The biggest benefit we have found to working at National Parks are the days off. Without trying to sound too cynical, work is work, but when you are a seasonal employee at a location such as Mt. Rainier, WA, the fringe benefits of hiking and exploring are excellent.

On one of our weekends (which actually fall on Monday and Tuesday) we travelled with our new friends Rich and Danita to the Columbia River Gorge, which is south of us on the Washington – Oregon border.

The gorge is an eighty mile stretch of I-84 on the Oregon side and Hwy 14 on the Washington side. The area boasts 90 waterfalls on the Oregon side alone.

Multnomah falls has a claim of being the second tallest year-round waterfall in the US and the tallest in Oregon at 620 feet.

 

 

 

 

The gorge is a sea level passage to the Pacific Ocean, which is, in some places, 4000 feet deep. Apparently this creates a wind tunnel effect which makes for great wind and kite surfing.

An overnight stay in the town of Hood River complete with wine tastings and great company in the shadow of Mount Hood made for a great weekend that concluded with a trip to the Mount Saint Helens area.

We never considered ourselves “hikers”, but now that we have time and are in such beautiful locations, we find hiking the appropriate way to explore and enjoy the National Parks. We find that the more we hike, the more energy and motivation we have to do so.

The Tatoosh Mountain Range is adjacent to Mount Rainier and as we look across to these rocky mountains, we can see a path which leads to Pinnacle Peak.

 

 

With  our new-found energy, we decide that this path is a weekend – must do – so away we go. Across the “Lakes Trail” we follow a short portion of the “Wonderland Trail” (the Wonderland Trail is 94 miles: all the way around Mt. Rainier – which we don’t have that much energy.) then onto Pinnacle Peak trail.

The Pinnacle Peak trail offers forests at lower elevation, then as you climb, you escape the trees and ascend to the rocky slopes where we find marmots whistling across the mountains to each other in some sort of code that we guess is – “the humans are coming”.

Anyway, there is something special about making it to the top of a mountain and seeing what is on the other side. From this vantage point, we should be able to see Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Hood, but we have climbed to the clouds and can’t see them, but we know they are there.

Other weekends off are filled with hikes and short road trips around the local area such as a trip to the largest county fair in the country, as well as hanging out with some of our other new-found friends from working on the mountain – friendships that we will cherish forever.

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