Snowshoeing in Paradise on New Year’s Eve

Snowshoeing in Paradise on New Year’s Eve

By: Shelby January 4, 2015 10:00 am 0 comments

This New Year’s Eve, we spent the day in Paradise, literally. We threw our (REI rental) snowshoes in the car and headed to Mt. Rainier for the day. We got kind of a late start, because we worked out with our trainer that morning and then of course we were scrambling around trying to find our snow clothes… Where do gloves go during the summer? How do they do it? I would blame the cat, but I don’t have enough evidence to pin it on her, so I just suspect the gloves walk away on their own. Also, this is why I always put on my calendar two nights before an event “get stuff ready for [event].” I have yet to actually get up and do that thing at that time. But I digress. So naturally, we were on the road by 10am.

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It took us basically forever to get to Mt. Rainier. In addition to working out, breakfast, and then scrambling to find our clothes, there was a Starbucks/Google Maps fiasco in Auburn, causing us to lose some more time. Plus it’s just a very long, indirect drive from Seattle, for better or for worse. Shortly after losing cell signal (cutting me off from a frantic thread of work email), we stopped to up the required snow chains in Ashford, which has the last gas station before the park entrance. They conveniently rent snow chains and are conveniently located right after the sign that says “snow chains required for all vehicles.” How lucky for them! (Side note: all vehicles entering Mt. Rainier National Park between November 1 and May 1 are required to carry tire chains. The weather can drastically change at any time on the mountain.)

We passed through the gate at Longmire and shortly thereafter decided we should maybe put our snow chains on… which was… an extremely infuriating process. One of the chains was so hopelessly twisted that we couldn’t get it to lay straight long enough to drive over it and attach it to the tire. Like, how do things ever get so hopelessly tangled? One of them went on in about 45 seconds, and we spent 40 minutes trying to get the other one on.

I did this. Gaze upon my work.

I did this. Gaze upon my work.

After Spenser successfully attached the problem chain, we cheered and got back in the car and headed up the mountain – for about 2 minutes. Then the problem chain dramatically snapped off, and we said screw it, our all season tires are probably enough to handle the snow. Not really our proudest moment, but we ingloriously threw the chains in the back of the Subaru and decided to crawl up the mountain now. Thank goodness for All Wheel Drive.

It was getting frustratingly late in the day now, after the unexpected 40 minute chain break. We still had the 10 mile drive up to Paradise, and it was already after 1:45. After the slow, snowy crawl up the mountain, we arrived in Paradise at about 2:20. The road closes at 5:00 in the winter, so we were already low on snowshoeing time.

The road to Paradise

The road to Paradise

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The small parking lot at the visitor center was about half full on our arrival, which was awesome. It seemed that most of the people were milling about in the parking lot, and there were some families disregarding the “no sledding” signs by sledding with their kids. I guess those signs don’t apply to those people, but whatever. No worry, we geared up, grabbed our snowshoes, and trudged up into the deep snow from the parking lot.

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We headed off in the vague direction of the Skyline Trail, following deep snowshoe tracks. After like 20 feet, we remembered how much work snowshoeing is. The sun was shining on us, as it was a perfectly clear and sunny day. We hiked and hiked, stopping every few feet to cool back down and look around. The summit of the mountain, though still another 9,000 or so feet up, looked so ridiculously close, almost like we could just walk on up to it. While Paradise is typically crawling with tourists, we were able to hike just far enough away in our short snowshoeing time to get away from the crowds and experience some of the resounding silence.

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I had vaguely hoped to follow the 5 mile Skyline Trail completely around its loop, but since we had a long night of ringing in the new year ahead of us, and also due to our late arrival, we simply hiked up to a good vantage point about half a mile in. From there, we could take in the Tatoosh Range in its full glory, see Mount Adams 40 miles away, and the quiet, snowy valley criss-crossed with ski and snowshoe tracks. It was getting late, so we made the short hike back down the hill to the parking lot and the crowds. Sure, it wasn’t an epic snowshoe adventure, but the whole day was kind of an adventure. Still worth it.

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Mount Adams

Mount Adams

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Park Admission required.
From the west, follow Hwy 706 (National Park Highway) to the Nisqually entrance of Mount Rainier, and then follow the road east past Longmire for another 17.5 miles. This is the only way to access Paradise in the winter. The gate up closes at 4pm and the gate is completely closed at 5pm.

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