Another last minute road trip decision. We’re looking at unusually warm weather for this time of year with zero chance of rain. Seems like a good chance to do the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comffice:smarttags" /><st1lace w:st="on">Mount Rainier</st1lace> loop. It’s an easy 2 day ride. Heck, it’s not a bad one day loop - depending where you start from - if you just want to log some miles and enjoy the view. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comfficeffice" /><o></o> <o></o> Mt. Rainier from Sunrise Point. That's Little Tahoma Peak on the left. PNW riders are familiar with this route. It’s been one of my favorite <st1:State w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Washington</st1lace></st1:State> areas for many years. For those of you just passing through, it’s worth a shot, depending on the weather. I’ve heard many times before – the mountain makes it’s own weather – and it’s true. <o></o> This was a bullet proof weekend, but it pays to be prepared for rain, mist, fog, and worse when riding here. Chinook pass is closed November through late May due to heavy snow just to give you an idea. The riding season is realistically restricted to maybe four months a year for a fair weather rider like me if I want to make the loop. <o></o> I’m going to make the clockwise loop, running from <st1:Street w:st="on"><st1:address w:st="on">Federal Way</st1:address></st1:Street> to <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Sunrise</st1lace></st1:City> on the North side of the mountain. <o></o> It seems like I usually go counterclockwise, but I’m tired of the slog homeward on 410 West through Greenwater, Enumclaw, Buckley, and <st1lace w:st="on"><st1laceName w:st="on">Bonney</st1laceName> <st1laceType w:st="on">Lake</st1laceType></st1lace>. I’m going to try and be smarter this time. Turns out to be a good choice. Lesson Learned. <o></o> I pack up Friday night and depart <st1:Street w:st="on"><st1:address w:st="on">Federal Way</st1:address></st1:Street> at 9am Saturday – not too bad considering I was up until 2:30 this morning. <o></o> I’ll try and mostly let the photos speak for themselves from here on - I know, I'm long winded - my apologies. <o></o> Making a straight shot to White River Campground, I’m lucky to find this spot. <o></o> There’s a minor traffic jam at the entrance to the National Park. I think I got one of the last, if not the last spot open here. Most times when I’ve been here there is a campground full sign out front. As it turns out my site might be the most private spot in the place. Site C25. It looks ugly at first, because it’s directly across from the day use area, but that turned out to be a good thing. <o></o> Tent set up by noon, it’s time to head up to <st1lace w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">Sunrise</st1:City></st1lace> via the <st1:Street w:st="on"><st1:address w:st="on">Sunrise Park Road</st1:address></st1:Street>. <o></o> It’s a twisty 11 mile climb from the campground in reasonable condition with some great views. <o></o> Sunrise Point, a bit over halfway up, features great vistas and a trail to alpine lakes. <o></o> Harley headed down the hill. <o></o> Sunrise Point parking lot. <o></o> Pulling around the switchback at Sunrise Point, the mountain just hits you in the face. It’s an awesome feeling riding up this stretch. <o></o> Alpine lake from Sunrise Point. <o></o> At the top of the climb there is a parking lot, and visitor’s center. It serves as a trailhead to paths that can take you right onto the mountain if you’re so inclined. There a lot of trails up here, leading to alpine lakes and meadows, and of course, the volcano. <o></o> <st1:City w:st="on">Sunrise</st1:City> gives the absolute best view of the mountain in my mind, <st1lace w:st="on">Paradise</st1lace> on the south side is nice, but it’s nothing like the view you get from here. <o></o> I’m hungry. It’s hot out. Not much to choose from at the visitor’s center since they are usually closed after labor day. They’re open special this weekend because of the outlandish warm streak. I buy a cold bottle of water and guzzle half of it while snacking on some trail mix. <o></o> There is a place about halfway to <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Yakima</st1lace></st1:City> from here on 410 east. I decide to head there for lunch. It’s a hot ride, but fun. <o></o> After crossing the <st1lace w:st="on"><st1laceName w:st="on">Chinook</st1laceName> <st1laceType w:st="on">Pass</st1laceType></st1lace> summit the downhill run to Whistlin Jack Resort is a blast if you can squirt past the slow rollers. <o></o> The best thing about Whistlin Jack Resort? They have gas and a mini-mart here. Sounds like a joke, I know, but they’re located halfway between nothing and next to nothing so it’s a big deal. <o></o> I was less than impressed with the restaurant. I was thinking a nice salad would be perfect on such a hot day. Well, it would have been nice if not for the stale tomatoes, stale lettuce, surly wait staff, and burned steak medallions I foolishly added. Everyone from the hostess and waitresses, on down to the mini-mart employees, had that ‘what the hell do you want’ attitude. You know, those people who work in the service industry that treat every customer as an irritation and intrusion into their daily routine. Near as I can tell, the only reason they remain in business is because they have no competition. <o></o> The <st1lace w:st="on">Mount Rainier</st1lace> loop can be challenging for those on a bike with limited range. There are really only 4 places to stop for gas on the edges of the park…Greenwater, Ashford, Whistlin Jack Resort, and Packwood in the NW, SW, NE, and SE corners, respectively. There’s not a lot of margin for error if you only have a 150 mile range and you’re thinking about exploring. No problem with the weestrom’s range, though. <o></o> I met these two Harley riders as we exited the eatery. He tells me it was his idea to park in the shade – “nobody was parked here when I showed up, I’m thinking fuck this I’m parking in front. There was nobody here and now we have a long line!” The gal is interested in the bright yellow Beestrom. The guy says, “that must be fast, what the hell is it?” “Umm, yeah, faster than I need”, comes my standard response. “It’s only a 650, though. It’s a Suzuki.” We chat for a bit and they head out. They seemed like a real nice couple, doing the loop from the <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Seattle</st1lace></st1:City> area. A lot of HD riders won’t even acknowledge a Japanese bike. These two were friendly. <o></o> Parked in the shade. <o></o> The ‘resort’ had a nice little riverfront area with tables and outside dining. <o></o> This place is a popular rest stop for riders of all flavors. <o></o> A little of everything here – Harleys, Japanese V-twins, sport bikes, gold wings, and a gaggle of dirt bikes. <o></o> And, of course, a popular spectator sport is watching folks scream out of the parking lot. This guy and his buddies fly out at warp speed. <o></o> His buddies follow. <o></o> Next Post – Spending the night at <st1lace w:st="on">White River</st1lace> campground, some fun with the camera, and the Sunday ride home.