Between Ashford and Elbe, Washington, there is an outdoor gallery for an artist named Dan Klennert who builds animals, people, machines, you name it, out of old iron parts or driftwood. Some of it is truly astonishing to see. He calls his park Ex-Nihilo, meaning "something from nothing." And exploring Ex-Nihilo was a real treat.
Rainier Day 1: Elbe, Washington
Driving to Mount Rainier National Park, we stopped at former logging and railroad town, Elbe, Washington. The tiny town is full of old rail cars to commemorate the industries that built the area in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Rainier Day 1: Lunch at Wildberry Restaurant, Ashford
On our last stop before entering the Mount Rainier National Park, we pulled over for lunch outdoors at a lovely roadside cafe called Wildberry. It offers "authentic Sherpa-Himalayan Cuisine of Nepal" and has a big outdoor seating area. I most enjoyed the sunlit prayer flags fluttering in summer breeze. Our morning fog was finally burning off.
Rainier Day 1: Trail of the Shadows Hike, Longmire
After lunch we entered the Mount Rainier National Park and took the Trail of the Shadows hike across the road from the Longmire National Park Inn. It's a short hike, but with lots of quick changes of scenery to make it interesting to all ages. As you leave the inn, you get breathtaking views of Rainier and then you travel through swampy meadows and into the forest whose giant fir trees give the trail its name. There are also several springs along the trail, including the vibrantly colored and slightly poisonous Iron Mike spring, and even a restored homestead cabin from the 19th century.
Rainier Day 1: Hiking in Paradise
Near the end of Day 1 in the Mount Rainier National Park, we stopped at the satisfyingly appropriately named Paradise, Washington, for some hiking and then a picnic dinner. The views were beyond description! And the weather for us was perfection, as the fog burned off Rainier just as we started on the trail. When you visit the park, Paradise is a must-see!
Rainier Day 1: Reflection Lake
Reflection Lake is nestled in the foothills below Mount Rainier. There was just enough wind when we visited to send ripples across the water and prevent reflections of the mountain. Oh well! It was still absolutely gorgeous.