Thanksgiving Dinner on Mount Rainier

November 18, 2014 by  

On a cold, gray autumn morning there isn”t anything better than a tasty roast dinner and a roaring fire, especially when you have your family together on Thanksgiving Day. This year my parents came to join our family of four for the holiday, but we decided it was a good year to try something new, give the cooking and dishes a miss, and go out for a meal.


We started out towards Mount Rainier, to turn our family dinner into a great day trip. What better way to brighten up a gray, drizzly November day? Well, as we left I-5, the mountain – who had been hiding behind the low clouds – started to come into view. The skies began to clear, and we enjoyed a spectacular drive through winding valleys and rich forests, catching fleeting peeks at the mountain as we crested hills of passed through clearings. Mount Rainier never ceases to surprise me with the way she looks different from every view.

We approached the National Park gateway, and were advised that the recent snow had made the roads quite icy, and while it was possible to get all the way to Paradise we should drive with caution. We had the right car for the job, so we were sure if we went carefully we would be able to get all the way to Paradise.

But right now we were hungry. We arrived at the Longmire Inn, made our way slowly and cautiously across an icy car park looking more like a family of penguins then people. Once inside, we warmed up by the fireplace, dried out our mittens and scarves, and enjoyed the wonderful smells wafting over from the kitchen. Once at our table, we relaxed for a moment and enjoyed the view from the window of the pine trees bowing low with the weight of the recent snow, and wondered why we had never thought about going out for Thanksgiving dinner before!

Dinner was excellent – the waitress brought steaming bowls of soup, warm bread rolls, and herbed butter. The main course was a buffet, but the secret of Longmire Inn was well kept, and as there were only a few other families there we didn”t have to line up. We filled our plates with roast turkey and beef, sweet potato mash, an array of steamed vegetables, creamy gravy, and homemade cranberry sauce. One of the best things about buffets is that you can keep going back for more; I wasn”t sure if we”d ever get my dad out of his chair after three trips to the buffet! When we were all stuffed, and beginning to nod off in our chairs, the waitress brought us a selection of desserts. Pumpkin pie of course, for the real soldiers among us, and a lighter fruit parfait for those of us not quite ready for another course. A round of home brewed coffees, and we were ready for our journey up the mountain. As we walked back to the car, I thought what a wonderful idea it was to eat out; no pots and pans to scrub, no dishes to wash, no tables to clear. And the boys were so excited about going up the mountain they never missed the football!

We started the drive up, moving slowly because of the snow, but the park had done an excellent job with the roads and we made good progress. We stopped several times on the way up to marvel at the amazing displays from Mother Nature. Most astonishing were the views of the Nisqually River bed, still showing the signs of a terrible flood the year before. Huge boulders, whole tree trunks, and other debris marked out where the water had raced down the mountain side. It was a powerful reminder of the forces that lurk in what was a peaceful and serene landscape today.

Around another bend and we saw a place to stop and take in the view. We pulled in, got out of the car and as we stepped to the edge we were treated to the beautiful sounds and sights of a partially frozen waterfall. We watched the water tumble down, in a shade of blue-gray unique to water that is on the brink of
freezing, and only through its speed managing to avoid becoming ice. It tumbled down through tunnels of ice and snow, reappearing below where you would least expect it, only to disappear again into another icy passage. The sound of a waterfall is always beautiful, but when its sounds are smoothed by the cushion of snow on the valley walls, and then amplified and echoed through the ice tunnels, it becomes truly musical.

We arrived soon after in Paradise. The old hotel there was being renovated, but we could see the skeleton of a grand building and promised each other that we would return to visit as soon as it was open again. The children sprinted up the snow-covered paths, starting snowmen only to become distracted by snowball fights and leave the half-built characters behind them for another child to come along and finish. We climbed a short path through some trees and came to a clearing, and gasped as we looked out through the clear winter air over the mountain tops around. What an experience to be so high, to look down on the eagles and hawks soaring below and the spiky treetops of the very highest pines, and yet turn around to see there”s still another 10000 feet of mountain above you.

We finished up with a quick tour of the visitor center at Paradise, drying out and warming up again, and stocking up on coffees and cocoas for the trip back down. The children watched videos of the Mount St. Helens eruption, and we purchased some maps to plan some summer day hikes from Paradise when the snow clears. We piled back into the car, and made our way back down and homewards, with the sun setting around us, and talking all the way about our next visit to Mount Rainier.

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