Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Mt. Rainier National Park

Last weekend I took a weekend excursion to Mt. Rainier National Park.  It's a two-hour drive from Seattle.  Mt. Rainier is the tallest volcano in the US outside of Alaska and has the world record for highest average snowfall (641 inches).  One cubic mile of ice rests permanently on the mountain.  For comparison, the entire world consumes about the same amount of oil each year.

Most of the park is covered in snow most of the time.  In this land of extremes, many plants have only a few months to raise a family between the time that last year's snow melted and next year's snow begins.

What is this?
According to the park map, there are only about 900 vascular plant species within the park's boundaries.  That isn't as much as I would have thought - there are at least twice that many species growing in my 1/2 acre garden!  Still, there is an abundance of life everywhere you look.

Starting out in the forest, moss-lined creeks and waterfalls were a common sight.  Progressing upward, ancient groves of Douglas fir gave way to the stunted stands of Noble firs and alpine meadows.

The fiery Indian Paintbrush lit up the landscape.

Castilleja aka Indian Paintbrush
Lupine (unknown species)
Walking toward the clouds!

As we progressed further up the mountain, we ascended past the treeline into a land of arctic tundra where permafrost keeps all but the hardiest plants from growing.

Not sure what this one is
Or this one
Arctostaphylos sp. (possibly uva-ursi?)
 On our way back down, we passed some plants that could pass as miniature truffula trees.  In actuality, these are the seedheads to Anemone occidentalis.

Anemone occidentalis
Anaphalis margaritacea (Pearly everlasting)
Poor huckleberry bush
Our campsite was near the white river, on the NE side of the mountain.  For lack of anything better to do after getting back from our 10-mile hike, we started throwing rocks in the river.  Eventually this turned into a dam building project which lasted until dusk.  Here is a before shot (the Anaphalis is on the edge of the water in this picture):

And here's one when we were about 2/3 of the way through.  The Anaphalis plant is now fully engulfed in the water.

Well that about does it for this post!  If you have not been to Mt. Rainier, it is definitely worth a trip.  Sunny summer days are the best time to go to enjoy the incredible views but watch out for the hoards of tourists.  And if you're lucky, you just might see a bear.


  1. So about that bear, did you see one?

    1. No I forgot to bring my bear bait. There's always next time right?

  2. WOW, COOL! I need to go on more hikes and camp. This looked so fun!

    1. It always feels great to get out see plants in nature. I definitely don't get in enough of it either.

  3. Love your pics os Mt Rainier. This Mt can be seen from everywhere in this area!
    Elena (from Lake Tapps)

  4. What is this? = Monotropa hypopitys, fall flowering form hence the red color

  5. Anonymous is correct in that your first unknown is likely M. hypopitys L., or hairy pinesap. Your third unknown plant "or this one" is the alpine flowering plant Diapensia lapponica. Thanks for posting!

  6. Trolling through old posts. The two above comments are incorrect. The first is Pterospora andromedea, or pinedrops. Related to pinesap, but taller and with longer and more reflexed pedicels. The lupine is L. lepidus lobbii, also known as L. lyallii. The complex is confusing, even from a genomic perspective. The orangey plant is Aconogonon davisiae. Our plants should probably be split out again as A. newberryi. And Diapensia lapponica is not found in Washington; the plant in question is Micranthes tolmiei. I succeeded in rooting some cuttings, once, but not in keeping them alive for long. There is also a vaguely pinkish form in one spot above Cle Elum.