Fifty four miles southeast of Seattle is Mt. Rainier. It is considered the most dangerous volcano in the world, at an elevation of 14,411 feet above sea level. Rainier is the highest point in Washington, and the highest mountain in the Cascades. On a clear day, Rainier can be seen from Portland, OR and Victoria, BC. It has 26 glaciers, making it the most glaciated peak in the lower 48 states. The summit is topped by two volcanic craters, each more than 1000 feet in diameter. The larger east crater overlaps the west crater.
And geothermal heat from both craters keep the rims free of ice and snow. As a result, it forms the world’s largest volcanic glacier cave network, within the ice-filled craters with more than two miles of passages. In addition, a small lake occupies the west crater, the highest elevation in North America at 14203 feet.
Rainier is topped by three summits, with the highest called Columbia Crest. Second highest is Point Success, and lowest is Liberty Cap. On the eastern flank is a peak known as Little Tahoma Peak, an eroded remnant of a much higher Mt. Rainier. Rainer’s lava deposits are estimated to be over 840,000 years old. Rainier once stood at 16,000 feet before an avalanche and resulting mud flow about 5000 years ago.
The most recent eruptions of Rainier were back between 1830 and 1854. Other eruptive activity was reported in the late 1800s. It is still listed as an active volcano. If Rainier erupted as powerfully as nearby Mt. St. Helens, the cumulative damage would be much greater. Up to 5 earthquakes are recorded monthly on Rainier.
Captain George Vancouver became the first European to see the mountain in May, 1792. John Muir climbed Rainier in 1888. In 1899, President McKinley made Mount Rainier National Park America’s fifth national park. The Washington state quarter features Mt. Rainier and a salmon. Climbing the mountain is difficult, and takes two to three days. Only half the attempts are successful. Just enjoy it from a distance!
Hundreds of people were climbing up the base to reach a lookout point a few hundred feet above the Visitor Center. Why? It looked very COLD and dangerous. Up to 12 feet of snow could be seen on the ground in mid June! I was happy in Bermuda shorts, but most people were bundled up in their fleece and parkas.
We will actually drive the rental car into downtown Seattle, and drop it off there. The parking fees in the downtown area will otherwise pay for lunch (at least) each day. The buses are free in the downtown area, and the new light rail is cheap. And walking this beautiful city is free! It is also an opportunity to buy some shoes at our favorite shoe purveyors at J. Gilbert on First Avenue. And some togs at another favorite, The Finerie.
BTW, for those of you coming to Seattle, do NOT rent a car. The light rail ride (Sound Transit) from Sea-Tac Airport to the heart of downtown (Westlake) is only $0.75 one way. It takes about 35 to 40 minutes, and offers some decent views of the metro area. Parking a car here costs more than San Francisco!!!!