34F at 500 feet, 64F at 5400 feet

Or, to put it in non-American terms, the high temperature for yesterday was 1dC at my home at 470 feet/143 meters altitude in the Puget Sound lowlands, and almost 18dC at Paradise at 5400 feet/1646 meters on Mt. Rainier.

The cause of this?  The technical term is temperature inversion.  If you want to know more about it, you can read this entry in Cliff Mass’s weather blog.  He’s a meteorology professor at the University of Washington and an expert on Pacific Northwest weather, and writes an interesting and entertaining blog.

But to this layperson, what it means is that my neighborhood has looked like this for most of the last two weeks:

My neighborhood in the fog yesterday.

My neighborhood in the fog yesterday.

So my friend L and I decided to go up to Paradise, which literally was a paradise in comparison, yesterday.

We got to Longmire, at 2700 feet, late in the morning.  It was already clear there, but still pretty cold, and more snow than I’ve seen there in most winter visits I’ve made (we had a lot of precipitation — rain in the lowlands and snow in the mountains — in December).  However, there was some evidence of melting and freezing in the form of these icicles hanging off the museum roof.

Icicles at Longmire

Icicles at Longmire

The gas station at Longmire is no longer functional, but contains an exhibit about the changing modes of transportation in the park in its 100+ years of existence.  It was actually colder inside the building than out, so we didn’t linger there.

Antique gas station and transportation museum at Longmire.

Antique gas station and transportation museum at Longmire.

The melting and freezing resulted in some seriously beautiful ice crystal formations, too.  The crystals on this rock were almost an inch long, and the expanses of them on the snowbanks looked almost like fur.

Ice crystals on rock.

Ice crystals on rock.

Snow covered in crystals at Longmire.

Snow covered in crystals at Longmire.

After wandering around Longmire for a little while, we headed on up to Paradise.  The road from the Nisqually Entrance to Longmire had been more than a bit slippery — plowed but icy — and I’d been a bit concerned about going on, but another effect of the temperature inversion was that the higher we went, the better the road conditions were.  By the time we got halfway to Paradise, it was bare and dry most of the way, if hemmed in by plowed snowbanks higher than the car.

Plowed road at Paradise.

Plowed road at Paradise.

We ate lunch at the visitor center, then went out and walked around one of the several snowcatted trails.  The one we took went around behind Paradise Inn, which is closed in the winter.  The cornices and other wind-blown snow formations were spectacular.  The sun beamed down and it was warm enough that a jacket was almost too much.  Just absolutely glorious.  I could feel the funk I’d been in since we’d first gotten socked in just evaporate.  It was wonderful.

Sledding at Paradise.

Sledding at Paradise.

Paradise Inn half-buried in snow.

Paradise Inn half-buried in snow.

The Mountain, as we refer to it in this part of the world.

The Mountain, as we refer to it in this part of the world.

The Mountain behind the Inn, and the snowcatted trail.

The Mountain behind the Inn, and the snowcatted trail.

It was very hard to come back down to the gloom when the day was over.

But it was one of the best things I’ve done so far this year.  I love living two hours from Paradise.

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Categories: exploring, hiking, history, Mt. Rainier, museums, national parks, outdoors, parks, weather | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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