July 26, 2010

Cougar Rock and Nisqually River Area, Mount Rainier National Park, WA

Longmire is where the main entrance to the park is in the southwest corner of the park. It was an area where the Longmire family set up a health spa near some natural mineral springs. Just a couple of miles east is the Cougar Rock campground. This is a pretty nice campground, located at 3,000 feet elevation settled into slopes of Pacific silver fir, Dougas fir, and western red cedar.

Old-growth forest near Cougar Rock Campground

Across the road from Cougar Rock Campground is the trail to Carter Falls. To get there, you must walk across the boulder field that is the Nisqually River bed. The waters are a milky brown from the silt coming off the Nisqually Glacier. Filled with granite, andesite, and a variety of other volcanic rocks, it is essentially a cross-section of the geology of the volcano.

Granite and Andesite are essentially the same rock chemically. The difference is the crystal size and how mixed the materials are. Granite forms where andesitic magma rich in silicon cools slowly deep underground. As such, the chemical separate into their white silicon-rich minerals and black feldspar crystals. Andesite is the same material, but because it is extruded as lava near the surface, the magma cools rapidly and thus the crystals are much smaller or non-existant. Thus, it tends to form a more gray color. The reddish rocks you see here are other materials infused with iron, including some pumice-like basaltic materials.

The trail to Carter Falls is about 1 mile from the river. It heads uphill through an old-growth forest along the Paradise River.

I came across one of the largest Alaska yellow cedars I have ever seen along the way.

The falls themselves are are difficult to see since they are tucked away among the trees

We also did the 5 mile loop hike on Rampart Ridge. The trail leaves from the Longmire Museum and the climbs about 1000 feet in elevation to the ridgetop. Along the ridgetop, there is a nice view down the Nisqually Valley.

Hiking on Rampart Ridge

Hilina investigating a large ant hill on the Rampart Ridge hike

Hilina pretending to be a baby Mountain Lion on Rampart Ridge

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