Since Natalie had never really been backcountry hiking, I decided to take her
into the Mount Rainier National Park to do a small section of the Wonderland Trail in
early July, 2004.

This is the obligatory "before" picture. Note the smiles, and the anxiety as we head into the wilderness.

"Before" picture of both of us, taken from the roof of Gloria. Nice reflections kids.
You'd almost think we were heading for an evening run and trying to avoid traffic!

Some of the flora of the peaks and valleys of the park was just beautiful. Here,
Natalie provides nice foreground for a waterfall on the Echo Cliffs around Cataract Valley.

There is a reason it is called Mount Rainier. It means that it is rainier than anywhere else.
Even though we hiked in unscathed, most of our Saturday and Sunday was pretty wet. This is Natalie
showing the way across the valley to the ragged peaks of Mother Mountain, just visible through the fog.

This was also Natalie's first hiking trip that involved snow. While I don't think she's super
excited about finding glaciers to hike on right away(particular without crampons), she made it through all
of the snow, and did far better than I did my first time on snow.

Once we hiked to the highest point of the trip (a little over 6,400 feet), we were rewarded with a
quick view across the valley again. The clouds and fog opened for a moment, but not much more. This, again,
is Mother Mountain.

Trying not to get too soaked crossing over into Spray Park.

Every trip I take, I always find something that increases either the comfort or joy of the trip. That item
becomes the "Hero of the Trip". While the automatic answer here is Natalie, the duck bag I'm showing
kept all of my equipment dry, even in the face of cold, wet rain. Yay, REI!!

Sunday morning dawned bright and blue and I was able to get a nice shot of Spray Falls as Natalie and I
were having breakfast.

This was also the morning that Mount Rainier actually showed itself. Surprisingly, we are still more than
10,000 feet from the summit at this point, Eagle Cliff. Mount Rainier rises an impressive 14,410 feet
into the Washington sky, making it the highest point in the Pacific Northwest. This is the view of
the northwest side of the mountain.

Sadly, this turned out dark, just due to the incredible light reflecting off the mountain,
but that is Natalie and I in the bottom left of the picture.

A great view of the Wonderland Trail from the Ipsut Pass. This is where we had lunch.

And what a lunch it was! Nat and I tried dehydrated food for the first time. Our lunch was dehydrated
Kung Pao Chicken. Pour boiling water into the foil-lined pack, and voila! you have a meal! While it
wasn't as superb cuisine as I had hoped, it's not a bad alternative to another day of pita sandwiches.
Natalie is giving it the "thumbs up". I think she's mocking me, but I'm not sure.

And by mid-afternoon on Sunday, we were finished the 16 mile hiking trip around the Spray Park area.
Yay team! Perhaps next time, we'll try the 93 mile Wonderland Trail all the way around Mount Rainier!

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