While J was climbing across glaciers and summiting Mt Rainier, I stayed in lower territory and explored the town of Ashford and the trails of Mt Rainier National Park.
Ashford is a quaint Washington town, with a love for the outdoors and adventure. The area is home to several mountaineering focused businesses, including Whittaker Mountaineering and Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. It’s a one street town, with much character that leads straight into the Park. Along with the mountaineering businesses, there is a General Store, a laundry mat, a few restaurants, and a handful of overnight lodges and cabins.
Suver’s General Store is like taking a step back in time and is the main (only) grocery shopping in town. (For the GA peeps – It is very similar to the old Poteete’s General Store in B-ville with the creaky wood floors.) Suver’s provided us with all the needed supplies and snacks for the week. I also came very close to eating at every dining establishment (I tried 5) in Ashford. The Highlander restaurant/bar was our first dinner in Ashford; it’s where the locals hang out. Imagine beer, free pool, jukebox, and frozen hamburger steak (but it was actually good). It’s worth a visit just to experience the atmosphere. But, if in Ashford, you must stop at Wild Berry Restaurant. It offers a variety of Nepalese and American food choices. During our dinner visit, J ordered the momos and and I tried the gyro – both were delicioso!
As we completed our tour of Ashford, State Rd 706E led us to one of our nation’s greatest treasures – Mt Rainier National Park. A wealth of beauty, wildlife, and history fills the park. As it is still early season, there was still significant snow a few miles into the park. The road had been cleared through Paradise, which is where J began and ended his Mt Rainier summit. Paradise is at approximately 5,400 feet and is named for the beauty of its summer wildflowers. While J was on his own adventures, I was able to explore many of the park’s trails and Longmire, which was once a popular mineral springs that was opened by the Longmire family in 1890.
With the success of J’s summit climb, it was time to say Farewell to Ashford and move onward to Seattle. While exploring the park, I met a local Seattlean who I hiked a few miles with and she provided a recommendation for a unique Washington experience. Seattle was only an hour drive from Ashford, so we had a few hours before we could check into our Seattle Center hotel. J and I took the advice of my Rainier hiking friend, and drove to the Fauntleroy ferry terminal and floated to Vashon Island. We visited the Point Robinson Lighthouse and then went on the hunt for the Vashon Island Bike Tree. With a little internet reasearch, our search ended successfully, on a short wooded path just off of Vashon Hwy.
Seattle was a unique metro experience. We did all of the typical tourist activities – Space Needle, the Monorail, Pike Place Market, the “original” Starbucks, Chinatown, and eating lots of seafood. I did have sympathy for J, who had already hiked 14 miles on his Rainier summit, but a few more miles were in order since we only had 2 days to explore Seattle. Fortunately, the Monorail provided J with a short 1 mile reprieve of walking. We took advantage of every moment, and on the last night toasted Farewell to Mt Rainier and Seattle with a Rainier Beer.