Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Voyage of the Glaciers (2015)

Round trip to Paradise

Breakfast at the Hampton Inn Ellensburg was surprisingly quiet, but then again, I tend to be an early riser compared to most people. On this otherwise fine morning, America was waking up to the news of yet another sickening gun tragedy, in which a television presenter and her cameraman had been murdered in Virginia, on live TV. I have been visiting the USA on a regular basis for over thirty years and at the time of this trip I must have clocked up close to forty immigration stamps. It goes without saying that, to put it mildly, I hold the place in high regard. But as long as I live, I will never understand America's uniquely weird obsession with firearms, or its ability to write off events such as this as somehow being a price worth paying. I forced myself to put the morning's horrifying news to the back of my mind, presumably in the accustomed manner of millions of Americans, and pressed on with my programme. I was on the road by 0830. Today's 'introduction' was to be a drive along the Yakima River Canyon Road, and the 'main event' was to be a circular tour of Mt Rainier National Park, following a Yakima - Chinook Pass - Stevens Canyon - Paradise - Stevens Canyon - White Pass - Yakima itinerary.

Picking up the first canyon road of the day was easy enough, as I had located it during my evening foray into town on Tuesday. The thirty or so miles of winding road, hugging the banks of the Yakima River, proved to be an excellent alternative to a fast run along the main highway, and I made numerous stops to take photos of the parched landscape in the gorge.

Then it was on to the main business of the day: a scenic drive to Stevens Canyon and a place called Paradise, both situated within Mt Rainier National Park, using the Chinook Pass on the way in and the White Pass on the way out. By far the most scenic part was the Stevens Canyon - Paradise section, which required a USD20 entry fee per vehicle. There were lots of well positioned turnouts, few of which were busy. The massive bulk of Mt Rainier itself was breathtaking. (Don't be influenced by the Prince of Monaco, by the way; in these parts they say 'ray-NEER', not 'Rainy-A'.)

Close to Paradise, and following a somewhat similar escapade in California in 2004, I had another close encounter of the 'bear' kind, this time shared with around 20 other people. On this occasion, an adult bear and at least two cubs were messing about by the side of the road, eventually crossing and going for a dip in the lake. Several of us broke into a brief run at one point when 'Mom' took a few steps towards the assembled group. I have since learned that running from a bear is not a good idea, as it gives out all the wrong signals to the animal!

When I eventually arrived at Paradise Inn the parking area was full, but I was able to pull over on the shoulder of the first section of a one-way loop road, which was a recognised area for overflow parking. After seeing the demand for parking spots, it came as a surprise to find that the main restaurant inside the Paradise Inn wasn't busy at all. I had a fairly substantial lunch of fish and chips made with wild Alaskan cod. Not for the first time on the trip, I thought to myself that my selection seemed appropriate to the overall theme.

I had a slightly faster run back via Highway US12 and the White Pass. One short section was badly affected by smoke and haze; I got out to take a few pictures of the spectacular orange hues that were engulfing the landscape, and found that it was 'snowing' cinders! (See final photo in next group.)

I easily found the Hilton Garden Inn on arrival in Yakima (which as I soon found out, is said with the same rhythm as 'Omaha'). I checked in and parked my car in the hotel's underground garage. Later on, I had a light evening meal of soup and a toasted half-sandwich, where the latter part of the combo was described as 'BLTA'. It wasn't obvious to me from outset, but when the food arrived I realised that 'A' was for 'avocado', and it worked really well. After another day of racking up the miles, I was in bed by 10:15pm.

Wed 26 Aug

Miles driven: 232

Road trip to date: 1,005

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