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Magnificent Mount Rainier

Seattle doesn’t lack for scenery. I mean, you can be coming back from gathering wool (no, seriously, Starspider and I were at The Weaving Works getting her wool for felting), and you drive through the city onto the I-90 bridge, and Mount Rainier happens.

Mount Rainier and the curved arch of a portion of the I-90 bridge.

Mount Rainier and the curved arch of a portion of the I-90 bridge.

Usually, you don’t see it on cloudy days, but the cloud ceiling was high, so there was that blush of sunset in the sky as well as on the mountain, and all of that reflected in the waters of Lake Washington, and it was one of those moments that remind you why life can be pretty damned awesome even at rush hour. So I had Starspider take shots from the car, because I wanted you to share the moment with me.

I’ve subsequently had perhaps too much fun with those photos. Like this shot, clipped from a much larger one, which caught my fancy because it’s so unintentionally artsy. I’m sure someone could come up with some sort of poignant caption, and then maybe we could sell it as a postcard to people who are grabbed by weird things.

The cloudy sky and trees behind us, reflected in the sideview mirror, with the concrete wall of the bridge rushing by.

The cloudy sky and trees behind us, reflected in the sideview mirror, with the concrete wall of the bridge rushing by.

And then you have the mountain in the sinking sunlight.

Panorama of Mount Rainier and Lake Washington. The mountain is reflected in the lake as a streak of pale pink and gold.

Panorama of Mount Rainier and Lake Washington.

Now, these were shots taken in poor light through a window from a moving car, and what you see is being clipped therefrom so that the mountain is larger than a melting mini-marshmallow floating in a soup tureen, so they’re a little grainy. But some simple photo editing can turn them into something more than just hastily-snapped and imperfect pictures, or so I like to believe.

Detail of Mount Rainier and Lake Washington. With the contrast and saturation and things fiddled with, it looks a bit like a watercolor, dunnit?

Detail of Mount Rainier and Lake Washington. With the contrast and saturation and things fiddled with, it looks a bit like a watercolor, dunnit?

And if I darken it, I can foreshadow its inevitable eruption.

A darker version, with the mountain beginning to resemble the fire mountain it is.

A darker version, with the mountain beginning to resemble the fire mountain it is.

I can pour gold down its flanks.

A detail of Mount Rainier with the gold highlights of sunset enhanced, so that the mountain looks like it's got an intimation of a halo and a lovely golden mantle.

A detail of Mount Rainier with the gold highlights of sunset enhanced, so that the mountain looks like it’s got an intimation of a halo and a lovely golden mantle.

Or I can be minimalist, and show you how it was.

A more natural version of the same photo.

A more natural version of the same photo.

As the season progresses, that thick mantle of snow will become thicker, and on the days when the clouds part and we can see it from the city, it will look very much like an enormous scoop of sweet cream gelato. At sunset, it will become so pink you’d swear it’s strawberry. These mountains surprised me, when I first saw them: I’d been used to sharp and jagged peaks, not these rounded scoops that look so innocent and culinary. Then I learned that this is what a young, vigorous volcano looks like (unless it blows its insides out). As beautiful as these mountains are, as seemingly serene, they’re wildly dangerous.

And that’s part of their beauty. There’s nothing permanent about them, and their serenity won’t last, but in these quiet moments, they add dramatic beauty to the city skyline. They make me want to stop and stare and know every detail of them, from inside out.

Which will be quite easy at Rainier soon enough (geologically speaking), when it spills its insides out…

Comments

  1. rq says

    I love the drama of the dark photo. Print! I almost missed Mount Rainier in the first one (with bridge), because its snowy top blends with the cloud cover. But when I spotted it, it was breathtaking – even via photo, in that size.
    But. What really comes to mind when I see these photos of mountains/volcanos – of Mount Rainier, of Mount Hood – poking up out of a landscape, usually surrounded by flatter scenery, is Lonely Mountain from The Hobbit. I’ve always been of the opinion that the Lonely Mountain (or the Dragon Mountain, as the kids call it, for obvious reasons…) is a volcano – dormant or not, isn’t important. And seeing these solitary peaks sort of confirms that idea.
    (Why the heck you’d want to build a city inside a potentially eruptive volcano is beyond me, though – go, Dwarves!)

    You’re lucky to live within sight of such amazingly fairy-tale-like and inspirational (and touched with doom) geology!

  2. tmscott says

    …it will look very much like an enormous scoop of sweet cream gelato.

    You’re not the first to describe The Mountain as such. Many years ago, the late Leo Lassen, when calling baseball games at Sick’s Stadium in the Rainier Valley, would refer to it as, ” …a big ice cream cone.”

    Around here, when you can see Rainier from just about everywhere, folks will say that, “the mountain is out today”.

  3. Trebuchet says

    Nice stack of lenticular clouds in those pictures! Lovely.

    You can also use it to predict the weather:
    If you can see Mt. Rainier, it’s going to rain.
    If you can’t see it, it is raining.

    And note that “rainier” can be pronounced to mean “more rainy”.

    @rq: I’ve always imagined The Lonely Mountain as looking like one of our volcanoes as well. I’d have to say that building a city inside such a mountain is not a whole lot less sensible than building it next to one, i.e. Naples.

  4. geekgirlsrule says

    One of many reasons I’m glad I live here.

    I had to explain to family visiting from the Midwest what, “Oh, the mountain’s out! It’s a nice day!” meant.

  5. grignon says

    Photos like these, which formerly would have inspired only wonderment in this flatlander, now come with a healthy dose of threat. All thanks to your series on Mt St Helens,

  6. A Hermit says

    Here on the Prairies we like to say that mountains just block the view.

    But damn, that’s some beautiful blockage….

  7. hexidecima says

    very nice. Alas, the only time I’ve been in the area the top half evidently didn’t exist. :) hopefully, we will return and be lucky enough to see the entire mountain.

    • Trebuchet says

      Come in August. We actually have very nice summers, if you define “summer” as meaning July 5 to August 31.

    • jane says

      You really do need to see it one day. It’s hard to believe such a beauty can be real. You’ll almost instantly feel a personal relationship with The Mountain.