Our Vie Adventures consists of Cees, Madison, Vladimir the Kitten, and a 1989 Toyota Motorhome named Vie. Cees and Madison are on the road, living the dream of every outdoor-minded couple by visiting each national park in the country over the course of the year. In celebration of our National Parks Centennial, we’ve partnered with Cees and Madison to bring you stories and photos of their yearlong quest (and of course, plenty of #vladimirkitten along the way).
Keep scrolling to see Cees, Madison, and Vladimir’s visit to Mount Rainier National Park, WA. Stay tuned to Downstream for updates on their adventures and follow them on Instagram (@ourvieadventures) for more frequent updates from the road.
Before we actually made it to Mount Rainier, we were tipped off about a mountain biking trail that we needed to try. We were on the beach when an older gentleman and his wife stopped to talk to us. He saw the bikes on the RV and suggested this trail. He pulled out a map and showed us exactly where to go. When he went to leave, he tried to give me the map. At first, I tried to be polite and was like, “oh, that’s so nice of you, but I don’t want to take your only map!” He replied, “Son, don’t worry about it. I made this map myself back in the day, and I am down to my last 300 copies at home; it’s a gift from one outdoorsman to another.” I gladly accepted the gift, and left with new commitment to be a wise, kind, and generous adventure-demagogue of an old man… when I grow up of course.
“GOOD MORNING MADISON! It’s time to eat your breakfast! And eat up, cause you’re going to need your energies for the day! We’re going mountain biking!”
We went for the trail even though the old man told us it was “graduate level” riding. Needless to say, we DEFINITELY underestimated the intensity of the trail. Both Madison and I came off our bikes multiple times! It was a muddy, slippery mess of a trail. Luckily, we were having fun (most of the time). We affectionately (not so affectionately) called this trail the “Bike Hike” for obvious reasons.
The views from the end of Cape Falcon were epic and well worth the struggle to get there.
After the ride, we were pretty wiped out. We decided that we earned a date night dinner! A bit up the coast at Canon Beach (our new favorite place ever) we stopped and I threw on my fancy shirt. Fish and chips and clam chowder for the win!
After we recovered from the mountain bike shenanigans, we drove straight to the park. This park sign made us think a little bit, just because we had to be in the middle of the road. But with some self timer magic early in the morning, we got it done!
“Of all the fire mountains which like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest.” -John Muir
Everything revolves around the mountain. The park service roads circle it. The glaciers point to it. The rivers all start from the top of it. The trails creep up the sides of it. It’s all about Rainier.
Before we took off on our own pilgrimage to the mountain, we took the kitty out so he could appreciate it too. Sometimes we feel bad for leaving him while we are out on the trail. We really just wish that there were more pet friendly trails in the parks.
We decided to hit the Sunrise area of the park first. This was a lot further to get to, but considering that the Paradise area of the park was literally overrun with people (it was a Saturday after all), we figured it would be a drive well spent. We figured we would spend the time getting out at different places along the way as well.
The glaciers have long since yielded the role of active erosion to the river. The river has cut straight down 180 feet to form Box Canyon. We were only going to go to the overlook, but then realized the trail was only a half a mile long – so we did the whole thing.
When we pass outcrops that catch my eye, Madison usually just hands me the camera and says “go for it” and I get out of the car and geek-out on rocks. I was snapping away alone – but then I came back and made her come and look. I wanted to show her how I could hang from the columns!
I mean, look how cool the columnar jointing in this andesite is! How can you not want to just hang from it?! (Turns out, the columns are smaller and sideways because the lava was cooled quickly by the glacier… pretty rad.)
Our whole first day in the park, Rainier was hiding from us. It would try and peak out through the clouds, but never really came out all the way for us.
The cloud cover didn’t stop us from getting out and hiking around though. We ventured up into the snow and hoped for clearer skies the whole way.
There was a point that the fog was so thick, that we couldn’t see anything. We almost turned back, but we saw a tiny window of light making its way toward the mountain, so we pressed on with hopes of catching a window to the peak!
Madison: It’s too foggy – everywhere is dark!
Cees: If you look for the darkness, that’s all you’ll see.
Madison: I knew you were going to say that. You’re right, we’ll keep going.
That window seemed to be coming for hours. So instead of just heading back to the RV, we hung out at the top and ate some snacks. We were determined to wait it out!
We set up a little station and waited. That was all we could do.
After an hour or so of waiting, and some serious bouts of lung-powered wind, the fog started to clear and Rainier finally showed (at least the top) of his face!
We loved our time in Lassen Volcanic National Park. We loved the big mountains and the snowy peaks. It wasn’t until we showed up in Mount Rainier, that we realized Lassen was just the baby brother. Rainier is is the bigger, stronger, and more more rugged sibling.
At sunset the mountains looked like they were on fire. It was so rad.
Of course, as soon as the sun went down, the clouds cleared out and Rainier was completely clear. Just our luck.
The moon was so bright, we decided to drive back to Sunrise point to see if we could capture the mountains. When we got there, we found the valley full of clouds! It was amazing. The moon lit the clouds and the snow up so well, it was heavenly.
In the morning we were able to catch a clearer shot of the mountain, but still not perfect. But it is hard to complain about the cloud cover when the surroundings are so beautiful.
Reflection Lakes – were like glass. I was really wishing to get into the kayaks, but they don’t allow boats on the lake. Bummer.
We walked the Grove of the Patriarchs nature trail. The most impressive part for me was seeing the new growth come from the old growth. These young saplings use the fallen, decaying, massive, old tree. It was recycling in its perfect form.
“… the most luxuriant and the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I have ever beheld in all my mountain-top wanderings.” – John Muir (referencing Paradise area of Mount Rainier)
John Muir was a pretty passionate dude. He always uses such intense words; I like it. He loved the Paradise area, and for good reason.
Sometimes I wish I had the words of John Muir. I just seem to struggle to summon the words needed to describe the feelings brought on by such places. Photos definitely help, but there is no substitute for seeing it first hand. It really can’t be communicated – it just needs to be witnessed.
Here’s what the glaciers look like up close.
Though we can’t see the glacier move in real-time, the steep walls and the U-shaped valley it has left behind is proof of its living nature. We sat on a rock and just watched this slow-moving, yet ever powerful mass of ice.
I need a hippy-dippy, love-your-Mother-Earth moment here. Our visit to Mount Rainier gave me hope for humanity. I guess it just gave me hope that human beings have recognized that there are certain places with “special powers” on our planet. Chunks of land, like Mount Rainier, that have a wonderful ability to lift a person to a different level. The more of these inspiring places that we travel to, the more I feel that everyone needs to experience these sacred spots. The fact that future generations will at least have the chance to see, to feel, to hear, and to learn of this magic, puts me at ease.