Wildflowers, Waterfalls, and a Little Wildlife ~ Mt. Rainier National Park, Part III

“…the most luxuriant and the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I ever beheld in all my mountaintop wanderings.” ~ John Muir 1889   

We had seen some lovely wildflowers in our travels this summer but nothing prepared me for Mt. Rainier National Park’s subalpine meadows bursting with color.   Trails were lined with multiple varieties of flowers, as if a master gardener had lovingly selected and planted each. Every path we stepped onto seemed to be more colorful than the last, a grand mosaic of diversity.

Pungent smell of living trees and soil surrounded us. Air so pure and sweet that our lungs eagerly expanded to drink in the delicious nectar.

The glacier lily, aka yellow avalanche lily, may be one of the most resilient of wildflowers growing on the slopes of Mt. Rainier.  It can generate its own heat, melt a hole in the snow, and poke through the snowmelt, giving it a distinct advantage over the other meadow plants that must await the melting snow.  In all our wanderings I was not able to find this beautiful little flower.

Snow dominates much of the landscape here, blanketing the earth for several months at a time.  Many of the evergreen trees have a contorted shape, twisted by ice and wind.  These subalpine trees grow very slowly and are called krummholz, German name for “twisted wood”.

Paths were spongy, carpeted by countless layers of fir needles and bark. Lichen and miniscule mosses attached themselves to everything that stood still – fallen logs, stately Douglas fir, Western hemlock, and river-polished boulders. Tiny fir trees begin life here in this fertile soil, fallen trees acting as nurseries, adding to the varied shades of green seen along the trails. Heavily scented forests intoxicate, while the roaring rivers busily rush to their terminus, simple, magical experiences found in nature.

The sound of running water can be heard throughout the park, sometimes soothing, sometimes almost deafening, always rushing to get to an unknown destination.  Waterfalls are plentiful due to snow and glacial runoff, and misty spray dances as sunlight caresses water droplets, sparkling like jewels, no two waterfalls alike, each uniquely their own.

Other than the sounds of whistling marmots heard almost non-stop, this is the only little bit of wildlife that we spotted, and he was certainly a cute little guy.

Mt. Rainier speaks to the vastness of a world intense with growth and birth. It was the perfect time to experience this wonder, the season of life between the sleeping winter and autumn’s move towards dormancy.

Next Up:  The Wild, Rugged Olympic Peninsula

47 thoughts on “Wildflowers, Waterfalls, and a Little Wildlife ~ Mt. Rainier National Park, Part III

    • Thanks Gayle! We were very lucky to have such great weather. Given that we had read Mt. Rainier can be quite elusive, we couldn’t believe how many days we had clear views of it. I think you two would love the hiking. I already want to go back. 🙂

  • Love, love, love all those wildflowers and the waterfalls seem pretty spectacular as well. Sounds like a perfect place to hike 🙂

    • It is idyllic Ingrid! There are so many hikes of varying lengths. I just love this park. I don’t think my wildflower shots were as good as they should have been. Given the state of my camera, my images aren’t as crisp as they have been in the past. Jim already wished me luck with Panasonic’s customer service. 😦

      • How disappointing to be in such a stunning place and have the camera act up. Mine is starting to take longer to find focus in any setting other than IA…. grrrr.

  • LuAnn if the lead photo were not stunning enough, the waterfalls and wildflowers are astounding. The wee fellow at the end with his flowers, well that’s National Geographic material.

    • Thanks so much Sue! That wee fellow at the end was so adorable as he was munching on lupine. There was another little fellow at Panorama Point who grabbed a butterfly and just as I snapped the photo, he ripped off the head, which was left laying on a rock as he starting working on the rest. I thought better of putting that photo in the post. BTW, what type of camera do you use? My camera is a bit sick and has to be sent off for repairs but I have to get another as my point-and-shoot died a few months ago. 😦

      • LuAnn we travel with three cameras plus my iPhone. A few months ago we bought the mirror less Sony a6000. We also have a Canon point and shoot with 20x zoom as well as a waterproof Nikon. If you want any more specifics let me know.

      • Thanks Sue. Terry is wanting to get another point-and-shoot for now, one that he can carry in his pack easily when we hike and bike. Can you tell me which Canon model you have?

    • Thanks! I have to confess that I was given a wildflower booklet at Mt. Rainier by a volunteer so I didn’t have to do much research. I just brought along the booklet on each of our hikes.

  • Amazing! Your photos are so lovely. The waterfalls are breath taking. I can just picture walking in a sea of beauty! Thanks for the wonderful tours of Mt. Rainier National Park. What a little piece of heaven on earth.

    • Thanks Marsha! We have only seen about half of the National Parks so this could change, but right now this is certainly in our top 5. 🙂

  • Beautiful post of one of our favorite places. We were able to see the glacier lily as we hiked into the alpine meadows. I loved to tell my science students about how the heat of their cells dividing would melt the snow, so it could grow. It is a great example of how plants adapt to their environments. Thanks for bringing back great memories of the day we spent hiking there. Diana

    • My pleasure! I looked for the glacier lily during our hikes but never seemed to find it. I was fascinated by what I had read about it in the visitor center.

  • Your first photo of the meadow is spectacular. It is amazing how these little flowers adapt and grow and evolve over the years. Nice description of the waterfalls LuAnne…

  • Love the little guy munching on the flower! You got him at the right moment LuAnn. Im gushing over your wildflowers and waterfalls photos, all great captures. WA is on our route next year so we will copy your route.

  • Beautiful! Your photos are absolutely stunning – a parade of wildflowers. I am always surprised to see all the beauty in these small flowers that grow in such a harsh environment. The “twisted wood” looks familiar as well, I have often seen similar trees while hiking in the rockies. Lovely post!

  • So glad you were there for the wildflowers. They certainly are so beautiful to have along the trail. We were so fotunate to have been in so many areas at their peak. The waterfalls are spectacular. Mt Rainier certainly was good to you:) Glad you are still enjoying your time in the Little Buddy:)

    • Mt. Rainier was very good to us Pam. It is a park I would definitely go back to. And our little buddy has surprised me. I thought by now I might be weary of our smaller quarters but all is well.

  • Of all the places you have journeyed so far, I think I am enjoying your posts most from Oregon, I think it is the amount of waterfalls that seem to be about. I can’t wait to see where you go next!

      • So wa I for different reasons, I resided in a desert but there was one hill where we were so that was something and of course the company was great. Although have a Vancouver in the US confused me for a time.

  • So gorgeous! We also feel that it is one of the most spectacular places we’ve ever been — the vast carpets of wildflowers are breathtaking. Your photo of the little squirrel with the lupine is adorable!

  • LuAnn, I loved seeing the beauty of Mt Rainier through yr. lens. I love flowers of all kinds and these little things struggle so to live and I think they are even more beautiful for it. Thanks for sharing them with us!!!

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