The cool, somewhat musty air of the mountainside hotel swept through my nostrils as I slowly stirred from an uneasy sleep, my back aching from the hard bed and mile after mile of driving the day before. I sat up in bed, glancing at the still sleeping members of my family as they dozed on through slowly stirring morning. With the utmost delicacy I slipped across the floor to get to the window, weaving in and out of suitcases, shoes, and other bits of luggage. There, gazing down at me like an ancient deity was the snow-covered slopes of Mt. Rainier.
My family and I had taken our most recent out-of-state summer vacation to the cool, albeit somewhat damp state of Washington. After visiting the bustling University of Washington, reuniting with old family, and eating enough food to fill twice our number, we took to the mountains in search of the much-needed change of scenery.
After several hours of driving through the mountain rainforest and Washington countryside, we arrived at the Mt. Rainier National Park entrance, where we were greeted with the pleasant sight of a cozy inn to rest in and numerous trails to explore. Though we were mentally exhausted from the car ride and in much need for rest and relaxation, it was decided that we were to take a long, refreshing hike up a mountain trail. Strapping on my boots and donning my supply-laden backpack, I set off on the trail in a mood of feigned optimism, given the constant, throbbing ache in my back and stomach.
Despite my own bodily complaints, I soon found myself a reason to appreciate this hike. As we stepped into the forest at the base of the trail, I found myself standing in awe at the feet of the gigantic redwood trees. I turned my astonished gaze to the sky, unable to conceive the tops of these totemic ancients. We eagerly ventured further into the woods, and soon the sweet fragrance of untainted air compelling us around and around the switchbacks that led up the mountain. The gentle ripples of sound emanating from an ever -flowing stream of spring water caressed our ears as we took in the beauty of nature that dazzled our very eyes. A feeling of absolute tranquility enveloped us.
We hiked on and on, disregarding the numbness of our bodies as nature compelled us forward. The air quickly became vapid and meager as the switchbacks grew longer and steeper. At last, at the peak of our strength we came to a promontory of boulders and pebbles, where we made our rest in view of the snowy mountains and lush, evergreen forests. For nearly half and hour we sat there chatting, snapping photos, and taking in the magnificent scenery that took our paltry reserves of breath away. For nearly an half and hour we gazed at the towering giant of Mt. Rainier looming in the distance.
Then, finally, only after hunger overruled our desire to stay did we begin our descent. Because it was completely downhill the descent was doubly quicker and doubly more painful than the ascent. It did not take long, but by the time we reached the inn we found ourselves completely worn out and ready for supper and sleep. With the wooden beacon of comfort before me, I took one final glance over my shoulder. Mt. Rainier stood there, still as tall and as ominous as ever. We would climb it tomorrow, but that is a story set for another time.
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