When we finally arrived at Paradise, it was full. There were cars everywhere. Both main car parks were full, as were the overflow ones. The roads were lined with vehicles and all but the lowest picnic spot spaces were filled. We parked about as far from the visitor centre as possible, and had lunch. I was getting a little despondant as I didn’t fancy walking up a road as part of my trek and there were people just everywhere - busier than if we’d stayed in Belltown. Add this to the fact that my water bottle had leaked a couple of litres through my rucsac all over the boot of the car.
I think there’s a Joni Mitchell song about paving over paradise.
We tried the car parks again, and this time, amazingly, we got a spot. I refilled the offending water bottle and we set off up the tarmac’d path of the skyline trail. The views were spectacular in all directions. North was filled with Rainier’s glacier-clad southern face, and in all other directions we were surrounded by more modest peaks. In the southern distance Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens were visible - emphasising the fact that we were in an active volcanic zone, halfway up a non-extinct volcano. Even though it was a clear August afternoon, the wind was cold, reminding us how high up we were: 7000ft above sea level.
The higher the path went, the less crowded it became. Not surprising really, but very welcome. At the highest point there were bits of glacial ice blocking the path and all around were barren rocks. Despite the early, disappointing signs, the trip was well worth the effort. I probably won’t get too many chances to clamber on a volcano in my lifetime, and glaciers are quick becoming a thing of the past - I should take these opertunities whilst I can, even if in doing so I expediate the glacial retreat a little.
See all the pictures here.