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Aug 14 2013

Mount Rainier Travelogue Parte the Firste: Water, Water Everywhere

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:


View Larger Map

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.

Alder Lake, with a bit of lovely Quaternary glacial drift at the right.

Alder Lake, with a bit of lovely Quaternary glacial drift at the right.

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:

Looking up-lake toward Mount Rainier National Park and the spot where the Nisqually River enters Alder Lake.

Looking up-lake toward Mount Rainier National Park and the spot where the Nisqually River enters Alder Lake.

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.

Mount Rainier from Kautz Creek.

Mount Rainier from Kautz Creek.

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.

Ghost forest and lahar deposit, Kautz Creek.

Ghost forest and lahar deposit, Kautz Creek.

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!!!

Travertine along the Trail of Shadows at Longmire.

Travertine along the Trail of Shadows at Longmire.

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:

Mount Rainier peeking above the trees, with Longmire's lovely meadow in the foreground, and a very nice ridge to the left. Delicious!

Mount Rainier peeking above the trees, with Longmire’s lovely meadow in the foreground, and a very nice ridge to the left. Delicious!

Here endeth Parte the Firste. The views and the geology only get more spectacular from here, believe it or not.

5 comments

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  1. 1
    Lithified Detritus

    Beautiful!

    I especially like the last shot – I have a weakness for wetlands, as well as geo stuff. Wetlands with travertine, and a view like that – WOW!

  2. 2
    Trebuchet

    I haven’t been to The Mountain* in far too long. We’ll have to see about making a trip one of these days.

    * Yes, we have lots of mountains here. But if you say “The Mountain” to any Puget Sounder, they’ll know which one you’re talking about.

  3. 3
    Funny Diva

    Trebuchet: I just logged in to write almost _exactly_ the same comment! (“been tooooo long” and “ever’Sounder kno which mountain is THE Mountain”)
    I’ve “driven by”, on 706 and then hwy 7 as a scenic way to return from Randle, but it’s been decades since I visited The Mountain.

    Cantina Meetup? Just a thought!

  4. 4
    Trebuchet

    Cantina Meetup? Just a thought!

    Dana’s looking to come to my Pumpkin Hurl in Snohomish again, I’d be glad to meet any other PNW FTB’rs as well! It’s September 14 and 15.

    http://www.festivalofpumpkins.org/the-pumpkin-hurl.asp

  5. 5
    jane

    I’ve driven past Alder Lake so many times and never given it a second thought. I will in the future! Dana – I have Pat Pringle’s book on the “Roadside Geology of Mount Rainier”. It’s a beauty! If only I had a free year to travel around with that book and learn all the secrets The Mountain has to give.

    Really enjoyed your photographs!

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