Alder Lake at Sunset on the drive in to Rainier
The next morning came far, far too early for the bleary-eyed among us[i]. Stories of the night before were swapped between the ladies and the men, and those that had crashed at the house went out for a nice brunch at yet another picture perfect little urban café[ii].
After a nap, we picked up our rental car for the next couple days’ trip to Mount Rainier National Park, and ventured into the flagship REI store for some canister stove gas[iii]. I tend to make fun of REI a lot, even though I admittedly shop there too, for selling image-based products to folks with too much disposable income[iv]. Some of what they sell is straight up hardcore gear. But a lot of it is sexy brand name, silly “technology” jargon stuff that commands a higher price tag not due to some perceived better quality or “performance”, but primarily because of the image that accompanies it[v]. The flagship store, however, was pretty damn awesome. Not only was it huge, but it had waterfalls cascading around its exterior in places, and rock gardens. Its multiple floors were reminiscent of the warehouse at the end of Raiders…blurring to an imperceptible infinity of outdoor gear. I don’t get impressed by REI much, but this was an impressive REI.
REI Flagship, from street view. Yes, that’s a three story indoor climbing wall.
My wife’s brother, the erstwhile groom Dave, decided to accompany us down to Rainier on a whim, so we all set out towards Rainier, racing against the light, which was fading pretty fast at this point. There were some absolutely heartbreaking moments along the way where we passed scenery that was lit up with the most amazing, golden and diffuse light, but couldn’t stop for pictures in our rush to get in before dark. Driving past Alder Lake, I frantically held by cell phone camera to the window to try to get even a blurry picture of the magnificent lightshow going on[vi].
Alder Lake at Sunset pseudo panoramic, Alder Lake at Sunset (II),
As it turned out, we probably should have just stopped, because we arrived in the dark. And cold. I was not prepared for temperatures in the 40’s in late July[vii]. However, a couple of degrees didn’t dampen my enthusiasm as we passed under that storied park entrance sign. That being said, we didn’t waste any time setting up camp in the dark[viii] and getting hunkered down in sleeping bags, stopping only to scarf down a quick impromptu meal of leftover sandwiches and chicken fingers.
Mount Rainier National Park Entrance sign (photo courtesy of Flickr user Adam Fagen/Afagen)
[i] There’s nothing like tequila to tell you how very old you have become without realizing it.
[ii] One almost got the feeling in that neighborhood that one was consistently on a well lit and immaculately staged movie set for some romantic comedy or another. Everything was just so nice. And well lit, did I mention that? Must be the oppressive rainy darkness of most of the year there driving them all to focus on interior lighting. I bet the hipsters have delved into that as well, maybe scoffing over GE bulbs, incorporating vintage arc lights, and identifying with numerous light sub-genres, each more ridiculously specific than the last. “Oh, you like Edisonian-era bulbs? They’re ok for most people, I guess. I’m really into gas lights. You haven’t really seen anything until you’ve seen it by gaslight.”
[iii] Because apparently carrying canisters of flammable, explosive gas on planes is a no-no in post 9/11 America. Luckily, we kind of figured this was the case ahead of time and planned ahead.
[iv] Or poor impulse control. I have been both.
[v] My favorite find there was a cotton t-shirt by a brand name. It had about a three pound booklet attached to it relating, with breathless delight, its numerous “performance technologies”. When you bothered to read past the jargon, it’s primary “technologies” were: 1) being a vaguely human-shaped shirt, 2) being made out of cotton, 3) having 3 cents worth of thread sewn in the pattern of a corporate logo on its front. Retail? $60. If I am going to spend $60 on a t-shirt, it’s “technologies” better include “jetpack” and “+10 charsima”. However, carping aside, I too have known the appeal of sexy new gear. I just have to laugh at the over-application of “performance” as a term to sell image.
[vi] I have had inordinately lucky drives in to National Parks. Light really makes the landscape, and our drives in to Arches, Zion (especially), and Haleakala have had the amazing luck to catch once-in-a-lifetime light just at its afternoon peak of amazingness.
[vii] I was pretty well supplied for layers of clothing, but had brought my 40 degree summer weight sleeping bag, mostly because it packs down to almost a singularity. This was a mistake.
[viii] Where I saw my first new species of the trip, an unassuming Deermouse. Comically, when I had looked up dangerous animals and plants at Rainier, the deermouse had popped up. Not for its overwhelming physical presence, but for its tendency to carry and spread hantavirus in its feces.