Mt. Rainier is only about three hours away, so we could have easily made it a day trip. But I like the idea of being able to go away camping on a moment's notice and I knew this would be our last chance for camping this season. We arrived at the campground at about 11 am, and after selecting just the right spot and setting up our tent we drove up to Paradise. Since most of the parking lot is closed for the renovation of Paradise Inn and construction of a new visitor's center, we drove past the main lot and parked down the hill a bit at the 4th Crossing Trailhead. It sounds like we planned it that way, but I'll admit it was pure luck that the only place with parking was at this not often used spur to the Skyline Trail.
We quickly ate our packed lunch and then spent the afternoon hiking about 7 miles with 2000 or so feet in elevation gain. My words can't adequately convey how beautiful it was so here are a few pictures:
Looking south to the Tatoosh Range with Mt. Adams in the background. We also saw Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens (with a little puff of steam coming from it's crater).
The trail goes up and up....
This was our highest point at about 7000 ft. We stopped for another break and some snow play as we watched the mountaineers and snowboarders ascend and descend the trail to Camp Muir.
At the Jackson Visitor Center we took advantage of the two-for-one ice cream cone deal and then resumed hiking the remaining mile to where we had parked the car. The little guy was getting tired at this point, but regained his energy when it was announced that the first person to find the 4th Crossing trail would get an extra marshmallow at the campfire that night. Before long we had found the trail and we were back at the car.
The little guy pronounced it "The Best Hike Evah!" I couldn't agree more.