I head downtown to the Pioneer Square Historic District, a 25-block area of 1890ís vintage architecture. The area now features shops, art galleries, restaurants, and bookshops, but 100 years ago it was a bustling regional trade center, the jumping off point for Yukon bound gold seekers. That time and place is celebrated at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park which also has a sister site in Skagway, Alaska.
Turning south, I can see my next destination looming in the distance: Mount Rainier National Park. I reach the outskirts of the park by late afternoon. A majestic volcanic mountain, the glacier-capped peak rises 14,411 feet, higher than any other in Washington State. I travel along the eastern edge of the park and enter at the Stevens Canyon Entrance near the southeast corner. The Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center, about 20 miles west, closes at 6:00 PM and I get there with ten minutes to spare. This is the most unique VC Iíve seen at any park site. The building is round with a huge, glass-enclosed observation deck offering spectacular views of the mountain and Paradise Valley. The structure was originally designed for a volcano site in Hawaii.
Mt. Rainier is a relatively young volcano, only about one million years old. While it may be dormant right now, scientists agree that it will erupt again, and the results will be disastrous. For evidence of the mountainís potential you need to only look a few miles south to the next peak, Mount St. Helens.
The park has a number of campgrounds, but the one closest to the visitor center is Cougar Rock. The ranger tells me there are 200 sites there and I should have no problems getting a space tonight, even on a Saturday, because at this time of year the temperature it is a bit colder than most people enjoy. She says I wonít freeze but it will be chilly. Itís getting dark, as the sun sets here today at 6:47 PM. So I head down to Cougar Rock, pick out site number C-24 and pitch my tent. Iím getting rather proficient at this and it takes me only fifteen minutes to get the dry bag off the bike and set up the tent, a Eureka Backcountry 2.
The campground is very nice: a dense forest of enormous cedar and fir trees. I head down for a quick bite at The National Park Inn in Longmire. The hostess gives me a hassle for not having a dinner reservation, but Iím finished with the roast beef special before she even notices. I want to head back to Cougar Rock as soon as possible. Those few miles riding back in the dark, looking out for deer and elk, is something Iíd rather avoid.
The donuts in Grand Marais can rest easy knowing they are definitely the "Worldís Best". But the best cinnamon roll lives at 2305 Eastlake Avenue East, Seattle, WA 98102. LOOK OUT WORLD.
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