Upper Tipsoo Lake // (c) 2008 Stephen Penland
A little learning can turn a walk in the park into a lifelong memory at Mt. Rainier, where family fun is reaching new heights thanks to educational opportunities for all ages. The Mount Rainier region encompasses communities from Chinook Pass to Crystal Mountain, Ashford and Elbe, near the Nisqually entrance, to Morton and Packwood.
On and around Mt. Rainier this summer, loved ones can take advantage of the following informative programs:
Mount Rainier National Park’s Junior Ranger Program – This longstanding tradition encourages youngsters ages 6-11 to identify plants, seek out animal tracks, and engage in other absorbing pastimes while earning a badge. The free activity booklet is available at Visitor Centers from July 1–Sept 1. Daily ranger presentations of songs, stories, games, and walks add meaning to the surroundings for parents and children alike. Look for them at the Longmire, Ohanapecosh, Sunrise/White River and Paradise campgrounds.
Slug Fest, Northwest Trek, June 27-28 – Scavenger hunts, human slug races, and slimy hikes are some of the wacky pursuits awaiting the young and young-at-heart during this distinctive event honoring the Pacific Northwest’s most valuable and misunderstood mollusk -- the native banana slug. Starting at 10AM and running throughout each day, activities are included in the regular Northwest Trek admission price (360-832-6117, www.nwtrek.org).
Ex Nihilo Sculpture Park -- In Latin, Ex Niholo means “something created out of nothing,” and that’s exactly what artist Dan Klennert does at this four-acre outdoor park. Using materials from recycling bins, abandoned farms, and junkyards, Klennert reconfigures familiar objects into something totally new, from horses made of old horseshoes to dinosaur jaws crafted out of backhoe teeth. Located near Elbe, on the way to Ashford near the Paradise entrance to Mt. Rainier, Ex Nihilo is open year-round. Admission is free, with donations accepted (www.danielklennert.com).
Pioneer Farm Museum and Ohop Indian Village -- Butter-churning, cow-milking, fishing, and other hands-on activities provide families with a firsthand feel for 1880s pioneer and Native American lifestyles. A trading post displays items from bygone eras, and informed guides add insights during tours. The attraction is open daily during the summer and weekends in the spring and fall (360-832-6300, www.pioneerfarmmuseum.org).
Nature Trail Explorations -- Self-guided hikes with interpretive signs and brochures enhance a family’s visit to the park by leaps and bounds. Consider the Trail of the Shadows, a short stroll out of Longmire that passes a mineral hot springs, an early homestead, and a variety of plants and animals. On the 1.5-mile Grove of the Patriarchs Trail near the park’s Stevens Canyon entrance, 1,000-year-old Douglas firs lend perspective to the past and the present. The 1.2-mile Nisqually Vista Trail -- a Paradise-based loop -- helps hikers understand the weather’s effect on the flora and fauna of high-country meadows.