The View from a Drawbridge

The random musings of a bridgetender with entirely too much time on her hands.

One of the things I love most about living in Washington State is that it has such a wide variety of ecosystems. Just a few hours travel from your home in any direction will most certainly take you to a different world entirely. The state boasts prairies, wetlands, estuaries, rainforests, shrubsteppe, marine waters, scablands and grasslands.

On any given day trip you can go from sea level to glaciers, from canyons to mountains, from lowlands to foothills to plateaus. To me it feels like foreign travel without the need for a passport or a frustrating TSA encounter. Sign me up.

This year, on our 4th wedding anniversary, Dear Husband and I decided to go to Switzerland. Unfortunately, we only had a day. So we hopped in the car and headed for Mt. Rainier National Park. You can’t get any more alpine than that without leaving the Pacific Northwest.

En route, we passed through the charming towns of Black Diamond and Enumclaw.

As the name suggests, Black Diamond used to be coal mine central. A real mining and railroad type town. Now it’s becoming the fastest growing bedroom community for the Seattle Metropolitan Area, but it’s still charming. You know you’ve arrived when you see the old coal car on the side of the road.

Enumclaw still hosts lots of farms and lots of cows. (Sadly, the cows weren’t wearing those delightful bells around their necks, but you can’t have everything.) It’s on a flat plateau due to a mudflow from Mt. Rainier that happened about 5,700 years ago. The rest of the area is mountainous. So Enumclaw is a perfect place for farming. Their main crop used to be hops, but now it’s dairy. And a trip down Enumclaw’s main street will transport you back in time.

Dear Husband was kind enough to take us on a little side trip to the Enumclaw Public Library, where my book used to be housed. I went there with the anticipation of visiting that old friend (and perhaps sneaking an autograph in while no one was looking), but sadly, the shelf it would have occupied did not produce results. That’s a pity, because it would have been in good company. A second look at the King County Library System’s online catalog revealed that my book is now only in Renton and Burien. I’ve visited the one in Renton multiple times (to pull it slightly out on the shelf to make it more noticeable), but I have yet to visit the one in Burien.

I know. I’m easily entertained.

Right by the library, Enumclaw also has a gigantic statue of two oxen being led by a man, and the oxen are dragging a gigantic log about the size of a trailer.

The caption in front of it says:

THE LOGGING LEGACY

Tough Courageous and Larger Than Life. This monument is dedicated to the people whose courage and hard work built the foundation for our community, creating economic opportunity for our State and region. With this memorial, we seek to honor the over 8000 dead and the 65000 injured logging this plateau and these mountains. Though rarely glorified in their work, these men embodied the physical toughness and mental resolve that has become synonymous with the pioneers of the West. This is our Logging Legacy.

It’s one of the most impressive statues I’ve seen in many a day.

From there, we went to Greenwater, Washington, and stopped at a store called Wapiti Woolies, and had some ice cream. Two thumbs up. And the building itself really reminds you that you are in an alpine region.

Next Stop was the Mt. Rainier Gondola at Crystal Mountain. This is a skiing mecca in the wintertime, but we pretty much had the place to ourselves. And the gondola is so much fun! It takes you up 2,400 feet to the summit, where you have a stunning view of Mt. Rainier, and, when the weather’s right, you can also see another Washington Volcano in the distance: that of Mt. Adams. If you do decide to brave the gondola, bring layers of clothing. It was a good 30 degrees colder up there, and I’m sure it is even worse in the winter. And the wind will try to blow you back down into the valley. The gondola’s steep ascent didn’t bother me, oddly enough. But the descent had me digging my fingernails into Dear Husband’s arm. It was still worth it for the views. What an adventure!

Next we went to Paradise. That’s one of the primary gathering places in Mt. Rainier National Park. Sadly, we got there after the visitor center was closed, but we enjoyed walking around outside, soaking up all things alpine, including some amazing wildflowers. And then we went to Sunrise, on (of course) the eastern side of the mountain. We were almost there for sunset, ironically enough, but we decided that we didn’t want to go down that narrow switchback road at night.

We made it out of the switchbacks before dark, and were treated to this awesome sunset.

When we drove back through Enumclaw, we pulled over in a place with no city lights, opened the sun roof, and gazed at the stars. We even saw two satellites speeding by. Then we went home to our dogs. It was the perfect way to end the day, and an amazing anniversary, indeed. I have no idea how I got so lucky, but I assure you that I’ll never take it for granted.

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

3 thoughts on “Day Trip to Alpine Land

  1. Angiportus Librarysaver says:

    The amazing Renton library…half building and half bridge…first time I ever saw it, I could hardly believe it. It was my go-to for 33 years, and I helped save it from destruction, when the county system we had just joined threatened to pull us out of the iconic structure and stuff us into a much smaller one. That campaign was…educational. Our library stayed where it was, with a needed remodel that was still perfidiously shrunken and aesthetically uninspiring. We still had our river close at hand, under our feet. I got to know it, and was awestruck when it came into full spate, several times during my stay in Renton.
    The director of the county system was more intent on building the biggest system in the US, than the best one. He then left to go screw over the people of Calgary. I had to move for economic reasons, and now I have a different river and a library that’s expected to move and expand.
    Mountains are where rivers start, and if you haven’t explored the North Cascades yet, you should.

    1. I do love the Renton Library. Especially in October when the salmon are running. Nature and books? Killer combination! I’m glad you were there to save that unique place.

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