Jun 16

Mount Rainier: A Visitor’s Companion, by George Wuerthner ★★★★

Within the next few years, I plan on doing volunteer work within Mount Rainier National Park (MRNP), and hopefully, being a trail walker. This means that I walk the trails in popular spots in the park, and tell people to stay on the trails and leave their pets in the car, as well as answering their questions, and offering help and guidance. I have hiked essential every trail in the park, as well as climbed the mountain twice via the Disappointment Cleaver. In a way, I feel that it is my backyard park, and it is! Thus, I wished to read a summary of information that might be helpful to those who would be curious about the park.

The book does offer a very superficial summary. It starts a very brief history of the park, the weather, the climbing history, as well as how the park was made a national park and then developed. Next discussed is park geology; it’s a volcano! Surprise, surprise! The geography of the park has changed a bit over the years, since glaciers, mudflows, and extreme weather has had an influence on the mountains. Wuerthner then has several lengthy chapters discussing the flora and fauna in the park. The chapter on plants in the park offers a page summary of the common trees, flowers, and shrubbery; the summary is not thorough enough to offer an identification guide. Fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals all have their own chapters, with descriptions accompanied by editorial comments. The last chapters are on hiking in the park, and nearby attractions to the park.

The book is most superficial in its detail so that any detailed information on any of the topics in this book must be found elsewhere. There are major books on the geology of the Northwest. Abundant histories of the park exist and can be obtained at Amazon. Climbing history of the park is best detailed in Dee Molenaar’s The Challenge of Rainier; this book is truly an excellent classic text on the history of climbing the mountain. Tree, flower, and animal guides would better serve the visitor than this book, though the summary of the main park plants is very well done. Hiking in the park is best guided by one of many hiking books specific to MRNP, such as the classic Harvey Manning and Ira Spring’s 50 Hikes in MRNP.

If one wishes for a brief summary of MRNP, this is a good place to start. If there is a particular area of interest, my advice is to look elsewhere, including a few of the texts I had mentioned above.

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