Rainier is Shorthand for “Rains All Year”, Right?


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Published: April 26th 2012
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Tacoma Hot ShopTacoma Hot ShopTacoma Hot Shop

The glass shop at the Tacoma Museum of Glass

Tacoma Museum of Glass





I started today at one of Tacoma’s most important museums, the Museum of Glass.

Tacoma is one of the centers of the art glass movement, thanks to local resident David Chihuly.

The museum exists to expand the art form.

Its centerpiece is a state of the art glass foundry.

Guest artists spend one week each in this foundry, creating works they otherwise would not have the resources to do.

The foundry is located in an amphitheater, so museum visitors can watch people work.

When I was there, the activity was pretty familiar to anyone who has been in a glass shop.

A group of assistants rolled a hot glass glob on a table as someone blew into the tube to create a vase-like structure.

Finishing was added with a blow torch.

The structure will ultimately become the stem of a huge wine glass.

Red liquid will be pumped through the stem and glass, to show “the cup runs over”.





What I want to see is much more unusual techniques that few people use.

The museum has a show currently of former resident artists and the work
Bridge of glassBridge of glassBridge of glass

A small portion of the Bridge of glass by David Chiluly outside the Tacoma Museum of Glass
they created.

Oiva Toikka cut glass when it was nearly hot enough to melt.

Lino Tagliapietra resurrected techniques from the Italian renaissance, fusing thin blown vessels.

David Chihuly himself was an early resident, and his work features his trademark wiggle lines on a glass form so thin it looks like it will break.





The museum’s other major effort is a program for kids called “design a creature”.

Students in local schools draw designs for monsters at the museum.

They then write a back story for their creature explaining why it looks the way it does.

Each month, the museum staff selects one design and makes it in the glass shop.

Inevitably, the creator’s eyes light up when they see the final result.

Most of the creatures look exactly like a child’s drawing made in glass, but some are quite difficult to make.

Kids don’t know the limits of glass sculpture, so some of what they come up with stretches the technicians’ skills to their limits.

My favorite of the display was a glass piggy bank in a glass blanket.

The “pig in a blanket” is trying to avoid swine flu!



Christine FallsChristine FallsChristine Falls

Christine Falls at Mount Rainier. Look for the rock bridge near the top of the photo.


The most famous feature of the museum is actually located outside it.

The museum is connected to others by a bridge over railroad tracks.

Dave Chihuly turned it into a bridge of glass.

The entire thing is covered in glass sculptures he made, from seashells to bottles.

It all somehow fits together as one huge installation.


Mount Rainier



After the museum, I drove to the huge mountain I had seen yesterday, Mount Rainier.

I immediately discovered the rarity of that view from Manchester Beach.

Inside the National Park, I reached an area called Longmire with a large lodging called the National Park Inn.

The Inn is the oldest structure in the park.

It had a perfect view, of clouds.

This is what Rainier looks like most of the year.

Moisture coming off the Pacific condenses as it rises over the mountain, forming lots of clouds that hide it from view.





After the Inn, the road winds through lots of pine trees, with occasional views of volcanic outcrops.

The most notable of these is Cougar Rock.

It then reaches a bridge over a narrow rocky gorge,
Nisqually ValleyNisqually ValleyNisqually Valley

Nisqually valley from the roadside overlook. Many people only see a view like this, with Mount Rainier covered in clouds.
with a perfect view of a little waterfall up stream.

Many people can’t resist standing on the road to get a picture.

The sign says “Christine Falls”.

What many people don’t realize is that the actual waterfall is much more impressive, and it is located below the bridge.

A short trail leads to an overlook with a perfect view of the pour over falls, perfectly framed by the stone bridge above it.





With the heavy snow this year, a sight appears near the ravine that can only be seen from the road.

A stream of snowmelt fell over a ledge right next to the road.

This raining waterfall fell into a roadside ditch.

I found it more exciting than the view from the bridge.





Soon afterward, the road crosses a high bridge over a wide gorge.

The center of the gorge is all rocks and debris, with a narrow grey river running down the middle.

One side of the bridge shows the gorge surrounded by mountain ridges.

The other side shows the gorge rising into the clouds.

The river is Nisqually,
Narada FallsNarada FallsNarada Falls

Narada Falls, the most popular on Mount Rainier. The waterfall is almost too tall to fit in the picture.
and it flows from a glacier on Rainier.





On the other side of the bridge, the road climbs up a ridge.

It has beautiful views throughout, of the clouds.

People stopping on the road are a real hazard, so the park service built a huge overlook near the top of the ridge.

According to the signboard, it has a perfect view of the mountain.

I could sort of imagine where it is based on the pictures.


Narada Falls



Next, the road passes a stream with a very large parking lot next to it.

The lot marks the most popular waterfall in the park, Narada.

It is named for the leader of an early 1900s religious movement, who believed that God is expressed through nature.

The trail from the parking lot passes a bridge over the wide stream.

It shows the top of a very long drop, but not much else.

A heavily used trail drops down the side of the ravine, revealing the waterfall.

The water spreads out into a curtain, and then drops a long way.

It gave off enough
World in whiteWorld in whiteWorld in white

Hiking through the snow near Paradise on Mount Rainier
spray to create a rainbow.

It also gave off enough to thoroughly soak the viewing area at the bottom of the trail.

That water was cold!


Paradise on Mount Rainier



After the waterfall, the road climbs through a series of tight switchbacks.

Little waterfalls appear along the side of the road.

Patches of snow start showing up, and soon cover everything in sight.

Eventually, the road rose into the fog and reached a large complex of buildings surrounding a big parking lot.

Despite the size, this lot fills up nearly every summer weekend.

This area is the most popular in the entire park, Paradise.

Paradise is considered the most beautiful part of Rainier by many people, but I couldn’t see much beyond the snow and the fog.





One of the bigger buildings in the complex holds the visitors’ center.

It has a really good gift shop and a three dimensional map of the park, among other things.

The center is also the starting point for a number of trails that are supposed to wander through wildflower covered meadows.

This year, all of them were snow covered.

Like Hurricane Ridge in the Olympics (see Wildflower View Fest) people could not resist taking pictures of themselves on the snow for some reason.





I wanted to hike, so I hiked through the snow.

The trails are heavily used, so they were obvious to follow.

The one I picked showed ever changing views of dark green pine trees against white snow through the fog.

It greatly reminded me of winter hiking I have done back home.

The trail ended with a foggy view of the Nisqually Valley from earlier.

When the air is clear, it is supposed to show the bottom of a glacier.





The Paradise Inn also exists in the complex.

It was built in the early 1900s.

Like the Old Faithful Inn (see Thar She Blows, Captain), it is made entirely of wood.

Its centerpiece is a long central hall that looks like an overgrown log cabin.

It has a piano in the center, made of the same wood as the building.

The inn also has a pricy restaurant that specializes in locally grown food.

It was worth it as a treat,
Paradise Inn interiorParadise Inn interiorParadise Inn interior

The main gathering room of the Paradise Inn
because the food is very good.





Walking back to my car after dark was pretty.

The fog glowed under the lights, giving everything the look of a fairy tale village.

My guidebook warned to appreciate the atmosphere the fog provides, because it may be the only view of Rainier visitors can get.

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