There aren’t many places as beautiful in the Pacific Northwest as the Paradise area of Mount Rainier National Park, Washington. Situated at a base elevation of 5400 feet above sea level on the flanks of Mount Rainier, this area is an all season, scenic wonderland.
It had been snowing heavily for the past few days and this would be the first clear and sunny day in the forecast. On the way up from the national park entrance near Ashford, Washington, the entire road was covered in compact snow and ice, but otherwise in great shape (tire chains were required for all two-wheel-drive vehicles).
Many times, it can be nice and sunny in the Western Washington lowlands and Mount Rainier be enshrouded in clouds, or suddenly turn from clear skies to clouds within minutes. Today, it was nice and clear and would remain that way throughout the day.
As I arrived in the parking lot near the visitor’s center, it was surprisingly warm. Only the week before, I was snowshoeing nearby in temperatures hovering around the twenty-degree mark (see my blog post at Snowshoe Trip into Reflection Lakes, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, 2017).
My goal for the day was to snowshoe from Paradise around the upper Paradise Valley and onto Mazama Ridge. Due to recent heavy snow and windy conditions, the avalanche conditions were listed as moderate, so caution was required.
I followed the track the from the parking area, past the snow-covered Paradise Inn and up on the ridge above the upper Paradise Valley, taking my time and capturing photographs along the way.
Since the winter alpine landscape is very monochromatic, I visualized the images captured during the day processed as black and white photographs. Typically, unless color adds something to the photo, I have a tendency to lean towards a more traditional interpretation of the landscape (I have a love for fine art black and white landscape photography as if you couldn’t tell if you have looked through my photo galleries).
The higher I climbed up Paradise Valley, I could see in the distance that nobody had made the traverse across the head of the valley and onto Mazama Ridge. The only tracks beyond a certain point were those of backcountry skiers climbing to the ridgeline and skiing the fresh tracks through knee-deep powder.
In addition to the knee-deep snow once off the trail (and that’s with snowshoes on), there were signs of small avalanches near the steeper slopes of Mazama Ridge across the valley. With all that in mind, I decided to save that snowshoe hike for another day.
I continued on the gentle climb, always facing the majestic, snow-covered Mount Rainier, traditionally known by the native peoples as Tahoma.
There were several groups of people near my turnaround point that I chatted with. All the groups present had the same thought to as were to turn around.
With Mount Rainier to my back, I headed down, back towards the Paradise parking area, taking photographs along the way. On the descent, I was rewarded with beautiful views of the Tatoosh Mountain Range and the Paradise Valley below.
Once I was back to the main parking area, I wandered around on my snowshoes through the meadows below the Paradise Inn and near the overnight parking area, gathering up photographs.
With the Longmire gate closing at 5:00 PM, I packed up and started down the road to allow myself some time for some golden hour photographs of Mount Rainier and the surrounding landscape.
The entire collection of black and white landscape photographs from this trip can be viewed on my online photography gallery at Snowshoeing in Paradise, Mount Rainier, Washington, 2017.
My day continued until dark as I photographed the even alpenglow on the mountains and onto Longmire. See my blog post at Early Winter Evening at Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, 2017.