Even though I’ve lived in Washington state for 43 of my 54 years I’m ashamed to say I had never been to Crystal Mountain.
Even when I was in high school in Puyallup Crystal was the place to go skiing, but I couldn’t afford it.
And I had also only been to Sunrise once. I can’t recall how old
I was, but I remember the mountain looking so huge.
My wife, Debbie, even though she is from Everett, had never been
to either place.
So on a recent sunny day we decided to go to both. It definitely
was an experience we will always remember. As the summer winds down you might want to go on a similar outing, especially if you haven’t been in awhile.
We were in a hurry because we thought we might be trying to do
too much in one day. I knew there would be delays on State Route 410 because of the re-paving work going on in the Greenwater area. The delays weren’t that long but when you are rushed they seem longer. If you take the trip on a weekend you won’t have to worry about the road work, but you will have to deal with more travelers.
Even though it was cloudy in Enumclaw, once we arrived at Crystal it was crystal clear – hence the name. We checked out the lodging and
really wished we could have stayed, but we had obligations the next morning. They had a great deal going - $132 for a night, which included a bunch of meals. Next time…
We checked out the gift shop and the store and the café at the lodge. We even looked at the disc golf course. The first hole is right near the
Discovery chairlift close to the lodge. You can play the entire 18-hole lower course for free, and even buy discs there.
But we really went there for the gondola ride and lunch at the highest restaurant in the state.
Because it was a weekday it was not a long wait at all to get onto the gondola. The trip is $20 per person. The ride 2,500 feet up the steep
slope only takes about 10 minutes. On the way up the amazing landscape just gets bigger and bigger.
I’m not big on heights so I had my moments of fear, but that’s one of the things that make it so memorable right? The gondola never gets more than 30 feet from the ground I would say. But it is a relief getting to the top.
The view from the summit is amazing. We could easily see Mount
Adams to the south, and we could have seen Mount Baker to the north if it wasn’t so foggy up there. We did see Glacier Peak to the north. And of course the star of the show was Mount Rainier, which was right in front of us.
We hiked around the top for awhile. While there was some snow we
were amazed to see all of the colorful wildflowers, especially since we knew people had been skiing up there as recent as a few weeks ago.
We saw people playing the disc golf course upper level, which has 10 holes. But we just admired the views of the Cascades and the valleys
We didn’t have reservations -- they are recommended -- but we
decided to try to have lunch at the Summit House, dining at 6,872 feet. We got lucky. It was right at the end of lunch and a couple didn’t show up so we got in.
We got an excellent table on the east side of the restaurant looking down the ski slope. Deb had the smoked salmon salad, which was
excellent, and I had the seafood soup, which was good, but cold. Prices weren’t as bad as we expected, considering the ambience, but deals can be had if you check their web site.
We relaxed for awhile and hiked around a bit more, but decided
since we were going to Sunrise too we better leave. We didn’t want to wait until the last weekday gondola loading at 4:30 p.m., figuring there’d be a long line.
The ride down the gondola was much more fun, I guess because we
knew what we were getting ourselves into. Or maybe it was because our waitress told us how scared she was one time when the resort closed because of high winds one winter, and she had to go down the gondola anyway.
Then we were off to Sunrise. They were paving the road along
Crystal Mountain so it was a little slow going down the six miles to Highway 410, but it wasn’t long before we were seeing just how big the majestic Mount Rainier is as we were driving to Sunrise. We paid our $15 to get into the national park, and we were on our way.
We’ve gone over the pass to Yakima and Tri Cities many times,
and we stayed at Packwood last year overnight, but when you are on Mount Rainier the view just isn’t as spectacular as it is when you are right next to it at Sunrise. Looking into the free telescopes you can see the shiny glaciers and other interesting patterns of snow caused by the terrain and winds.
After just gazing at the mountain in awe for awhile we decided to check out the new visitors center. We hadn’t seen the old one to compare, but from what we’ve heard the transformation is impressive. The displays were informative and best of all many were interactive so young people can enjoy them.
As we walked about again we were astonished by all of the beautiful wildflowers, more so here than at Crystal. The parking lot was pretty
full, and people were hiking along all of the different trails.
We were planning to also, but then I started itching. Welts swelled all over me. Deb thought I was allergic to something, but when we went
into the gift shop we were told the mosquitoes were out in force that day, and, unfortunately, all of their repellant was sold out.
We hung out in the shop for awhile -- it’s pretty extensive -- and decided we shouldn’t hike because of the mosquitoes. So our trip to Sunrise was cut a little short by the buggers. But a lesson was learned -- bring repellant next time.
On the way back down we stopped to see a beautiful alpine lake, also called Sunrise, before heading home.
At 6,400 feet, Sunrise is only open until late September, so
check it out while you can.
All and all it was a fun, memorable day, and we won’t wait another 40 years to do it again.