thought they got it all, they did a new round of X-rays to make sure, and then packed the holes with Plaster of Paris and antibiotic tablets.  The sutures will hold for a few days, and eventually the plaster plugs will fall out.

 

A very sleepy Biz.

A very sleepy Biz after his surgery

I’ll be doing aftercare for several weeks, flushing his holes with saline solution daily.  I’m grateful that he is a remarkable healer.

Biz is now officially missing more incisors than he has left.  This evening he enjoyed a small meal of super soggy beet pulp and hay, and was pissed that he didn’t get more.  And I’m enjoying a relaxing craft beer.  It’s the little things…

Four to Go on Wednesday

Biz saw the vet for his annual checkup a few weeks ago.  At 28 years old, he is remarkably healthy.  No comparison of horse age to human age is truly accurate, but a 28 year old horse is generally believed to be about the equivalent of an 80 year old human.

His weight is great – his blood work is good.  His eyes are clear and bright with no sign of cataracts.  The only exception to his great health is his teeth.  Followers to this blog will know that Biz has had 3 teeth pulled over the last couple of years – this Wednesday he will have 4 more pulled. His disease, EOTRH, has progressed, and his teeth have deteriorated significantly in the last year.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little worried – he has done really well with the extractions so far, but he has only had 1 pulled at a time previously.  4 is a much bigger deal.  This will be our first round with his upper incisors too – I am not sure if there will be differences with the extractions or in his healing process.

Biz looks a bit like a toothless Mr. Ed here!

Biz looks a bit like a toothless Mr. Ed here!

I wouldn’t be doing this (and the vet wouldn’t be recommending it) if there wasn’t a big chance that Biz is enduring a lot of pain due to these diseased teeth that are hanging on.  As horses are prey animals, they mask their pain – it has got to be pretty bad before a horse will let you know…  We are hoping that this surgery will relieve him of the pain.

I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly, and that he heals quickly.  Please keep us in your thoughts on Wednesday!