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Making a mountain out of a mountain

September 22, 2007
Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier (photo courtesy USGS)

Mount Rainier looks absolutely awesome. Unfortunately, I don’t want to stop and admire the view, because I have a secret fear that I’d be stuck here.

The PX is chugging along at 35 mph in 3rd gear. There isn’t a lot of traffic, but I’m still rather annoyed at the Mazda3 with Nevada plates (i.e., rental) that keeps blowing by, then stopping at the turnouts.

Really, chugging is not an accurate description. It’s running just fine; it’s me who’s trying to put the visions of plunging off the road in flames to certain doom on the slope far below out of my mind. Luckily, the weather is just about perfect. No fog, no clouds, really. Just amazing blue sky and relatively warm temperatures for 5,000 feet above sea level. I’m glad I didn’t have a brain fade in the clothing department, remembering the thermal underwear and the thick turtleneck under the Corazzo jacket.

Once you make the left turn at the junction with SR 123 (which was still closed), the road gets really twisty, and it seems even more so on the PX.

After what seems like forever, I spot the gate that marks the entrance to the Wenatchee National Forest. In smaller rocks, it says, “Chinook Pass 5430 Feet”. Oooh, that’s higher than I thought, and bit troubling since a weather report said the freezing level in the Cascades would drop to 5,000 feet early next week.

Time for a break, so I pull into the parking lot just past the summit. I’ll get my Steve Williams on and take a few pictures of the PX against the backdrop of the mountains, and the valley. And the road, which goes way off into the distance, at an angle that is disturbingly steep.

I don’t like going down hills on two wheels, no matter what those wheels are attached to. You can run out of brakes very quickly and very easily on a PX, so I decide to descend the slope in third gear. Traffic is light, and there seem to be places to pull out of the way. I’m not on a schedule, I remind myself, I have all day to get to Tri-Cities. I’ve actually made quite good time, it being about 11:00 am when I stopped.

So down I go. And down, and down, and down some more. Gosh, I don’t remember it taking this long in the Escape. Of course not, I could go the speed limit in the Escape. I’m pleasantly surprised that the PX started right up and idled without hesitation, even though it was jetted for sea level, not a mile high.

I only got passed by a couple of motorcycles, and they could use the part of the lane I wasn’t occupying. Finally, I spot a sign: “Chain-Off Parking Area,” it says.

I slip the PX into 4th gear, and exhale profusely. Favicon


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