Imagine a place where the views are amazing, you get to hang out with your buddies, you can stuff yourself silly at a seemingly endless banquet table, and you can sleep in in a major way. Would it be fair to call it Paradise?
Back in mid-August, a little bee (read, some other dude’s blog post) reminded me that the wildflowers on Mount Rainier are impressive at that time of year and that the ample water from last year’s snowpack should yield a healthy crop. Memories of a trip last year (Getting High With Flowers parts one and two) only added more motivation for a return trip. A quick text to similar-minded friends and off we went.
While the weather was cooperative this year, the conditions were less than perfect. It’s been a summer full of fires this year, and smoke coming down from Canada thickened the air with a grey haze that cut visibility and muted colors.
This was a mixed blessing. Although the views were not as crisp, parking space lotto was not a factor and the trails were not as crowded with onlookers from hither and yon, come to ogle what is usually a popular explosion of flowers.
Some flowers wore more unusual crowns.
With a muff top reminiscent of the bearskin hats of British Grenadiers, the seedhead from a Pasque flower played guardian to a family of Asters.
Further on, Indian Paintbrushes add color.
Climbing higher, skirting the edge of the timberline we found more fields of flowers and an alpine stream laying in a mossy bed.
Crossing over the ridge, the evening sun began its disappearing act, adding a dusky urgency to getting back down the trail before it got too dark.
But, you might ask, what about that banquet table, and sleeping in in a major way?
Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce the Hoary Marmot.
This big guy was a couple of feet long and should weigh around 15 pounds. We must have seen eight or nine marmots in different areas, sometimes alone, sometimes with two or three friends (family members?) along for the walk. And for the most part, their business of the hour was munching down.
Those fields of flowers were the banquet table. So intent were they on dinner they gave us little more than a wary glance as we approached, sometimes quite close.
Although they look like a beaver with a furry tail and their whistles are heard across alpine valleys, they’re the largest members of the ground squirrel family. Eating is serious business, that big after dinner nap lasts seven or eight months.
We humans, looking upon the beauty of this area have called it Paradise. But if you were a marmot, could it be anything else?