When my sister-in-law and I got off our Amtrak train in Spokane we stayed a couple nights in a perfectly respectable Travelodge. The next night we had a rustic-at-best cabin at an RV camp in Cougar, Washington. But the next night we stayed in Paradise.
We signed in at Paradise Inn at Mount Rainier National Park a few hours after it opened for the season. On May 15th the snow around the inn was piled high, in many places obscuring windows. It was sixty-five degrees, and there was a lake of melted water by the doors. At 5,400 feet above sea level it looked like January, but felt like a balmy spring day.
According to Great Lodges of the West, by Christine Barnes, the architectural firm for the inn was Heath and Gove of Tacoma, and for the annex (where we stayed) it was Harlan Thomas. The inn opened July 1, 1917, built for $100,000, and became a National Historic Landmark in 1987.
The view out the small windows was stunning. Although our window did not show Mt. Rainier, it did show the Tatoosh Range. At night we saw a fox running across the snow in the moonlight.
A handful of well-equipped climbers start off for a day at Mt. Rainier. Right after I took this picture I met a park ranger named Sarah Pigeon, a name that made me smile since I am a fan of ranger Anna Pigeon in Nevada Barr's national park themed murder mysteries. I wonder if she has written one set here.
I've stayed at historic lodges before in places like Mt. Hood, Crater Lake, and the Grand Canyon. This one, like the others, depends on its setting and rustic architecture for its appeal. The rooms aren't new or spacious; there is no telephone or television, but who wants to spend time in a room when natural splendor waits steps away? The inn features cedar shingles and rock masonry that makes the building fit into its environment beautifully. The great hall has a two and a half story ceiling, a features two massive stone fireplaces. There is a huge cedar table that is supposed to weigh over a thousand pounds, six-foot throne chairs, a rustic grandfather clock and piano that was once played by Harry Truman. A man played piano that afternoon, taking requests for show tunes from guests lounging in the hall. Light streams in through dormer windows high above a mezzanine where tea is served in the afternoon and coffee in the morning. The second story balcony with its hickory tables and chairs is a good place to read, write a post card, or sip wine. Large suspended light fixtures from the 1930s with drum shades hand painted with native wild flowers softly illuminate the room. There is also a large comfortable dining room, staffed by young men and women who were just learning their tables and how to operate the new computer system. The food was delicious.
I wish we could have seen the inn in summer when the wildflowers are in bloom, but I thought the snow covered mountains were stunning. Plus this early in the season the area isn't as crowded as it can be when the weather is warmer. We couldn't hike at this altitude without snowshoes, but we drove down the mountain, stopping for more views along the way, and hiked near the National Park Inn at Longmire. There was no snow there, and we stretched our legs on a couple muddy fern-lined trails.
Click on the link below to see more about Mt. Rainier National Park.