Author: Nick Iverson
Saturday morning October 26, I felt tired and a bit stiff from doing a few local hills to augment my ride home the night before. The weather was dreary, but not foggy. Listening to the local news the weather report claimed that the place to be was in the mountains, as we were experiencing a prolonged temperature inversion. After finishing some chores, the day was slipping away, but I decided to check out the Webcam at Mt. Rainier. Sure enough the sky was blue, the mountain was out, and even at Longmire the weather was clear. In a frenzy, I put all my biking gear into my Volvo, and headed out. The leaves are beautiful at our place with many vine maples, and bright red foliage on the flowering plum trees near the road. Heading down the driveway, a deer, on a suicide mission, jumped out from the back of the house crossing right in front of me, then again as I rounded the corner of our long driveway, the doe made another attempt to get whacked as I left. On the way out Shaw Road, then eventually Meridian, the beauty of the autumn foliage began to show its full glory.
Reaching the cut off to Mountain Highway in Eatonville, the sun was beginning to peek through the low clouds. As I descended down to Mountain Highway, and drove along Alder Lake, the sky was a deep blue, and the shiny surface of the lake reflected the colors of the sky and the trees on the other side. The water had a hint of green color. No boats on the lake could be seen. One lone biker, clad cleverly in black… black shoes, leggings, jersey and helmet and no lights, was moving along near Elbe like a Ninja. I thought a Cyclopath Jersey would be helpful.
There was no line at the Park entrance, and once inside, the October sun was lower in the sky than I was used to seeing, and streams of light shone between the trees, and the ferns and moss were brighter than I remembered. I considered riding from Kautz Creek, but had left so late, I mainly wanted to make the climb from Longmire. After getting my bike ready, I found that the auto stop on my Garmin was not turned on, and after about 5 minutes of trying every screen, gave up and just started the climb, planning to hit the lap button at Paradise. The ride up the hill was in mid forty degree weather all the way to the top, but a bit warmer at the very top. By this time I know pretty much every turn and viewpoints, but the beauty of the ride in the still air, surrounded by silence, seemed to enhance the awesome climb that I have enjoyed so many times. The last stretch to the top seemed rather effortless, as I was enjoying the peace and beauty of the green valleys and periodic views of Tahoma. At the top, there was no snow at all in the meadows above the Paradise Lodge, and I found a camera person with a fancy SLR to take a couple pictures for me on my iPhone. Determined to make some effort to have this be a Cyclopath worthy ride, I went down the one way road, then circled back up to the Lodge, then descended again and bade the mountain farewell.
The temperatures had dropped significantly, and several places the sun was very low, making a few stretches of the descent downright scary as I was also competing with the cars all leaving at the same time. With all my layers now on, I did begin to feel downright cold even when pedaling as much as I could. The ride down seemed longer than the ride up the hill.
Reaching my car in the Longmire parking lot gave me time to ponder the many times that the hills of Mount Rainier have tried to discourage me. Sadly, I put my gear away and felt that this could be the last trip up the climbs of Mount Rainier for 2013. I think that this trip was number eleven. But there is next year…..