Thursday, August 7, 2014

Escape from Utah

In desperate need of a brief vacation and a recharge of the batteries, we spent today at one of my favorite places in the world, Mt. Rainier National Park.  There's pretty much everything you could possibly want here: big relief, snow, ice, big trees, fascinating weather, amazing geology, and, to top it all off, Northwest beer.  

We spent today at Sunrise on the northeast side of the park.  What's great about Sunrise is you can spend hours walking through meadows and alpine areas above timberline with very little climbing.  Further, you can gape at huge relief and the largest glacier in the lower 48, the Emmons.  

In the photo below (click to enlarge), the summit of Mt. Rainier loops nearly 10,000 vertical feet above the upper White River Valley.  Little Tahoma, a peak reaching over 11,000 feet that would otherwise look like Mt. Hood, is dwarfed by the hulk of Rainier.  The Emmons Glacier issues from the summit of Mt. Rainier and descends into the upper White River Valley.  A huge portion of the lower glacier is buried in debris from a huge slide in 1963.  The White River emerges from the toe of the glacier, which is buried under this debris.  A beautiful lake, tinted turquoise by glacial rock flour, completes the picture.  

I like the photo below because it helps to put the scale of the area into perspective.  We're standing on 7,000 foot Burroughs Mountain, with the crevasses of the Emmons Glacier in the distance.

Here's something else that we found interesting.  In this relatively flat area, we found trees that had been snapped off deposited on the ground.  They were scattered about, all generally facing the same way, but with no stumps anywhere to be seen. 

Here's another look. 

What you can't see in this photo is the steep avalanche slope to the right.  Apparently these trees were snapped off upslope and deposited in the runout zone.  There weren't many large trees in the avalanche path, so apparently it took just a few and laid them to rest in the meadow. 

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