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We saw it as we were crossing central Washington headed toward Seattle. It was always in the background while visiting Seattle. This mountain is scary because, from those distances, (50 to 75 miles) it stands about 3 times higher than all of the Cascade Mountain range surrounding it. It is wide, tall and snow covered all year. If there are clouds in the sky they hang at the top of the Cascades, leaving more than half of Rainier sticking above them.
We entered Rainier National Park at the southeast corner entrance. This seemed best because there are essentially two halves to the park: the east side called Sunrise and the south side called Paradise. We planned to spend two days and see them separately. Our campsite was just outside the southeast entrance.
From the entrance it is a 50 mile drive to Sunrise, then approximately 100 miles back around to Paradise followed by 50 miles to get back out again. For this reason we decided to do it in two days. We arrived at Sunrise (named for the fact that it gets the morning sun) which is at 6400 feet and the highest point to drive in the park. Rainier is 14,400 feet tall, so there is 8000 feet above the Sunrise visitor's center. There are many, many hiking trails from Sunrise, we hiked to Frozen lake and to Emmons Vista. The presence of Rainier at all times in the Sunrise area is amazing. There is a lot of snow and the thickest glacier (700 feet thick) in the lower 48 states. The snow/ice is blue-white.
When you are right next to the mountain it does not look as big or as tall as it does from Seattle. It's a funny sensation. You know that it is 2 to 3 times as tall as the mountains around it but the perspective does not tell you that. Oh well.
At Sunrise (beautiful blue sky day) we heard that there was bad weather forecast for Sunday and snow for Monday through Thursday. The day was Friday and in order to be able to see Mt. St. Helens before Sunday we decided to see both side of Rainier in one day. It's doable but those 200 or so miles are tough. Paradise gives you a view of the southwest side and an up close view of Nisqually Glacier. We loved seeing this mountain.
We took over 50 pictures of the mountain and most of them look just alike. I will select a few and put them in a Mt. Rainier photo album.