I love returning to the Glacier Basin Trail because it offers incredible views of Emmons Glacier, the largest sheet of ice on Mount Rainier, and a milky blue-green glacial lake below. It is also a powerful example of global warming, and the dramatic retreat of ice. As you hike along the White River, you can observe the scale of the erosive powers of the mountain. The stark line between the trees and the raw river bank towers above you, and illustrates how destructive the raging mud and water once was as it swept through the canyon.
For anyone who lives in the greater Seattle region, Mount Rainier (or maybe it is time for Tahoma National Park?) is a spectacle to behold. “She’s out” is a common refrain from Seattle/Tacoma residents when the weather is nice. The mountain dominates the horizon, and while majestic, poses a significant risk to an ever increasing population.
Considered a dormant active volcano, it is believed to have erupted as recently as the late 1800s. The mountain averages 30 small earthquakes per year, and there is geothermal activity around the crater that will rid its rim of snow not long after a snowstorm. More incredible are the mind boggling sizes of past mudflows that have raced down her flanks at speeds of 50mph and as high as almost 500 feet. Ancient forests have been found buried deep below the surface. And these flows have made it all the way to Puget Sound.
Glacial activity on Rainier continues to sculpt the landscape – and swallow the occasional climber. There are a total of 25 glaciers on the mountains, and the volume of snow and glacier ice is equivalent to that of all the other Cascade Range volcanoes combined. You could fill T-Mobile Park stadium in Seattle 2600 times.
Take the time to learn more about the impressive geology that has shaped greater Seattle and this mountain into what it is today. It will make you feel small and insignificant, but you will be a better person for it.
While Rainier continues to stew in her own juices and whisper to the underworld for direction on her next great show, we get to explore her flanks and marvel at the sheer magnitude of this 14,411 foot peak that rises some 3 miles above greater Seattle.
See you out there…