Today we had one goal in mind: to reach Mt. Rainier, and take a slight detour through Seattle to visit a certain store. After about 2 hours, we rolled through Seattle where we stopped at the headquarters of REI. This is not your average outdoor sports store. No, this is the mecca of outdoor equipment stores. They had anything and everything. I was forced to be on my best behavior and not go on a spending spree. Thankfully, I got by with only buying a pair of gloves and a few miscellaneous pieces of climbing gear I needed for Rainier.
After going to REI, we decided to head straight for Rainier. We set off into the cloud-strewn country with hopes of possibly catching a glimpse of the mountain. It wasn’t until about 30 miles outside of the entrance to the base camp that we started looking hard. I remember saying to Peter, ‘It should be right there.,’ and then took a much longer look. To my amazement, I realized that the ‘clouds’ or little patches of white were, in fact, a part of the mountain. It was massive, or at least seemed much bigger than any of the ones we had seen a couple days before in Glacier. Every once in a while, the mountain would reveal a tiny sliver of itself.
It was awe-inspiring, breath-taking, and all of the adjectives inbetween. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The mountain I had been planning to climb, and had read books on, was surprising me with its shear size. It was hard to believe that soon I would be on it, pushing for the summit!
After a long afternoon of climbing, Peter and I decided that we could splurge a little on food and stopped at a Pizza Hut. Naturally, I ordered a pizzone and was super anxious to eat it. I found us some seats that faced the mountain, and made sure that we could see it through a window.
I couldn’t stop looking at it. It was something that had captivated me for so long and, finally, I could see it with my very own eyes. It was surreal.
We scarfed down our food and continued to drive towards Ashford, where the RMI base camp is located. Occasionally, we would pass a valley where we could get a view of the mountain. It was all I could do just to keep my eyes on the road.
Later in the afternoon we arrived at the RMI base camp, which is essentially a small summer camp for mountaineers. Immediately, Peter and I noticed the culture difference. The camp is incredibly laid back, and has all the training tools a mountaineer would ever need. There is a bunk house, a motel, a little restaurant that serves burgers and pizza, a lounge house set up to be a casual classroom, two rock-climbing walls (one for ice climbing), and last but not least, an RMI/Whittaker Mountaineering store. The people are different too. They all seem unsure, but confident in their approach. I guess they have to be. Oh, I totally forgot to mention they have a coffee shop, which is awesome! It’s a like a mountaineering version of Greyhouse. It makes me miss Greyhouse a little bit. I went and ordered an iced mocha, and it was pretty good but not great.
As I was walking around, I saw a stack of books you can buy near the back of the coffee shop. I walked over and looked at the shelf where I found several books on mountaineering, including Lou Whittaker’s book ‘Memoirs of a Mountain Guide.’ It looked extremely interesting, so I started flipping through the pages. I flipped to the front page where I realized that Lou Whittaker himself had signed it. I decided to pick up a copy for the ride home.
Soon after that, Peter and I went into the store at basecamp and asked a lady at the front if there were any campsites within a close proximity, especially because we were on such a tight budget. Her answer was ‘yes,’ but we may have to do some searching. We left in hopes that one of the camps was empty and, even better, that it would be free.
As we drove down the road, we anticipated at least 20 minutes of driving. Then, out of the blue, we saw a small brown sign that said ‘DNR Horsecamp.’ It was perfect- free and just minutes from the RMI base camp. Once again, God was providing left and right. Once again, God, thanks for an amazing day! I am starting to feel a little less homesick, but I still miss Cara a lot! I have a feeling that now we are at base camp, it’s going to be awhile before I can hear her voice again. Hopefully the next time I hear her voice I can tell her that I have climbed Mt. Rainier!