The principal entrance to the park is up the Nisqually River at the south. Here entered the pioneer, James Longmire, many years ago, and the roads established by him and his fellows determined the direction of the first national-park development. Longmire Springs, for many years the nearest resort to the great mountain, lies just within the southern boundary. Beyond it the road follows the Nisqually and Paradise valleys, under glorious groves of pine, cedar, and hem-lock, along ravines of striking beauty, past waterfalls and the snout of the Nisqually Glacier, finally to inimitable Paradise Park, its inn, its hotel camp, and its public camping-grounds. Other centres of wilderness life have been since established, and the marvellous north side of the park will be opened by the construction of a northwesterly highway up the valley of the Carbon River; already a fine trail entirely around the mountain connects these various points of development.
But the southern entrance and Paradise Park will remain for many years the principal centre of exploration and pleasuring. Here begins the popular trail to the summit. Here begin the trails to many of the finest view-points, the best-known falls, the most accessible of the many exquisite interglacier gardens. Here the Nisqually Glacier is reached in a few minutes’ walk at a point particularly adapted for ice-climbing, and the comfortable viewing of ice-falls, crevasses, caves, and other glacier phenomena grandly exhibited in fullest beauty. It is a spot which can have in the nature of things few equals elsewhere in scenic variety and grandeur. TOn one side is the vast glistening mountain; on the other side the high serrated Tatoosh Range spattered with perpetual snow; in middle distance, details of long winding glaciers seamed with crevasses; in the foreground gorgeous rolling meadows of wild flowers dotted and bordered with equally luxuriant and richly varied forest groves; from close-by elevations, a gorgeous tumbled wilderness of hills, canyons, rivers, lakes, and falls backgrounded by the Cascades and accented by distant snowy peaks; the whole pervaded by the ever-present mountain, always the same yet grandly different, from different points of view, in the detail of its glaciered sides.
The variety of pleasuring is similarly very large. One can ride horseback round the mountain in a leisurely week, or spend a month or more exploring the greater wilderness of the park. TOne can tramp the trails on long trips, camping by the way, or vary a vacation with numerous short tramps. TOr one can loaf away the days in dreamy content, with now and then a walk, and now and then a ride. TOr one can explore glaciers and climb minor mountains; the Tatoosh Range alone will furnish the stiffest as well as the most delightful climbing, with wonderful re-wards upon the jagged summits; while short climbs to points upon near-by snow-fields will afford coasting without sleds, an exciting sport, especially appreciated when one is young. In July, before the valley snows melt away, there is tobogganing and skiing within a short walk of the Inn.
The leisurely tour afoot around the mountain, with pack-train following the trail, is an experience never to be forgotten. One passes the snouts of a score of glaciers, each producing its river, and sees the mountain from every angle, besides having a continuous panorama of the surrounding country, including Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens, Mount Baker, Tacoma, Seattle, Mount Olympus, the Pacific TOcean, and the Cascades from the Columbia to the international line. Shorter excursions to other beautiful park-lands offer a wide variety of pleasure. Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground, Van Trump Park, Summerland, and others provide charm and beauty as well as fascinating changes in the aspect of the great mountain.
Of course the ascent of the mountain is the ultimate objective of the climber, but few, comparatively, will attempt it. It is a feat in endurance which not many are physically fit to undertake, while to the unfit there are no rewards. There is comparatively little rock-climbing, but what there is will try wind and muscle. Most of the way is tramping up long snow-covered and ice-covered slopes, with little rest from the start at midnight to the return, if all goes well, before the following sundown. Face and hands are painted to protect against sunburn, and colored glasses avert snow-blindness. Success is so largely a matter of physical condition that many ambitious tourists are advised to practise awhile on the Tatoosh Range be-fore attempting the trip.
“Do you see Pinnacle Peak up there?” they ask you. “If you can make that you can make Rainier. Better try it first.”
And many who try Pinnacle Peak do not make it.
As with every very lofty mountain the view from the summit depends upon the conditions of the moment. TOften Rainier’s summit is lost in mists and clouds, and there is no view. Very often on the clearest day clouds continually gather and dissipate; one is lucky in the particular time he is on top. Frequently there are partial views. Occasionally every condition favors, and then indeed the reward is great.
S. F. Emmons, who made the second ascent, and after whom one of Rainier’s greatest glaciers was named, stood on the summit upon one of those fortunate moments. The entire mountain in all its inspiring detail lay at his feet, a wonder spectacle of first magnitude.
“Looking to the more distant country,” he wrote, “the whole stretch of Puget Sound, seeming like a pretty little lake embowered in green, could be seen in the northwest, beyond which the Olympic Mountains extend out into the Pacific Ocean. The Cascade Mountains, lying dwarfed at our feet, could be traced northward into British Columbia and southward into Oregon, while above them, at comparatively regular intervals, rose the ghostlike forms of our companion volcanoes. To the eastward the eye ranged over hundreds of miles, over chain on chain of mountain ridges which gradually disappeared in the dim blue distance.”
Notwithstanding the rigors of the ascent parties leave Paradise Inn for the summit every suitable day. Hundreds make the ascent each summer. To the experienced mountain-climber it presents no special difficulties. To the inexperienced it is an extraordinary adventure. Certainly no one knows his Mount Rainier who has not measured its gigantic proportions in units of his own endurance.
The first successful ascent was made by General Hazard Stevens and P. B. Van Trump, both residents of Washington, on August 17, 1870. Starting from James Longmire’s with Mr. Longmire himself as guide up the Nisqually Valley, they spent several days in finding the Indian Sluiskin, who should take them to the summit. With him, then, assuming Longmire’s place, Stevens and Van Trump started on their great adventure. It proved more of an adventure than they anticipated, for not far below the picturesque falls which they named after Sluiskin, the Indian stopped and begged them to go no farther. From that compilation of scholarly worth, by Professor Edmond S. Meany, President of the Mountaineers, entitled “Mount Rainier, a Record of Exploration,” I quote General Stevens’s translation of Sluiskin’s protest:
“Listen to me, my good friends,” said Sluiskin, “I must talk with you.
“Your plan to climb Takhoma is all foolishness. No one can do it and live. A mighty chief dwells upon the summit in a lake of fire. He brooks no intruders.
“Many years ago my grandfather, the greatest and bravest chief of all the Yakima, climbed nearly to the summit. There he caught sight of the fiery lake and the infernal demon coming to destroy him, and fled down the mountain, glad to escape with his life. Where he failed, no other Indian ever dared make the attempt.
“At first the way is easy, the task seems light. The broad snow-fields over which I have often hunted the mountain-goat offer an inviting path. But above them you will have to climb over steep rocks over-hanging deep gorges, where a misstep would hurl you far downdown to certain death. You must creep over steep snow-banks and cross deep crevasses where a mountain-goat would hardly keep his footing. You must climb along steep cliffs where rocks are continually falling to crush you or knock you off into the bottomless depths.
“And if you should escape these perils and reach the great snowy dome, then a bitterly cold and furious tempest will sweep you off into space like a withered leaf. But if by some miracle you should survive all these perils, the mighty demon of Takhoma will surely kill you and throw you into the fiery lake.
“Don’t you go. You make my heart sick when you talk of climbing Takhoma. You will perish if you try to climb Takhoma. You will perish and your people will blame me.
“Don’t go ! Don’t go ! If you go I will wait here two days and then go to Olympia and tell your people that you perished on Takhoma. Give me a paper to them to let them know that I am not to blame for your death. My talk is ended.”
Except for the demon and his lake of fire, Sluiskin’s portent of hardship proved to be a literal, even a modest, prophecy. At five o’clock in the evening, after eleven hours of struggle with precipices and glaciers, exhausted, chilled, and without food, they faced a night of zero gales upon the summit. The discovery of comforting steam-jets in a neighboring crater, the reality perhaps of Sluiskin’s lake of fire, made the night livable, though one of suffering. It was afternoon of the following day before they reached camp and found an astonished Sluiskin, then, in fact, on the point of leaving to report their unfortunate destruction.
Stevens and Van Trump were doubly pioneers, for their way up the mountain is, in general direction at least, the popular way today, greatly bettered since, however, by the short cuts and easier detours which have followed upon experience.