The Vacation, Part 3

After a couple days at Rose and Dale’s house, we set out to visit my grandmother in Yakima. Dale was quite gracious in lending us his car for the round trip. (He and Rose were unable to accompany us.)

In between us and our destination was Mount Rainier National Park. Mount Rainier is an active Cascade volcano encased in over 35 square miles of snow and glacial ice. As you can tell from these pictures, the mountain is a wonderful example of God’s creative splendor.

We drove up to Sunrise, the highest point in the park accessible by car. The road was precariously dangerous, with a steep drop to one side that threatened certain death should the car veer off the road even a slight bit. I had made the mistake of drinking a lot of water during the first leg of the journey, so by the time we began the windy trip up the mountain I had to use the facilities. Badly. Of course, there were no facilities—well, other than nature itself. We couldn’t really stop by the side of the road, though, because of the steep incline. (Besides, I didn’t want to be the guy on national news who fell to his death in a tragic bathroom accident.)

At long last, we made it to Sunrise. Danny and I were excited about hiking the mile-long trail that took us from Sunrise at 6,000 feet to Dedge Peak at 7,000 feet. We had hiked the trail once before and the view from the top is absolutely incredible.

There was one problem: my out-of-shape condition. I walk to the mailbox several times a week and that’s about all the exercise I get. My brother, on the other hand, can jog several miles with a fifty-pound bag of sand on his back. It wasn’t too long before I started breathing hard. I tried to mask the sound by breathing through my mouth (I didn’t want my brother to think I was a complete wimp). Pretty soon I didn’t care if the whole world heard me; I gasped for lungfuls of air like God was rationing it out. My legs couldn’t understand why the ground kept going up; they attempted to alert me by throbbing with atrophy-induced pain. Somehow, I made it to the top. Danny felt quite good; I wanted to drop to the rocky ground and die.

Two factors hindered us from viewing a crystal-clear panorama. One, we reached the top late in the day and the sun was on its downward arc behind the mountain, making it hard for us to see. And two, there was a forest fire in the park, which created a lot of smoke that obstructed our view of the mountain even more. But even with these factors, the view was still incredible. When I could breathe normally and appreciate my surroundings, I used my cell phone to call several friends and share the experience. (Yes, I had reception. Evidently, Verizon’s “Can you hear me now?” dude had been there.) All the pain was well worth hiking Mount Rainier. (David Ash has said that I didn’t actually hike the mountain itself, only part of the mountain. I think that’s just a matter of semantics.)

When we were done visiting the mountain, we headed down the windy road toward Yakima. On the way out of the park, we were alarmed to find ourselves driving into the smoke from the forest fire. There were no other cars, and we began to wonder of the road had been closed due to danger from the fire and we somehow missed the warning. We made it through without dying, though, and continued on our journey.