Backpacking The Northern Loop in Mt. Rainier – Beauty and Danger Intermingled (pt 1)

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Last summer while visiting the Pacific Coast with my kids, I found the Pacific Northwest so beautiful that I decided to go back and do some backpacking. So early September a year later my 15 year old son and I flew to Seattle to hike the Northern Loop Trail in Mt. Rainier National Park. The Northern Loop covers nearly 40 miles in the northern and most remote section of the park and is considered strenuous with an elevation gain of ~9000 feet.

It is a steeply up, steeply down trail with little in the way of flat. So I spent the summer exercising and lightening my backpacking gear to prepare for the trip. I also frequented the weather report leading up to the trip. The last report predicted cool temps with some chance of rain the first two days of the hike and sunny and warmer the last two days. I was happy and felt prepared. And yet…Mount Rainier is a mammoth mountain sitting near the Pacific coast. They say the mountain makes it’s own weather.

Turns out, they are right.

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San Francisco…the Pacific Coast trip comes to an end.


We had driven over 1000 miles along the Pacific Coast in an epic trip from Seattle to San Francisco. My husband had stayed home with our oldest who was working, and so it was just me and my 14 yr old son and 11 yr old daughter.

If you wait for ideal conditions you’ll never do anything. Just get out there. There is so much to see.

Hwy 101 was amazing, mostly two lanes and beautiful. I had survived driving it alone, back feeling fine and only one speeding ticket. Hey, I was passing an 18 wheeler so totally justifiable. But still $300.

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The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.

– John Steinbeck

I can’t say it better than Mr. Steinbeck. We left the beautiful to encounter the magnificent. I have wanted to see the Redwood Forest for as long as I can remember. I was not disappointed.

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The Oregon Coast

After we left Olympic National Park, we continued three hours down Hwy 101 to Seaside, Oregon. The rest of Washington was pretty nondescript, although we caught our first couple glimpses of the Pacific Ocean. We crossed the mouth of the Columbia River across the magnificent Astoria-Megler Bridge which kinda wigged me out at one end…I don’t like heights.

We arrived in Seaside, Oregon in the evening. I had booked a hotel right on the beach with an ocean side first floor room.

The kids were in heaven.

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