Mount Rainier National Park

Some exciting things have been happening here, mainly my laptop finally commit suicide so I made a huge leap and got myself a sweet little macbook.  Haven't used an apple since the Apple IIc... This fella is way better.  I can do so much more than just turn the cursor from an arrow into a frog, and then make that frog green or pink.  Ooh but thinking about that old computer made me want to play Oregon Trail.   Ok, moving on.

Yesterday I went up to Mt Rainier.  I had only been there once before on a road trip eleven years ago, and we had gone to one of the northern entrances.  All I remember for wildlife was a fly landing on my friend's hair and sitting there for a long time.  This trip was much much better.

I was not even aware that there was a southwest entrance until I started looking up some info after seeing some amazing fox and ptarmigan photos someone took there last weekend.  Unfortunately I saw neither of those creatures, but plenty of other goodies made up for it.

Driving along the viewpoint turnoff I saw a creature up ahead in the road.  As I got closer I realized it was a bird, a big bird, a bird I had never seen before...

I'm having trouble deciding which kind of grouse it is- it seems like Sooty are more common at Mt Rainier, but then it looks more like Dusky in my Sibley's.  Help?  [Sooty Grouse, it is!]  I am super stoked whatever it is.  He had friends too:

Only the male stayed above ground, the ladies kept a bit more distance downhill.  Amazingly the dogs remained calm while these birds let me take a billion photos.  They were rewarded with fig cookies, and the regular forced pose in front of a mountain.

Next I planned to do as much of a hike as possible while leaving the dogs in the car.  I wanted to try the same trails where the foxes and ptarmigans were seen, so I headed to the Golden Gate Trail that leaves from the Paradise parking area.  There was a group of loud boy scouts or something behind me so I pretty much speed-walked up the first part.

Dark-eyed Junco

The trail turned from pavement to mud to snow as it climbed up the side of the mountain...

Pretty sweet views.  On my way up I barely saw any birds, and zero mammals.  I eventually had to turn around because I couldn't leave the dogs for too long.  The descent was quick until I came across marmot-fest!

I was taking pictures of this one marmot that seemed to be slowly creeping towards me.  I racked my brain for any information I had on marmots and whether they'd been known to attack or maim or anything like that, all the while the marmot crept closer.  Then with a few tail flicks it full on charged towards me.  I think I jumped a foot in the air but it was just heading for a tunnel under the trail I was standing near.

I think all of the marmots I saw were hoary marmots.  Dang cute.

For birds besides the grouse, it was all mountain regulars: Gray Jays, ravens, juncos, nuthatches, and the first Varied Thrush I had seen since spring.

I could post a hundred photos of this park and it would still not fully illustrate just how beautiful it was... Here's one last attempt:

I can't wait to go back... Good times!!


  1. Gorgeous view of Mt Ranier Park. the Grouse is a cool sighting and the Junco is pretty. My favorite is the Varied Thrush. What a beautiful and colorful bird. I have been to Mt. Ranier once, it is one of my favorite parks and a great place for hiking.

  2. Wow, awesome place! I agree with everything you said about the grouse. Sorry I can't help more than that. I'm curious now what others think.

  3. Ive never been....but this makes me want to go. Hella. I think the grouse has to be a Sooty by range, and those things arent really prone to long-distance vagrancy...due to being grouse. Unrelatedly, a birder once told me he heard a Ruffed Grouse in southern California, and when I gave the inevitable eyebrow raise, he got all defensive and butthurt. It's still funny to me.

  4. ps the marmot story was hilarity. I wonder if the phrase "fleeing the marmot" could be a new slang term.

  5. That looks great! The Marmots sure are cute. Glad they didn't attack! How can you possibly leave the dogs in the car? Don't you feel guilty? (Maggie told me to write that.)

  6. WOW ----Scenery ENVY--------
    I dont know one grouse from another but checking my field guides I agree---
    SO the Marmot had you I think he wanted a fig newton...thats too funny.
    ADORE that varied and the landscape WOWzer..the dogs look great in that shot...

  7. @Steve- Haha fleeing the marmot... I'm gonna get it going in Oregon, you work on cali. Thanks for the ID help..

    @Michelle- I do indeed feel guilty, but tell Maggie dogs aren't allowed on trails in nat'l parks and it was either leave them home for 10+ hours or leave them in the car for an hour hike (in 40 degree weather). I think they were okay with it, plus they got to see marmots and grouse and eat cookies.

  8. ah, lovely. Mount Rainier IS a shockingly beautiful place. I had NO idea: the 1st time I went there was because I'd accepted a job there, so that was a happy surprise. Amazing park, and the SW entrance is the one I always took during my "commute" once I'd moved out of the park.

    Thank you for the MORA (NPS abbrev.4 Mt. Rainier NP) virtual tour--heaven. Esp. after a hellacious weekend of flu. Lovely lovely =)

  9. Jen- I have the same dilemma. I'm going to go to Port Townsend soon and I want to visit some places off limits to dogs, so Maggie will just have to wait in the car. But, yes, that's better than alone all day! :)

  10. Wow! Nice shots, Jen!

    I'm no chicken expert, but I have to agree that your grouse look like duskies.

    Beautiful marmot shots!

  11. I remember fondly my few trips out to Rainier. You are certainly right that photos just do not do the area justice. You have to see it to really appreciate it.

  12. Sounds and looks like you spent a wonderful day at Mount Rainier National Park. A place I definitely would like to visit. It was a joy viewing all your glorious scenic images. Love the little junco, grouse, thrush and marmots! Your dogs are gorgeous!


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