Monday, July 21, 2008

Mt. Rainier National Park, An Accidential Urban Experience

Sunday morning, I realized why I am so careful about where and when I visit certain places in the Cascades. Mt. Rainier National Park on a beautiful Sunday afternoon was going to be costly.

Now call me snobbish, but you have to laugh! A fifteen minute wait because nobody has cash and everyone uses credit cards, at the entrance gate just to show off my annual pass. Every pull-out and trailhead was full of vehicles. Then there is the stop and go traffic while trying to find a parking space at Paradise. Next there are the numbers of people gawking at the power of Mt. Rainier above from the security of pavement and concrete at the visitor center. This time I didn’t even try to negotiate the poorly arranged gift shop that resembled a crowded retail outlet on December 23rd.

For someone that sees as much trail and serenity as I do, it was comical.

Among them, there are the National Park Visitors that I learned to respect so much. They are the ones that ask questions at their intellectual peril, they seek knowledge about our great natural places and are the ones that seek experience beyond the shallow tourist shops and windows. Most likely, those were the vehicles at the trailheads.

It was a reminder to me about the choices and values that I have. I am hoping that land managers continue to carefully plan for our most valued landscapes. The rumors that special places like Mt. Rainier had fallen out of fashion are clearly false. The true outdoor experience is missing for those that don’t seek it. Perhaps, this is what should be planned into every visit to a National Park; an accidental wilderness experience.

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