Friday, August 8, 2008

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

MONDAY - July 28, 2008

I was ready for this leg of the trip. I was anxious to see Mount Rainier. We planned to visit Sunrise Visitor Center and Paradise Visitor Center, with lunch at Paradise Inn. We should be back in Spokane by Monday evening, and so knew we had about eight hours’ worth of driving sketched out for the day.

When someone spends time aboard a ship or boat, they develop sea legs. What is it that a flatlander gets, when they get accustomed to the heights and windings? …Mountain legs? (Whatever you mountain folk call it, I’d found mine about this time.)

Once entering the National Park, there were several pull-offs, observation decks, along the road. GREAT photo opps:



We arrived at Sunrise Visitor Center and I felt like I fit in. There were a few other cars, but I was pleased that it was not crowded. The gift shop in this particular visitor center was the best. I’m not a huge gift shopper, but being on vacation and bringing stuff back for loved ones, I spent time in them. This one, caught me. I bought myself several pieces of jewelry - for me. Unique. Comfortable. I commented to Debbie that a T-Shirt says where it came from - unique jewelry prompts conversation. Someone will say, “…where did you get that?” and then you can tell a story.

When I first walked in, I saw a wooden display rack on the counter top near the register. It held bracelets and key chains on a lazy susan. The display caught me eye, and I was drawn to it. The display was for ‘COURAGE” bracelets and chains. I admired them, and then went on. Shortly after, I was back looking at the courage jewelry. I picked up a pair of dream catcher earrings, and a necklace for Healing. I could not leave without one last look at the courage bracelet, and so, I bought it. We were barely back in the car when I took it from the bag, removed the tag and put it on my wrist. I love it.

I hope you can read this display: I found it so interesting that my way of preserving it was with this photo:

While in the Visitor’s Center at Sunrise, I heard Debbie asking the park ranger about avalanche lillies at Paradise. The ranger told her that much of Paradise was still covered with snow, and there was a slim chance of seeing avalanche lillies. While we were driving through the park from Sunrise to Paradise, I asked if Paradise was a higher elevation than Sunrise. I consulted the Park map, and much to my surprise it was actually the opposite. The elevation at the Sunrise visitor center was reported to be 6,400 feet, while Paradise was 5,400 feet.

Along the way to Paradise, we pulled over at various observation points. Here is one from Box Canyon:

Arriving at Paradise, we saw the greatest number of vehicles and visitors yet. We passed a free-standing sign that indicated the parking lot was full, and redirected vehicles to other parking areas. Debbie was quick to note and comment that most of the available parking was taken up by construction, as the Park was building a new Visitors’ Center. Our plan was to have lunch in the dining room at the Paradise Inn. Debbie was kind enough to drop me off at the entrance to the Inn, while she parked the car.

The Inn was very impressive. Huge beams fashioned from large timbers, oversized and overstuffed furniture surrounding stone fireplaces. A very “mountainous” rugged feeling.

I checked the dining room and saw a sign that said reservations not accepted, and I saw empty tables, and people being seated. All a good sign. I found the giftshop and began “shopping”! After a brief while, Debbie came in and commented that I was “shopping” again?! She suggested we get a seat in the dining room and shop later. Unfortunately, the dining room stopped serving at 2:00 PM and we’d missed it. (probably “by that much!”). There was a cafeteria/ snack bar option which we took, and it really proved to be more than adequate. We were able to get a nice Turkey and cheese sandwich (my choice) or Chicken Salad (Deb’s) with chips and a drink. We sat outside on the porch in the brilliant sunshine. I marveled at the large log-style railings and the fact that we sat in shirt-sleeves, with snow on the ground!

Finishing lunch, we walked the much longer than I expected path to where Debbie had parked. I realized then that she had quite an up-hill hike to meet me in the gift shop.

Here’s a pic of the employee housing:

And some of the scenery:

While we were walking along, Debbie pointed out a Marmot. I’d never seen a Marmot before! Of course (as you’ll see below) I missed the photo op: he turned his back to me before I could ready and zoom my camera. But I delighted at seeing this new wildlife!

The scenery from Mt. Rainer, through Yakima and up to Spokane was as unusual as was the beginning leg of the trip in the northeastern part of the state. The desert and sage brush was unexpected. I found myself again wondering how these people live their lives. Granted, Yakima showed signs of a good degree of farming, with many orchards: apples, cherries, peaches. The scenery was less than green as we distanced ourselves from the valley:

We pulled into the driveway of Debbie’s charming home nearing 8:00 PM. We had traversed 1100 miles! A fine 1100 miles it had been, too! We unpacked the car, opened some of that great wine from the night before, along with the local cheese and bread, and sat and shared our thoughts and impressions, opening up about our different views on being a child in the DeMars family, about the DeMars family, itself, and how that upbringing has influenced our lives. It was a wonderfully warm, relaxingand heartfelt exchange.

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