One day, amidst all the other projects I have on the burners, I’ll write you up a proper tale of Mount Rainier’s geology. For now, I’m going to just wander through the forests and meadows, pointing out a few pretty and/or interesting things, because damn it, we need something nice right now.
Firstly, if you decide to take a trip to the mountain yourself, download this excellent roadside guide by Patrick Pringle. It’s utterly fantastic and a great help in deciding what to see and do – except it makes you want to see and do more than you possibly can!
We went in via the Nisqually entrance, which I haven’t done since the first time I was there lo, these many years ago. Here is a map, by which you may orient yourselves:
Our first real stop was at Alder Lake, which is a lovely little reservoir on the Nisqually River. You drive along it for a ways, and it seems to get prettier and prettier, until you can no longer resist. We found a tiny little park/boat ramp place to pull in, and scampered down to the waterfront, where I had a brief paroxysm of joy when I saw this fine glacial deposit.
Brief story: a ginormous valley glacier went all the way the Nisqually River valley from Mount Rainier to where the west end of Alder Lake is now. The bank and wanna-be bluff here are made of glacial till left behind, probably a moraine, although I would not swear to it. I will swear to it being glacial, though, And awesome.
You may note a rather fascinating blend of color in the lake. The Nisqually River, born from a glacier, is bringing down quite a bit of rock flour, which gives the lake a milky sort of appearance in places, and contributes to its fantastic blue. Love it!
Now, have a look at this view up the lake toward the national park:
Click to embiggen. You’ll notice a low strip of land covered with very enthusiastic deciduous trees in front of the distant hills, roughly center-left in the distance there. That, my darlings, is a delta! And it’s huge! And I wish I’d gotten more pictures of it, but we’d got a late start and were worried we’d miss our major stops, so we pushed on. I’ll be back! Loves me some river delta. And this one’s particularly pretty.
Our next (unplanned) stop was at Kautz Creek. You can’t not stop: there’s a phenomenal view of Mount Rainier, and the creek is orange. Look down at the bottom, and you’ll see a little bit of orange creek right there.
This is most likely due to iron deposits. So that’s wild, but so is the ghost forest left behind when lahars took out the creek in 1947.
I just want to point out the bank on the left there – see that? That gritty gray thing filled with big ol’ rocks? Yeah, that’s a lahar deposit, baby! And I called it. I says to B, I says, “That’s a lahar deposit!” before actually reading that it’s a lahar deposit, which makes me think that all of this running about with geologists has done some good after all. Thank you, geologists who’ve taken me out and taught me things!
That’s a lovely little trail there by the creek, with many interpretive signs, and you should certainly take a half-hour or so to wander it should you come in by the Nisqually entrance.
Our destination was Longmire, where there are many springs and TRAVERTINE!!!
Yeah, I loves me some travertine. I don’t know what it is about stuff formed by springs that delights me so, but it does.
And from this location, you can also get a pretty spiffy view of Mount Rainier:
Here endeth Parte the Firste. The views and the geology only get more spectacular from here, believe it or not.