Beaten, battered, and still recovering from last fall's storms, Mount Rainier will open for the summer travel season. But it definitely won't be easy to traverse the park due to some substantial road damage.
"Visitors will be able to access all of the popular destinations in the park, but it may not be possible to travel between them," says park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga. "But it's certainly still worth coming!"
Indeed, it might be even more fascinating than usual to visit Mount Rainier this summer, to see up close the damage Mother Nature inflicted last November. But it won't be easy.
If all things go as planned -- meaning no major spring storms or construction delays-- you'll be able to reach Paradise on May 5. While the Longmire Museum and Jackson Visitor Center are scheduled to open on the same day, the Longmire Wilderness Information Center won't open its doors until May 25.
As far as campgrounds, Cougar Rock Campground is scheduled to be open for business on May 18, a week earlier than normal, but officials hope that will offset the loss of the Sunshine Point Campground, which was literally swept away by last November's flood waters and will not reopen this year.
Of course, while you will be able to get to Paradise, who knows when you'll be able to head farther east from there? Landslides buried the Stevens Canyon Road in two places and in a third a washout sent a mudslide thousands of feet down into the Ohanapecosh Campground. No word just yet on when that road will reopen.
That said, Washington 123 will open to the Stevens Canyon Entrance on May 18. But several major washouts will keep the road from Stevens Canyon to Cayuse Pass closed all summer. The Ohanapecosh Campground should open May 25.
Washington 410, aka the Mather Memorial Parkway, across Chinnook Pass is scheduled to open in mid-May as usual, and the road to the White River Campground will open May 25, with the campground opening at the end of June. The Sunrise Road and the Visitor Center will open in late June, as well.
Over in the park's northwestern corner, the Carbon River Road will not be open to vehicle traffic this summer, though the Ipsut Creek Campground will be open for walk-in campers. And the Mowich Lake Road should open on June 29.
The National Park Inn at Longmire will be open for business once the Nisqually Road to Paradise opens to the public. The Paradise Inn, though, is closed for a major rehabilitation and isn't scheduled to reopen until the summer of 2008.
If you plan to backpack in Rainier this summer, that too could be difficult in places. The November storm took out many backcountry bridges and damaged trails. Two sections of the 93-mile-long Wonderland Trail will be closed due to damage.
"Those planning their 'once-in-a-lifetime' trip on the Wonderland Trail might want to postpone the experience until next year," says Rainier spokeswoman Lee Taylor.
The Glacier Basin Trail that provides access to the Emmons Glacier was washed away and might not be usable this summer, either. "This is just the first of what will probably be many areas of damage we discover as the snow melts," says Taylor.
To check trail conditions, call 360-569-HIKE or visit the park's web site.
All that said, if you find yourself in the Northwest, check out Rainier this summer.
"The public has been waiting patiently since November for the day when they can get back into the park to camp, hike and climb," says Sean Smith, northwest regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association. "However, much work still remains to be done, and we can use everyone's help in the repair and recovery effort."
If you have time to help with the recovery and want to know how you might, check out this site.
To see images of the damage, check out this site.