Rainier Chautauqua

c. 1984

The beauty of Rainier

The beauty of Rainier. It hit me one beautiful summer day as I was lacing my boots in preparation for a climb. The utter magnificence of Rainier Park compressed itself into one instant of pure comprehension and held me spellbound, hands holding the laces. My soul felt washed and clean of all disrupting signals as my consciousness held the fragile moment, spellbound, afraid to grip it too tightly lest it break. And then, like a smoke ring that settles on the palm for a brief pause and then dissipates, so, too, did that moment, into the atmosphere.

Burroughs Mountain

And what was that moment? …Staring up through the tall trees at twilight, looking for a star or perhaps wishing a cloud a safe journey away to the east. Later, walking to a clearing where no lights shine and watching satellites weave a meteoric web across the firmament, while shooters pierce holes in the fabric…

…Breaking above the treeline into moraines and then glaciers. Slivers of snow flying before my eyes as I gain a foothold in each new step. I look up at the Mountain, awestruck at the immensity and sheer violence of her volcanic history. Icefalls and rockfalls in suspended animation sweep up to her summit, and the glaciers flow as ivory rivers into the forests below. Seas of crevasses open their troughs for souls brave enough or fool enough to climb them. Clouds shoot for the summit from the west. Some fly by, occasionally obscuring Little Tahoma in a cloud of fog as they crash into the flanks. Others form mysteriously at the top, placing a crown on Rainier’s brow, and then proceed to dress her entirely with a storm…

…At camp the body falls wearily on a stump while the mind recounts the ten mile hike and appraises the body’s performance with detached relief. Eyes focus on an object in the cool shade, relaxing from an afternoon of pure sunshine on snowfields. Legs twitch in stationary excitement like a Ford cooling down, while the heart relaxes its pulse to 55 beats per minute. Later, dinner is made, strength is restored, and darkness brings peace. But for now, the winds shift at dusk, blowing a cool breeze up from the Ohanapecosh River that chills a sun-warmed body. Shivers set in and extra shirts are donned until evening warmth comes. A fire is made, bringing heat and primal cheer. Food is brought out from the ice chest, and nibbling sets in until hunger comes on full-bore and another experimental dinner of powdered food and soggy items from the cooler is made that would normally feed six.

After dinner camp is nominally cleaned up. Peering with wide eyes, the realization comes slowly that dark has been completely cast in the tall trees, and that it is now late in the evening. The stream washes below, laughing deeply on its way to the Pacific.

Above, the trees whisper about the peace of nature and shake their tops at the ground. Weariness sets in slowly, comfortably, and completely. The tent dome glows dully in the night, offering rest and rejuvenation until morning.

Published by herestahuya

Passionate about the Pacific Northwest, the Mountain, irony, and good conversations, stories and laughter around a campfire.

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