Hiking the Skyline Trail at Mount Rainier National Park

Hiking the Skyline Trail at Mount Rainier National Park

Quarantining and recent advisory against traveling long distances has given Vlad and I a newfound appreciation for hiking over the last few months. We still have plenty of trails in Washington state to check off our now-growing bucket list, but I wanted to share Mount Rainier’s Skyline Trail with those of you who haven’t been.

We did this hike before the recent wildfires along the West Coast, including the one over Labor Day weekend last month that destroyed 80% of Malden, a town in east WA. The fires this year have been devastating and serves as a reminder that we must never take nature, fresh air, wildlife, and an intact home for granted. As I’m writing this, the August Complex fire in California has just become a “gigafire”, burning more than 1 million acres. Put simply, climate change is real. This may be a wake-up call for many of us to reduce our carbon footprint and push for stronger environmental protection. I’m really hoping that whatever learnings, actions and mindsets that we adopt during this time will be enduring – and that we won’t need another disaster to remind us of our responsibility to care for our Earth! Hopefully the pictures and my recounting of our hike below will inspire all of us!

Skyline Trail

The Skyline Trail is a moderate-to-hard, 5.6 mile loop that starts at Paradise, Mount Rainier’s south hub. It has excellent views of Mount Rainier, the Nisqually Glacier, and if you go during the summer months, the meadows are beautiful with subalpine wildflowers. Mid-July to mid-October – when enough snow has cleared off the path –  are the recommended months to go.

Getting There

From Seattle, we drove about 3 hours down the I-5S and WA-7S to Mount Rainier National Park. It should only take 2 hours, but we didn’t leave Seattle until 9:30am on a Saturday and winded up hitting traffic past the town of Ashford. This was largely due to a line of cars (and motorcycles) being backed up all the way from the park entrance. We didn’t have an America the Beautiful pass at the time, so we paid the entrance fee ($30) for our vehicle. And from there, off we went!

Along The Trail

The trailhead starts right by the Jackson Center in Paradise, not too far from the parking lot. We did the loop clockwise and while the initial ascent was pretty steep, Mount Rainier was in our view the whole time – serving as extra motivation for us! Along the way, chipmunks would approach and then scurry away. About a little over 1 mile in, we were rewarded with views of the Nisqually Glacier and to the back of us, mountain ranges that extended beyond the horizon. We decided to stop here for some peanut butter sandwiches and fruit that Vlad packed for us; it was already 1:30pm around this time and we hadn’t had lunch yet!

As we continued on, we took a bit of a detour to Glacier Vista, where we saw Nisqually Glacier up close. The path here was covered in snow and while a couple of hikers had poles, we were mostly fine with our hiking boots. It was here, we saw an icefall and 2 mountain goats from afar. I wish I were able to capture them on our cameras but with quite some distance between us and their coats camouflaged with the snow, you could hardly tell they were there.

Moving on, we made our way southeast to Panoramic Point, about 7000 ft above ocean level, where we caught views of Mt. St Helens, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood. This is typically the point where folks either continue on the Skyline Trail or make their way back. From here, we hiked up to the High Skyline Trail (the Lower Skyline was closed due to snow and ice). Here, the terrain turned into rocky rubble mixed with snow. By the time we began descending there were patches of meadows, interspersed with melting snow and streams. We spotted at least 7 Hoary Marmots around this area!

The Paradise valley, evergreens, and backdrop of mountain ranges appeared before us as we rounded out the second half of the loop. Mount Rainier was in our view again. Here, we saw Myrtle Falls and passed by this iconic scenic bridge spanning Edith Creek. We didn’t know at the time, but apparently there’s a path with a unique viewpoint of the waterfall underneath this bridge. Oh well, we’ll have to capture this the next time we come!

Towards the Finish Line and Back

By the time we finished the trail and got to our car, it was already 5:30pm. Vlad and I were both physically drained and could not wait to get back home! But as luck would have it, we encountered this deer passing through. The whole setting was very serene, almost as if she (or he) were bidding us a safe journey back.

FYI – we were famished as well and in need of more water. We made a quick pit stop at Copper Creek Inn on the way back. This gem of a place is not too far away from the park entrance. We were tempted by the salmon with blackberry vinaigrette on their menu, but decided it was probably best to get home earlier. We did get their homemade blackberry pie with vanilla ice cream to go and boy, am I glad we did. Hands down, the best pie I’ve had so far!

Happy New Year from Romania!

Happy New Year from Romania!

It has been a while since I last posted, but one of my resolutions for the upcoming year is to write more. So hopefully I’ll keep these going more frequently! I’m excited to say that I’m currently writing from Bucharest, Romania and have been spending the past week with Vlad (my boyfriend) in his home country. I’ve still got a lot to learn about Romania’s culture and history, but will share my journey along the way here.

December 21, 2019 marked the 30th anniversary of the Romanian Revolution.

On my first day in Bucharest, Vlad brought me to Revolution Square. It was here where Romania’s Communist Era ended and where Nicolae Ceausescu, leader of the Romanian Communist Party and President/Head of State (1967-1989) lost control. At the time, there was a lot of suffering across the country. Food shortages, reduced heating, and hospitals that did not have medicine – all of which were a result of Ceausescu’s obsession with paying off the national debt. Debt that funded Ceausescu’s over-the-top industrial and infrastructure projects, including the “House of the People” (more on that in the photos below).

When Ceausescu’s government attempted to evict a popular ethnic Hungarian priest in Timisoara for criticizing the regime, protests began in this city and inspired similar demonstrations across the country. On December 21, 1989, Ceausescu was giving a speech at Revolution Square and violence broke out. Ceausescu and his wife escaped by helicopter but were executed days afterwards (on Christmas Day) when the military turned on them and convicted them of capital crimes.

From top to bottom: Revolution Square, where violence broke out during Ceausescu’s speech on December 21, 1989 and the Parliament Building (“House of the People”), which is a grandiose building (fit for a megalomaniac with over 1000 rooms and 4 million sq ft) that would house Ceausescu’s governing bodies. It was inspired by his trip to North Korea and its construction required a lot of sacrifices from the country. About 80% of the historic center was destroyed to make room, food was rationed to pay for the building and the Romanian people worked 24/7 on this.
Flags during the revolution had the Communist coat of arms cut out.

Old Town is where the nightlife happens but the buildings are not very earthquake-resistant!

Here I am on Lipscani (one of the main streets in Old Town) with lots of bars and restaurants.

Old Town is where you’ll find not only great restaurants and bars, but lively parties that go from midnight til about 4am. However, I’ve been advised by multiple people now to limit time spent inside these buildings because many of them are seismic risk Category 1. This means they are at serious risk of collapsing (should there be an earthquake).

Just for some context, Old Town is full of early 20th century buildings and unfortunately, little has been done to protect Bucharest’s heritage architecture. The city has a total of 349 Class 1 buildings and they are marked with a red dot. In the past, City Hall has been slow with consolidation and repairs. Between 2002 to 2015, the city managed to consolidate only 18 high risk buildings; the question of whether financing will be made from the public budget or through public-private partnerships and the fact that all owners have to approve consolidation to secure repair loans are only a few of the hurdles along the way.

However, things are looking bright. Laws have been passed, such as one that forbids shops, restaurants and other commercial spaces in high seismic risk buildings. And City Hall has made plans to consolidate 200 buildings by end of 2020, including providing resources and housing to residents that are displaced in the process.

From top left to right: C.E.C Bank headquarters (landmark building symbolizing Romania’s modernization; it was built in 1900 under King Carol I’s reign), Stavropoleos Monastery (one of the oldest and most beautiful Eastern Orthodox churches in Bucharest) and Carturesti Carusel (a modern bookshop with cafe located in a restored 19th century building).

TRADITIONAL Romanian food has A LOT of cheese and meat.

Prior to this trip, I’ve had Romanian food once at a restaurant in Seattle and have experienced other Eastern European food on trips I’ve taken (goulash and trdelnik in Prague and pierogis in Warsaw), but nothing could prepare me for the amount of cheese and meat I would eat! I will write a separate post on Romanian food, but have highlighted a few via photos below. These are just a preview until later!