A beautiful, short hike to compensate for the slog that was Olympic, and for the distance I trekked at North Cascades. It was a wonderful drive up through the mountainside and the town just outside the park. I literally did not realize I was looking at Mount Rainier on the horizon for an astoundingly long time. My eyes thought I was looking at a cloud. It was a hazy blue, almost entirely covered with snow, only its harsher lines setting it apart from the sky. I laughed when I recognized it, another one of my desktop backgrounds that I never believed I would get to visit.
Mount Rainier’s Naches Peak Loop was 3.6 miles of the thickest, most extraordinary fields of wildflowers that I have ever seen. Little towers of pale, soft purple that I can’t name, all wavering in unison beside the intensely bright green grass. The colors were almost fluorescent, and sickly sweet.
The crystal-blue pond near the trail was ringed with the flowers, watched over by the trees of the most perfect green I have ever seen. Small explosions of fuchsia blooms, canary-yellow daffodils, and white buds sprinkled themselves among the enveloping waves of lilac like fireworks against the backdrop of verdant green.
The path carried on through the high hills, and Mount Rainier rose up to greet me. A cloud, it seemed, barely anchored on land. A hazy dream sloping above the landscape. And I snapped the most perfect picture of my entire trip, and maybe my entire life. The mountain, those flowers, the crystal pond, the sweeping trees. The picture could not look brighter, happier, or more pristine.
I walked slowly around the trailing edge of the loop, that lovely view about halfway through. I savored every glimpse of the dusty, soft mountain, and stopped multiple times to memorize the perfect wildflowers in my head.
And finally, I had to tear my eyes away from the mountain of cotton and its unparalleled flowers.
The best short and sweet hike on my list. The least miles for the greatest views, if that’s what you’re looking for. Outside is outside, after all.