“Your Most Iconic/Favorite Entrance Station to a National Park”
SEASON 2, WEEK 7
October 25, 2018
Join us on Twitter with the hashtag #NatureWritingChallenge to discuss and share the topic Thursday at 8:30 CST. This post was created in one hour specifically for this challenge.
If this topic was more than a week ago, I wouldn’t have been able to pick Mount Rainier National Park. I would have chosen Bryce Canyon, Olympic, or Redwoods. But, as luck would have it, I got to visit Mount Rainier with a knowledgeable guide and drive through THREE entrance stations that all stood out to me. There was one other, but it was more of a pay station and didn’t hold a lot of eye candy value to me.
I have a lot of memories and photos of entrance signs from everywhere (state/local parks included), but nothing compares to driving through a cool ranch-style entrance arch on three different occasions. Seeing people share photos of park entrances is one of my favorite things because it just entices me to visit.
My trip to Mount Rainier started in the Tacoma suburbs. I met up with my knowledgeable guide and learned about all of the rivers and history from the suburbs to the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Since our first stop of the evening was at the Sun Top Lookout, for sunset and then we camped on National Forest land, I never saw the first entrance into Mount Rainier National Park other than by headlights the next morning as we chased the sunrise. Despite it being dark, it’s still memorable because it was a gateway of sorts as we transitioned from forest to park. Of course the trees didn’t change and the road was still paved, but it made it official for me. I’ve always wanted to see the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest too, but Mount Rainier was a dream I’d only seen from afar.
Through the gateway, we were headed up to Chinook Pass. You know, the view from the side of the road above Tipsoo Lake was memorable, but passing under the Pacific Crest Trail to the Wenatchee National Forest was also memorable. This takes us to two entrances now, this one I was able to snap a photo of due to daylight. From this point, I didn’t know what else to expect. We passed through the pay station, where you’d normally show your pass, but it was closed. Not a memorable pass through, but the Grove of the Patriarchs Trail is quite vivid in my memory. I walked across my first walking suspension bridge, saw some big old cedars, and really embraced low level forest of the park.
As the day passed, many stops were made and we eventually exited through the gateway at the Nisqually Entrance. Apparently, this is the more popular entrance. Sure, the entrances were fun, but the places accessibility within the boundary are what count. There was not a place in Mount Rainier National Park that disappointed. If it wasn’t a scenic vista, it was huge trees. Everywhere I turned, I was impressed. The views of neighboring peaks in the various National Forest lands were also impressive and humbling, making the park that much better. I am grateful to have had a great guide and new friend show me around; I have previewed the park and am ready to dive in. My favorite entrance, for the record, was from Wenatchee National Forest to the park, passing under the Pacific Crest Trail. To me, that is the ultimate representation of the Pacific Northwest in one spot.
The reason I love these entrances is not only because they’re cool to look at, it’s because of the experience I had in and around the park. The memories made, vistas seen, and roads traveled mean the world to me and I am fortunate to have been able to visit. The trees, mountains, and history of the land have made this park instantly one of my favorites thus making these entrances some of my favorites.