A visit to Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helen’s August 25-26, 2014

We went to Washington State to see my sister and to try once again (the third such effort) to locate a Sooty Grouse.  Seeing my sister was by far the most rewarding and the easiest part.  The Grouse remained unseen in spite of two days of searching at Mount Rainier, supposedly the best place in Washington to find them.  I am beginning to question the Difficulty 2 rating ascribed to this bird by the American Birding Association.  It has proved far more difficult for me to find.  The consolation prize, experiencing Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helen’s, made the effort all worthwhile.

I would guess that Mount Rainier is one of the most photographed natural phenomena in the world.  It is very striking from all angles.  Looking to the east in the evening, from Eatonville, it is bathed in horizontal sunlight.

sunset

Looking north in the morning across Reflection Lake, near Paradise, produces a dramatic result.

reflection-lake

In the afternoon, looking southwest from Sunrise yielded an entirely different perspective.

sunrise1

Here we did see a Western Tanager foraging for bugs with Mount Rainier in the background.

tanager

There were many chipmunks scurrying around the hiking trails.  We also saw a few marmots.  This one was enjoying a warm rock in the sun and was not intimidated by our presence.

marmot

The flowers in the mountain meadows, both at Paradise and at Sunrise, are in full bloom.

flowers

By mid-morning of day 2 it seemed unlikely that a Sooty Grouse would show itself, so we drove to Mount St. Helen’s to see what has happened since it exploded in 1980 and destroyed the landscape around it.

mt-st-helens

The Visitor Center at Johnson Ridge is terrific.  The Ranger led programs are well planned and the movie showing the revival of the biology of the area in the 30 plus years since the explosion (eruption) is one of the best such documentaries I have ever seen.

We walked along the trail for some distance to experience the landscape on a close-up basis.  Among the highlights were a herd of elk resting on a distant hillside.  The remains of the giant trees that were blown away by the volcanic blast litter the hills and valleys and will probably remain visible for years to come.

elk-on-hillside1

Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helen’s are worthwhile destinations for anyone who enjoys the beauty or the power of nature.