On August 16 we three couples took two of our CR-Vs north up to Mount Rainier. Our destination was the area around Paradise Inn and the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center. Barb was still hobbled, but we took a short hike up through a gently rising meadow laden with flowers.
On our way back toward our campground at Tower Rock U-fish RV Park, we stopped at the base of Mt. Rainier (still in the Mt. Rainier National Park) to walk the trail under the massive trees of the Grove of the Patriarchs. It is an easy 1.5 mile nature trail through huge thousand-year-old growth Red Cedar, and Douglas fir trees that have been protected from fire by virtue of being on an island surrounded by the Ohanapecosh River. Many of the trees are more than 25 ft in circumference, with at least one approaching 50 ft. Barb wisely and belatedly sat this one out.
Mount Rainier is the highest mountain of the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest, and the highest mountain in the U.S. state of Washington. It is a large active stratovolcano located 59 miles south-southeast of Seattle, in the Mount Rainier National Park. It is the most topographically prominent mountain in the contiguous United States and the Cascade Volcanic Arc, with a summit elevation of 14,411 ft..
Mt. Rainier is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, and it is on the Decade Volcano list. Because of its large amount of glacial ice, Mt. Rainier could produce massive lahars that could threaten the entire Puyallup River valley, and poses a grave threat to the southern sections of the 3.7-million-resident Seattle metropolitan area.
With 26 major glaciers and 36 sq mi of permanent snowfields and glaciers, Mount Rainier is the most heavily glaciated peak in the lower 48 states. Two volcanic craters top the summit, each more than 1,000 ft in diameter, with the larger east crater overlapping the west crater. Geothermal heat from the volcano keeps areas of both crater rims free of snow and ice, and has formed the world’s largest volcanic glacier cave network within the ice-filled craters, with nearly 2 mi of passages. A small crater lake about 130 by 30 ft in size and 16 ft deep, the highest in North America with a surface elevation of 14,203 ft, occupies the lowest portion of the west crater below more than 100 ft of ice and is accessible only via the caves.
If Mt. Rainier were to erupt as powerfully as Mount St. Helens did in its May 18, 1980 eruption, the effect would be cumulatively greater, because of the far more massive amounts of glacial ice locked on the volcano compared to Mount St. Helens, the vastly more heavily populated areas surrounding Rainier, and the simple fact that Mt Rainier is a much bigger volcano, almost twice the size of St. Helens. Lahars from Rainier pose the most risk to life and property. Not only is there much ice atop the volcano, the volcano is also slowly being weakened by hydrothermal activity.