As I ventured to the north side of the Wonderland loop, it seemed more and more like I hopped into the pages
of a children’s illustrated book of fairy tales. A land created by artists, not natural processes. Wildflowers bloomed everywhere and lush
green plants and moss grew everywhere else.
At Mystic Lake, my view of Rainier was as close as ever. I got a better feel for how massive it is. I could now see light blue cliffs of ice, several stories high, that formed where immense glaciers
cracked and tumbled down the mountain. Eventually, I was close enough to see the thin
meandering trails left by mountaineers climbing to its peak.
After setting up camp in a thick pine forest, I leaned against a log, ate dinner, and read a book. Through the trees, I could hear pops, bangs, and cracks coming from Rainier. I wondered if it was the glaciers melting and breaking up or the sound of huge boulders being tossed downstream like billiard balls, by one of the creeks, which were swelled from the melting snow and ice.
Soon, the crack of lightning joined the percussive sounds coming from Rainier. The
sky above me still had a lot of blue behind nonthreatening white clouds, but Mount Rainier is so big, it has its own weather.
It is definitely one of Earth’s great mountains.
"You ever think of hiking to the peak?" I asked an older man the next morning, after we shared a few moments of silence staring at Rainier.
He looked at the mountain reverently and contemplated it for a bit, and then simply said, "No."
"I think I do," I said. I'm beginning to feel like I want to go beyond backpacking on well-maintained trails and do something that requires more technical skill.
I'm crossing the Wonderland Trail from my life list, but adding "Climb to the Top of Mount Rainier." Will this list ever get any shorter? If I don't stop adding to my list of things to do before I die, I don't think I'll ever get around to dying.