Road Trip Stopover: Mount Rainier

My cousin Jen (left) and me at the Grove of the Patriarchs trail

Day three of the west coast adventure, I was leaving Seattle. My cousin was in Seattle to visit her friend who was interning at Amazon, and she decided to join me for the road trip down the coast. I picked her up, we headed over to Piroshky Piroshky to grab some bites for the road, and we were off by 9 AM.

The drive from Seattle to Mount Rainier was about three hours, where our ultimate destination of the day was going to be Portland, Oregon. I wanted to break up our drive with a trail to stretch our legs, get out of the car, and enjoy some fresh air. We were en route to Grove of the Patriarchs in Mount Rainier.

This was my first day driving the Buick [sponsored] aside from when I picked up the car and found a space to park in Fremont. Fortunately, the vehicle was equipped with a GPS and wi-fi hot spot, which was wild — I’ve never drove a vehicle with that many amenities, so this truly was a fortunate experience to be in a comfortable vehicle for our journey. As we got closer to the mountains, we began to lose service from our phones, and depended solely on the car’s GPS (which occasionally lost signal, too). Overall, we were able to rely on the Buick for the most part to get us to Grove of the Patriarchs, and it sure was an experience.

View of Mount Rainier from WA-7

There were many trails to choose from when I decided to go to Mount Rainier, but I wanted to prioritize our time as well as give us the opportunity to explore. Grove of the Patriarchs: this is an easy looped 1.5 mile trail. I planned on us arriving around 11:30 AM from Seattle so we could be on the road again by 1 PM. From what I researched, this was the easiest trail of the trails within Mount Rainier, but from what I read - one fo the most magical. Even before we got to the actual trail itself, the road up Mount Rainier was mesmerizing. While driving, we couldn’t help but stop to the side of the road to take in our surroundings. That is the beauty of road tripping: we were on our own schedule, and could be as flexible as we wanted to be.

Bugs are scary, okay?

Bugs are scary, okay?

When we arrived to Mount Rainier, there was a park entrance fee we needed to pay (single vehicle entry fee was $30). As we pulled up to the entrance of the trail, there was limited parking, and you really had to be comfortable parking in tight corners. Even though I was driving an incredibly large, seven-seater car, I am confident in my driving abilities and am comfortable with my spacial awareness in a vehicle - that’s what happens when I drive in and out of Boston for college and live in Allston dealing with street parking for two years. We eventually got one of the many sought-after parking spaces (this is what we get for arriving mid-day and not being an early bird like everyone else), and then we were off to stretch our legs.

I don’t have the best knees in the world (my knee caps sometimes shifts out of place), so I do get nervous about going up and down steep inclines. Fortunately, this trail had minimal incline variations and was generally a flat trail. We knew that the trail looped around, and maybe we were inpatient, or maybe we were lost - we really didn’t know how to find ourselves towards the loop and kept on finding ourselves in the middle of thorned bushes (turns out, this was not a part of the trail). From what I read, between June and October, there is no snow on this trail - and as we were here on this trail mid-June, we had zero snow! I imagine this would be beautiful in a snowy setting though.

We climbed through tree trunks and over wobbly bridges (that could only have one person walk at a time). At one point when crawling out of a trunk, a spider dropped in front of my face and I freaked out (see above photo), and Jen definitely caught an embarrassing shot of me. What can I say - I am irrationally afraid of bugs and small crawlers.

After our time on the trail, it was almost 1:30 PM, and we were hungry people. We didn’t have service, so we weren’t able to look up where to get food for a while. As we were leaving Mount Rainier and heading back to the main road, I felt something crawling on my left shoulder and quickly looked over, seeing a (I don’t know what type of) creepy crawler hanging out. I held my breath and looked for the first spot to pull over (safely) and immediately jumped out, screaming and jumping up and down to get the creepy crawler off of my shoulder. Jen couldn’t stop laughing at my intense reaction, but I couldn’t help but be freaked out. This was a moment we chuckled about for a while.

Once we were on the main road, we almost immediately stopped over to a town on our route: Morton, WA. This small town was quaint, and had a local spot called Papa Bears Restaurant and Lounge that was playing a baseball game, and the Red Sox happened to be on the screen (I am not a sports fan), so it was funny to see everyone around me booing the Boston sports team since I am so used to being surrounded by passionate Boston sports supporters. Jen got fish & chips for our late lunch, and I got a chicken steak and gravy. It was wild to be in a town as small as this relatively isolated from the urban cities - we couldn’t help but be curious and look up how many people lived in Morton (1,159 according to the 2017 census).

As we entered Oregon, the rain began coming down on us out of nowhere - but it was deceptive since the sky was blue and sunny as the rain began to pour. Next thing we know, we were engulfed in darkness and I had my windshield wipers on near max speed because of how fast the rain was coming down. Three and a half hours since leaving Mount Rainier later, and we made it to our second city: Portland.

West Coast Road Trip Series